Wednesday, November 30, 2022

OSR Commentary - 'A Very Different Ecology For 'The Troll' In Dungeons & Dragons & Retroclone Games'


If there is one monster that I love to use as a cross point in my games its trolls from Dungeons & Dragons, this goes all the way back to original Dungeons & Dragons. For me 'the troll' as monster are the perfect cross point  between the Arthurian legends or the  Swords & Sorcery style games.

Maybe because I read Three Hearts & Three Lions at an early age along with many of the Arthurian romances plus  C.L. Lewis's Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. Couple this with a huge swath of Robert Howard's Conan, classic era Marvel comic books & other sundry Sword & Sorcery paperbacks. The one constant in many of these sources was the appearance of the troll.  The troll as a monster was well established in OD&D thanks to Paul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions.

"In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, trolls are depicted as eight-feet tall creatures, man-eating creatures which are almost impossible to kill, since their bodies immediately re-knit and repair any damage, however severe. Even beheading a troll is of no avail - he would simply pick up his head and place it back on his neck and within a moment be "as good as new". A troll's only vulnerabilty is to fire - the only way to kill one is to cut him to pieces and burn each and every one of them before they had a chance to re-knit."
That quote is from the Wiki entry on trolls in popular culture we get a pretty consistent view of them in popular culture from Three Billy Goats Gruff, right on through the comedy series Ugly Americans.
Trolls are ugly, very dangerous, & seem to be classified with giants from Scandinavian legend & mythology.
"A troll is a class of being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.
Later, in Scandinavian folklore, trolls became beings in their own right, where they live far from human habitation, are not Christianized, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Depending on the source, their appearance varies greatly; trolls may be ugly and slow-witted, or look and behave exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them."
So how does this relate to the popular monster of Dungeons & Dragons? I've noticed, there are tons of  species of troll based around various elements, geologies, & planar conditions; "In Dungeons & Dragons, the Trolls are depicted as tall skinny humanoids with long noses, rubbery skin, a regenerating ability, and a weakness to fire. Other types of Trolls include the Black Trolls, Blood Trolls, Cave Trolls, Crystalline Trolls, Desert Trolls, Fell Trolls, Fire Trolls, Forest Trolls, Giant Trolls (which is a crossbreed between a troll and a Hill Giant), Giant Two-Headed Trolls (which is a crossbreed between a troll and an Ettin), Gray Trolls, Ice Trolls, Mountain Trolls, Rock Trolls, Scrags, Slime Trolls, Spirit Trolls, Stone Trolls, Tree Trolls, War Trolls, and Wasteland Trolls. In addition, they keep the canine-like Trollhounds as pets in their tribes."
Trolls have three things going for them,the ability to adapt to any conditions they're put in, the ability to regenerate from any damage, and an almost artificial violence & ferocity toward others.

Many of the giants & trolls of Arthurian legend are far closer to the classic Giant Troll from the Fiend Folio Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. A giant troll is a cross between a troll and a hill giant, resulting in a troll over 10 feet tall. Once again we've got a species of monster whose close but not quite human living & mating with other monsters to produce another species. This can't be simply random chance, I'll postulate that perhaps the classic troll species  is a product of an ancient experiment going wrong. Sure I'm not the first to say this but there's a bit more to it. The mythological weakness to 'sunlight turning trolls to stone' & fire is troubling but we'll get to that.

Erol Otus from the AD&D Fiend Folio a classic piece of artwork.

I think that the answer for the origin point for the modern  troll species might actually be found in the original Three Hearts & Three Lions book by Paul Anderson.
"This world is divided between the forces of Chaos, inhabiting the "Middle World" (which includes Faerie), and the forces of Law based in the human world, which is in turn divided between the Holy Roman Empire and the Saracens."
This arrangement of the planes is definitely artificial as we see reading through the novel. But its important to note that Faerie plays a central role in the Paul Anderson novel in terms of both secondary characters & the antagonist's forces. The forces of Faerie are fickle at the best of times towards mankind & downright malevolent at the worst of times.

