So I'm ready to jump back into the blogging thing. Lots of things to talk about, what with all the controversy over certain products. At first, I thought I should unleash a thunderous broadside in defense, but more vigorous and stalwart authors than myself have already given good service on Mr. McKinney's behalf. From the somewhat oblique, to the deeply reasoned and considered, to the smack-between-the-eyes-with-a-clue-by-four, just about anything that can be said has been said on this topic. (Though I do have to say, some of us might, possibly, exercise a bit more restraint when it comes to pushing the big shiny red button. Or maybe not.)
I will only add this little word on my own personal experience: the subject matter discussed in Mr. McKinney's book may seem bizarre, hideous, and unusual to you. You are certainly free to not purchase his book or use such material in your games. As for me, I'm what you might call a "High Church" Christian. Thus, while rituals of torment, human sacrifice, and cannibalism might be rare in your life, for me they're just a typical Sunday morning.
But then came life with its broken computers and hacking, nasty colds, and looking for a new job, and so the website languished again, for which I can only offer the usual lame apologies.
In any event, offered in no particular order, here are a handful of gods for my Moldvay/Cook/Labyrinth Lord hack.
God of Knowledge, the Bronze Man
Uban appears to be an eight-foot tall statue of bronze, with gears and hinges of silver and copper, teeth and nails of jade, and eyes of lapis. His form is beautiful but androgynous, and three “wings” or “feathers”, resembling brilliant white palm fronds or the antennae of a moth, float and undulate around his head like a halo. His voice is sweet, like the ringing of crystal bells, but often lacking in emotional inflection.
His priesthood is charged primarily with the creation and keeping of knowledge. While writing is an old skill, he has given great advances in mathematics to the world. His devotions include meticulous recordkeeping, the writing of journals and histories, and the copying of written works, maps, diagrams, and charts, as is meditation.
His servants are owls, squirrels, and bees. His higher servitors are mechanical versions of these creatures fashioned in bronze, copper, and iron.
His symbol is a bronze lamp or pen nib. His priests wear long, sleeveless robes with pen, ink, paper, and other writing and charting instruments carefully kept in ornate leather belts.
PC clerics of Uban can earn an additional 10% EXP bonus by keeping a journal of their adventures.
Goddess of the Stars, the Dancing Goddess
Hasrit is a tall woman, nearly six-feet tall, curvaceous, with delicate hands and feet, and long, dexterous fingers and toes, each possessing an extra joint. She is usually wearing a short, sleeveless, hooded tunic of black silk over a longer robe with a full circle skirt and broad sleeves in translucent, midnight blue linen. A veil of amber beads held in place by silver chains covers her eyes, which have never been seen by a mortal. Her hair is raven-black and falls to her ankles when unbound.
Hasrit’s priesthood studies the motions of the stars, moons, and sun, and from these observations attempts to divine the past, present, and future. By their rites are the heavenly bodies kept in their proper orbits. These rites revolve around astronomical observations and intricate, whirling dances.
The wolf, rooster, and moth are sacred to her. Her higher servitors are wychlamps. Moonless nights are considered sacred to Hasrit.
A silver star of four greater and four lesser points is her symbol. Hasrit