Looking into the legendary background of  classic mythological Faerie nature spirits & Elves  I came across tid bit on Wiki ;"Another belief is that the fairies were an intelligent species, distinct from humans and angels.[37] In alchemy in particular they were regarded as elementals, such as gnomes and sylphs, as described by Paracelsus.[38] This is uncommon in folklore, but accounts describing the fairies as "spirits of the air" have been found.[39] The belief in their angelic nature was common in Theosophist circles"

If we look deep into classic mythology primal Chaos was one of the first things to exist; "In Greek mythologyChaos (GreekΧάος, "Chasm")[1] was the first thing to exist: "at first Chaos came to be" (or was)[2] "but next" (possibly out of Chaos) came GaiaTartarus, and Eros (elsewhere the son of Aphrodite).[3] Unambiguously born "from Chaos" were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night)" its also a powerful force of occult energy. The troll species is always associated with giants, or humanoid kind along with humans. We even  find this connection  in J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series; "In The Lord of the Rings franchise, there were different types of trolls ranging from Stone Trolls (which turn to stone when exposed to sunlight), Two-Headed Trolls, Hill Trolls, Cave Trolls, Mountain Trolls, Snow Trolls, and the Olog-Hai (the type of Trolls that can withstand sunlight)."

Once again we've got that elemental adaption connection, the artificial species connection, & the presence of spirits creating new possibly human connected species powered by primal chaos; "The Olog-hai were a fierce race of Trolls. They only spoke Sauron's Black Speech, and it is possible they only existed because Sauron's evil will empowered them. They were bred by Sauron from an unknown stock, though it's suggested that they could be corruptions of some primitive human types." There are lots of varying opinions when it comes to the Olog-hai.
As a dungeon master I stay away from Tolkien because of these varying opinions & because gamers feel so strongly about the Middle Earth material.

Trolls make excellent Sword & Sorcery monsters especially when their origin crosses human, giant kind, & something else. We would need a race of highly advanced masters of the biological & engineering arts who had been here since Earth's origin & were capable of planar creations & demi planes (Faerie). Oh wait we already have all of those in HP Lovecraft's at the Mountains of Madness Elder Things.
 Toward the end of their reign on Earth when mankind was first emerging the Elder Things were looking for a replacement for the rebellious shoggoths. A breed of easily adaptable workers, army,etc. They began to experiment & some of their first creations could not exist in sunlight & were vulnerable to flame.
The latter half of the Elder Thing's empire was fading fast & it was already too late. 'The Shoggoth Rebellion' destroyed millions of years research. The first & secondary Ice Age Floods did the rest. There are qualities  that trolls have in common with shoggoths from regeneration to a pastiche for adaptability.

The laboratories in Troughburn, in NorthumberlandEngland, were erased from existence originally Trolhop, Norse for "troll valley" is now only a dim racial memory of a place far to horrid to have existed. The troll species is regarded today as toxic waste spread across planes. How did this come to pass? We & other species found the nearly immortal proto trolls & wizards finished the work of the Elder Things. The Elder Things' city is identified with the Plateau of Leng  which has been the site for pilgrimages by necromancers, wizards, & occultists for centuries.  It has been speculated among certain circles of gamers over the years that the knowledge of the creation of trolls was spread by Nyarlathotep  through "The High Priest Not to Be Described. "
I have yet to run one game that does not feature trolls so players beware for they are a hidden menace!

Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk - A Possible Beginnings Of An OSR Campaign Setting - Updated

 So a couple of days ago I wrote Alexander Marcus & acquired  'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' playtest document & what it  is essentially is a hand book of solid side systems for Adventurer, Conqueror, King based around a pulp set of system  tools that emulate Robert Howard's Conan, E.R. Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, & Michael Moorcock. This book & its companion book Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu are Adventurer, Conqueror, King's attempt's to enter the Dark Fantasy & Sword & Sorcery OSR table top rpg market. They did the Kickstarter last year & the 'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook'  is entering its final phase. There are ton of steps to bring an OSR book to market. Read about the whole thing for yourselves over at the Kickstarter's page.


 'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' has a bunch of  new spells, magick systems, ten new character classes, etc. But Eric your an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea supporter. How is this different & what does this have to do with Gary Gygax's  Greyhawk? First of all  'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' goes in a completely different adventure setting direction then Hyperborea. ACK's puts things squarely in the Roman Empire Era with its Auran setting & these books bring things over to the barbarian's side sort of. ACK's always keeps its thumb in the Dungeons & Dragons themed pie & this isn't a bad thing because it shows ACK's OSR roots in Labyrinth Lord.

But I'm an old school guy so while I've been reading through 'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' & thinking how I would use this system? Where could this whole thing be applied in an old school campaign setting? I've been closely following Kelly Roberge's Black City play tests & ideas from his blog. I suggest you check em out. Kelly is one of the most influencial OSR & ACK's supporters out in the OSR blogging field.  I don't want to copy ANY of  Kelly's adventure or campaign ideas, I need to deploy this system into my current 'Old Earth' campaign but if it fizzles I might need to cut it loose as a campaign adventure world. Then I looked over to my shelf & there's Greyhawk staring me in the face! A Barbarian warlord Greyhawk campaign setting!

Take Greyhawk & turn it on its ear! A far more humancentric Flaness where everything is up for grabs & the PC's have a far more easier time to carve out their own piece of the Sword & Sorcery action. The dimensional portals are far more open & we've got wizards,cults, demons,etc.  trying to dominate the landscape.

All of the events happen of Greyhawk happen but give the setting more of a U.K. TSR or Celtic flavor with the Rain of Colorless Fire bringing far more destruction to the world. We've already seen there are many alternative versions of Greyhawk out in the multiverse why not an ACK's Swords & Sorcery style version of the classic campaign.

The thing about classic TSR systems & settings is how easy it is to adapt them to current OSR tier products. On the whole there's something uniquely satisfying about paying homage to Gary Gygax whist creating something unique. The Twin Devastation were caused by the events of City of the Gods echoing across the planes after all there is a Blackmoor in Greyhawk. 
I need to think about this campaign far more & iron out some of the details before deploying it on my players.

And how does all of this tie into TSR UK 6's All that Glitters? Well kids you'll have to tune into that one tomorrow! For now keep em rolling!

OSR Reviews & Commentary "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" By Joe Coombs, & Miguel Ribeiro From The Red Room For The Wretchploitation Rpg

"Wretchploitation supplement for maverick cops, low-down punks, and the blurred lines of good and evil. The city is going to shit. It's like a pressure cooker. You have seen it turning bad to worse. Shootings, muggings, burglary, trafficking, sadism, night and day. Yes, this city is hotter than hell, and you're inches away from the flames. They're spreading like cancer, you're in the thick of it, so deep undercover that it's impossible to come up for air when reality bites. As your personal life crumbles, your are shot from all sides. You got the ex-wife holing at you for alimony, for kids you only see once in a blue moon. One of those children doesn't even look like you, it's like they're a stranger. Yet you are drawn to this strange oddity as it's almost too perfect. Perhaps you are the one trying to make your way in a world of organised crime, whether a two-bit hood or inches away from being "made". You are sailing close to the edge no matter what side of the tracks you're on."

 "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blue Released (DrivethruRPG and Big Geek Emporium; later, there will be a POD version)

A sourcebook for Wretchploitation (or other modern-day old-school games) by Joe Coombs, inspired by 1970s and 1980s cop shows like Miami Vice, Mission Impossible, Hill Street Blues, The Avengers,Cagney and Lacey and Magnum PI. "

"Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" By Joe Coombs, & Miguel Ribeiro is definitely an adult Miami Vice style OSR Wretchploitation rpg adventure that's actually a mini campaign unto itself. "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" gives all of the major players in the Sandcove area but notches it up by eleven into the neon Eighties. And it's very well done in it's forty three pages for Wretchploitation rpg. 

"Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" is filled with Eighties bastards, corrupt cops, kick ass adventuresses, drug smugglers, murderers, thieves, and much more. "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" also has new factions, new enemies, and everything to get the players in over their collective heads right in the deep end of the Neon Eighties crime scene in Sandcove. 
But is "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" worth the download?! Oh Hell yes! "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" pushes the Wretchploitation game system in yet another well defined genre direction. This is again an adult themed offering from the Red Room crew. And yes Sandcove is a place that I'd want to take my players too! There's plenty of opportunity for a party of adventurers to take over Sandcove if you don't mind a modern Noir body count. 
The material here in "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" is well done, heady, and full of campaign potential! Grab this one! Get your Raybands, your power tie, cocaine, Members only Jacket, and a copy of both Wretchploitation as well as "Vice: Sandcove Gets the Blues" for a bloody Eighties adventure night! 

It's Got Balls ! Dust Up At The Alamo Museum - The New Marvel Phile 'The Shadowline Saga' & The Tallman- Session Report Three

Last night' Shadowline Saga saw the PC's in a straight up fight against the Tall man & Nazi agents! And the Sentinel spheres came in thick & fast! The Spectral rider had lead the PC's through the pylons right into the middle of a Nazi relic recovery  mission from last time! Oh did I happen to mention the Tall men's forces  as well?! Three of the Sentinel Spheres took out two of the Nazi agents! 

Things went from bad to worse as Mazar the Mystic last son of the Scions of Limbo tried to take control of the pylons only to get telekinitically blasted by the Tallman. He was down for the count. And the Spectral Rider had to keep the Tallman's undead Dwarves from taking him! He blasted two the little bastards! The Great American took on shadow form & went in for the kill on three of the Nazi agents out flanking them. 
The party was bound & determined to keep both the Tallman & the Nazi's from recovering the bullet belonging to the 'Saint of Killers'!  And then Master Man came in through the far north wall of the building. Nightbringer was nearest to him and sought to engage. Mazar the Mystic grabbed the bullet with quick spell. Master Man isn't working alone & our party of adventurers had to get the Hell out of there fast before the rest of the Battle Axis piled in. Our second stringer occultist 'Jack of The  Shadows' used one of his mytic playing cards to open a teleport gate back to New Ashford. And the party bid a hasty retreat with the bullet followed by a Tallman 'Noooo!' 
The most invaluable tool in last night's game session was the Marvel Super Heroes RPG: The Unofficial Canon Project's MA7 The Golden Age of Superheroes located in the MA folder in the Google Drive of the Marvel Super Heroes RPG: The Unofficial Canon Project on Facbook. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Hostile Rpg One Shot Session Report - Adapted 'And the sun shined brightly' By Joseph Mohr 'A Pay What You Want' Adventure For The Cepheus Engine Rpg

Lasened IV is an agriculture planet on the edge of the Sonora sector and unexplored space. Scientists have been carefully watching the central star in this system as radiation levels and solar activity have increased substantially over the last few decades. It is believed that a Supernova is imminent."

"Just about anyone who could afford passage off this world has left it already. Those who remain are diehards who wish to go down with their world and those who just could not afford to buy passage. Perhaps a few remaining people just waited to long. In any event those who remain have become desperate to escape their fate. Images on the nightly news have shown people mobbing arriving space craft and clinging to their hulls as the ships take off again. Chaos and anarchy seem to be taking hold there."

"The Sonoran Protection Society is a charitable foundation which is offering CR 10,000 per person rescued from Lasened IV. They have been advertising for anyone with a ship to take their offer and save people from certain death" 

 So tonight for the first time in almost close to a week this head cold backed off enough for me to slip into DM Steve's Hostile rpg Tuesday night game.  We had 
'And the sun shined brightly' By Joseph Mohr run tonight. Our adventurers were the crew of the Lazarus a Colonial Frieghter who our crew was working for the Hong Kong based  Kung corporation. The Lazarus was a part of a Colonial Frieighter fleet. And DM Steve is a bit of a sadist, I say this with all due respect. Several rolls on our part confirmed that something wasn't right with the primary star.  We landed in a field about 200 miles away from the starport just to be on the safeside. 

  The Kung corporation is a part of  'The Sonoran Protection Society' & it wants it's argiculture workers  back. As we landed on Lasened IV & immediate knew something was up. The population around the starport was almost rioting & marines were holding back as many citizens as they could! We immediately refueled & prepped. We spoke to the colony's governor & his staff things were degrading  rapidly around the colony! 

We got the marines on the horn & then scheduled control & crowd flow to get everyone on board the outgoing ships. Grabbing colonists to board the ship was going to be our biggest problem as well organizing the whole affair. This was a logicistical nightmare as DM Steve several complications our way. These included saving a few stray important VP's, dealing with landing gear repairs, volitile cargo, and ugly underworld issues. We could almost hear the ticking clock in our heads. 

In tonight's Hostile game several pieces of Hostile technology & how it works came from the Hostile Technical Manual. Which was used as a player handout during tonight's one shot. 

We didn't have long & everything was going well, except for the marines getting a bit frisky with the colonists in preventing several riots. We had to smooth things over with the colonists leaders. Tick,tick, and then the surface of the star had more activity upon it! 

Despite all of the complications & events we lifted off quite nicely along with the rest of the fleet with the marines on board! The whole affair came off with out a hitch even though the situation on Lasened IV reached a boiling point.

 'And the sun shined brightly' By Joseph Mohr  'A Pay What You Want' Adventure For The Cepheus Engine Rpg Is Available Here 

 Lasened IV was a mess in tonight's game as the situation around the star began to deiteriate rapidly. The ships were fueled but we only had half of the colonists aboard that we needed. And informed the marines that our naviagator had detected things worsening on the star's surface. Two of the six ships were full up. And we had them lift off. Tick, tick, tick Two more riots & a hospital near our ship had a fire. We never left the ship much to DM Steve's plans & events. 

OSR Commentary - Hostile rpg & The Tau Ceti Affair

This blog post is going pick right up from this blog entry here. 
 Over the last two days I've been going over rpg inventory due to this head cold that has been plaguing me. And with that Zozer just released a brand new video on the Tau Ceti world book. Tau Ceti is pretty much their Avitar like conflict in a small corner of the over all Hostile rpg Zozerverse. 

This video has me asking myself about three things the role of China within our current interstellar  campaign. And what would Tau Ceti mean in the greater scheme of things against the blackness of the current campaign. How would the Chinese megacorporations be reactive with the rest of the Soviet interstellar block within our current Hostile campaign?! Or would all of the above turn to the Khuri menace?! Personally after reading through the material, all of the above seem like very complicated issues in aganist the blackness of space. 

Would the Soviets & Chinese be fielding their own  Indepence Games's Historical Ships of Clement Sector 1: Trent-class Destroyers?! The short answer is a resounding yes because of the escalation within instellar space. The military situations are balanced on a knife's edge, the range of exploration is vast, and the unknown lurk's just outside of our colonies's purview. And the situation has gotten weird as the Soviets have asked for our help. 

Tau Ceti is going to add further murkiness to the very dangerous interstellar geo politics of the mega corporate situation. And within our own campaign this world is going to rife for exploitation & bloodshed. The powers that be within our Hostile rpg campaign are using Tau Ceti as a bloody & dangerous chess board with the world situation very cloudy. 

OSR Sword & Sorcery Commentary On MM#7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee By Alan Chamberlain, Mark Taormino, & Joe Pearce From Dark Wizard Games

 Alright let's pick this one up right from this blog entry here.  If we were to go back to the Hyperborea rpg for a moment then let's assume that the third edition adventure the Trapper's Lament has been completed. Now what?! Some of the player's PC's may have died but the rest will have gone up several levels. So it's time for me to unveil MM#7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee by Alan Chamberlain, Mark Taormino, & Joe Pearce

The basic adventure plot is fairly straight forward; "Downstream from the village of Silt is a great marsh created by a massive flood long ago. Many treasures were lost and now lay buried in the ruins of these cursed and water soaked lands. There are rumors that smugglers and criminals hide their felonious activities and great wealth here, but there is more to fear in the mist than the designs of men. Something sinister lurks in the darkness of the bogs. Find your courage, sharpen your blade, and trust no one and you may just survive the Dread Swamp of the Banshee."
This can easily be folded into either the Hyperborea rpg or the Castles & Crusades rpg system as is. There doesn't have to be a massive reason why 'The Banshee' is killing folks. It could simply be that she has awakened after the events of the 'Green Death' and is hungry. 

Between the undead infested swamps, the gators, and the rest of MM#7 this is a great module to set within the Lizard Men Swamps of Hyperborea. I love the maps & cartography of Alan Chamberlain within MM#7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee. Again this is a great module to circle back into Levi Combs 'An Occurance At Owl Creek'. Levi Combs An Occurrence at Howling Crater quite nicely. The mutant hill billies could easily be changed up into mutant peasants. 

This triad of adventures allows something a bit different for even the most jaded of OSR or old school players whist keeping the Sword & Sorcery vibe going quite nicely. This is happening while the DM is moving the campaign along at a rapid pace keeping the players entertained, and keeping them coming back to the table top. 


Monday, November 28, 2022

Review & Commentary Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel From Troll Lord Games For Castles & Crusades rpg

 "Bastions of Timber & Stone" 

"Adventure does not limit itself to dungeons of earth and stone, but calls the seeker to plunder the halls of war and worship; from the spires of looming towers, to castles set in forbidden glades deep in ancient heartwood and to the sunken and abandoned places lost in time. Not all are hidden – some are welcoming bastions for the wayward traveler, and others are the holdings of creatures most foul; still more bear foreboding edifices, casting a mocking shadow – be they castle, ruin or manor, each beckons a promise of loot, a glimpse of chance, and portends fate."


"An aspiring Game Master will often have many floor-plans of places through which unsuspecting player characters dare to venture, generally taking the forms of underground complexes or even wilderness or urban areas, but many likely do not have much stock for the "other" locales such as bastions, keeps, temples, and castles. This tome will remedy that situation and provide the Castle Keeper the tools and templates to design such from nothing or, if desired, to modify an existing structure with new and unknown which may be otherwise familiar traits."

 'Engineering Castles' By Robert Doyel is a solid book for Castles & Crusades rpg for designing, maintaining, & creating castles. This book is created around the random castle generators within it. The guidelines within 'Engineering Castles'are very useful for both human centric races & fantasy race castles. There's some great rules & commentary for designing your own castles for your own C&C rpg's. 

Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel clocks in at only thirty two pages but for a Castles & Crusades rpg DM such as myself. This is too me Engineering Castles rpg is a solid addition to the tool box of the C&C  DM. And  there's a real feeling of solid thought as well as common sense in the writing of the Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel. And for creating ruins, castles, & more within Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel. 

For the DM going into Castles & Crusades rpg the  Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel is solid for creating holdings within a C&C campaign. This is especially true if you want random holdings at the ragged edges of your C&C campaign. But where does Engineering Castles By Robert Doyel actually fit within the Castles & Crusades rpg line of products!?! Let's look at that next time on the blog. 

OSR & Monster Ecology Commentary - Werebears & Goddesses For Your Old School Campaigns


The ubicquitous David Trampier Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Monster Manual artwork. 

I've been looking into one of my favorite Dungeons & Dragons monsters today - The werebear! Yeah that's right I've been a fan of these guys since I was a kid. These lycanthropes go all the wayback to the foundation of original Dungeons & Dragons. They run all of the way through into Pathfinder today; 

"The werebear first appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974).[1]
The werebear appeared in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977).[2] The werebear appeared as a player character race in Dragon #24 (April 1979). The werebear appeared as a character class in White Dwarf #17, by Lewis Pulsipher.[3]
The werebear appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977,[4] 1981, 1983). The werebear appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).[5] The werebear appeared as a player character class in Night Howlers (1992).
The werebear appeared in the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[6] and was reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[7]
The lycanthrope appeared as a creature template in the third edition Monster Manual (2000),[8] and in the 3.5 revised Monster Manual (2003), with the werebear as a sample creature. The werebear appeared as a player character race in Dragon #313 (November 2003)."

Now while most folks would talk about the werebear's origins being closely associated with Native American mythology & we'll get to those in another blog entry! Instead I want to talk about the European  &  the Greco Roman legends of Callisto or Kallisto (/kəˈlɪst/Ancient GreekΚαλλιστώ [kallistɔ̌ː]); "As a follower of Artemis, Callisto, who Hesiod said[1] was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia,[2] took a vow to remain a virgin, as did all the nymphs of Artemis. But to have sex with her, Zeus disguised himself as Artemis (Diana) herself, in order to lure her into his embrace. Callisto was then turned into a bear, as Hesiod described:
...but afterwards, when she was already with child, was seen bathing and so discovered. Upon this, the goddess was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arcas.
Either Artemis "slew Kallisto with a shot of her silver bow,"[3] perhaps urged by the wrath of Juno (Hera)[4] or later Arcas, the eponym of Arcadia, nearly killed his bear-mother, when she had wandered into the forbidden precinct of Zeus. In every case, Zeus placed them both in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major, called Arktos (αρκτος), the "Bear", by Greeks, and Ursa Minor.
According to Ovid,[5] it was Jupiter (Zeus) who took the form of Diana (Artemis) so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs.[6] Callisto's subsequent pregnancy was discovered several months later while she was bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs. Diana became enraged when she saw that Callisto was pregnant and expelled her from the group. Callisto later gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear. Sixteen years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest. Just as Arcas was about to kill his own mother with his javelin, Jupiter averted the tragedy by placing mother and son amongst the stars as Ursa Major and Minor, respectively. Juno, enraged that her attempt at revenge had been frustrated, appealed to Tethys that the two might never meet her waters, thus providing a poetic explanation for their circumpolar positions in ancient times."

In Jupiter and Callisto by François BoucherZeus/Jupiter takes the form of Artemis/Diana (Nelson-Atkins Museum of ArtKansas City)

Besides the fact that Zeus could never keep it in his pants it the means that among the stars are the children of  Ursa Major and Minor who are basically the gods & patrons of lots human tribes, were bear shamans, druids,beserks,etc. This goes a long way to explaining the presence of the continuance of the were bear tradition among humanity. This legend possibly goes back to the creation of humanity during the days of  before the oceans drank Atlantis & before the pre Bibilcal floods.

Lions painted in the Chauvet Cave. This is a replica of the painting from the Brno museum Anthropos. The absence of the mane sometimes leads to these paintings being described as portraits of lionesses. I see bears as well but that's me. All of this goes a long way to explaining the presence of were bears among the various druids covens, shaman's of various tribes, etc. Yes this ties directly in with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea but it also ties in with orginal Dungeons & Dragons. I think original Dungeons & Dragons owes a debt for the werebear to J.R.R. Tolkein's Hobbit in the form of Beorn.

Beorn by JMKilpatrick (

For the Lord of the Rings crowd there's a long history of were bears in the character of Beorn; The Man named Beorn lived in a wooden house on his pasture-lands between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, to the east of the Anduin. His household included an animal retinue (horses, dogs, sheep, and cows, among others); according to Gandalf, Beorn "does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals".[3]. He grew large areas of clover for his bees, who made his famous honey.
Gandalf believed that Beorn was either a descendant of the bears who had lived in the Misty Mountains before the arrival of the giants, or he was a descendant of the men who had lived in the region before the arrival of the dragons or Orcs from the north.
Beorn was of immense size and strength for a man and retained his size and strength in bear-form. He had black hair (in either form) and a thick black beard and broad shoulders (in human form). While not a "giant" outright, Beorn's human form was of such great size that the three and a half foot tall Bilbo judged that he could have easily walked between Beorn's legs without touching his body. Beorn also named the Carrock and created the steps that led from its base to its flat top.
In The Hobbit, Beorn received Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and 13 Dwarves and aided them in their quest to reclaim their kingdom beneath the Lonely Mountain. He was convinced of their trustworthiness after confirming their tale of encountering the Goblins of the Misty Mountains and Gandalf's slaying of their leader, the Great Goblin. In addition to giving the group much-needed supplies and lodging, Beorn gave them vital information about what path to take while crossing Mirkwood.
Later, hearing of a vast host of Goblins on the move, Beorn arrived at the Lonely Mountain in time to strike the decisive blow in the Battle of Five Armies. In his bear form he slew the Goblin leader, Bolg and his bodyguards. Without direction, the Goblin army scattered and were easy pickings for the other armies of MenElves, Dwarves, and Eagles. Beorn often left his home during the narrative of The Hobbit for hours or days at a time, for purposes not completely explained."

So what's all of this bear lycanthrope ecology information what's this have to do with my current OSR fetish? Well if we look at the Godbound rpg angle then we've got the "Proteans are Lunars, perfect shapeshifters with exceptional physical capabilities" who are basically Lunars from the Exalted Rpg that have OSR rules that work. But I've always wanted to get into the heart of why, "Werebears in their humanoid form prefer to wield larger and heavier weapons such as great swords, or great axes."  This gets into the other Greco Roman goddess, "Artio (Dea Artio in the Gallo-Roman religion) was a Celtic bear goddess! "
Own photograph by Sandstein
" A bronze sculpture from the Muri statuette group, found near Bern in Switzerland, shows a large bear facing a woman seated in a chair, with a small tree behind the bear. The woman seems to hold fruit in her lap, perhaps feeding the bear.[2]. The sculpture has a large rectangular bronze base, which bears the inscription "Deae Artioni / Licinia Sabinilla" ("To the Goddess Artio" or "Artionis", "from Licinia Sabinilla"). If the name is Gaulish but the syntax is Latin, a dative Artioni would give an i-stem nominative *Artionis or an n-stem nominative *Artio. That would perhaps correspond to a Gaulish n-stem nominative *Artiu.
Other inscription to the goddess have been discovered in Daun (CIL 13, 4203), Weilerbach (CIL 13, 4113), Heddernheim (CIL 13, 7375 [4, p 125]), and Stockstadt (CIL 13, 11789).
She's strongly connected with the legends of King Arthur -Her name is derived from the Gaulish word artos, bear (Delamarre 2003 p. 55-56), from Proto-Celtic *arto-, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ŕ̥tḱos, bear. A Celtic word may also be the source for the name Arthur."

The Dark Albion OSR setting  & Lion & Dragon rpg the were bears are a part of an extinct chaos cult which was a part of the rebellion against the Elven overlords in the setting thousands of years ago. The great axe & sword were part of the symbols of the chaos cult. There are very few indivduals or covens of this mysterious & ancient cult connected with the old gods.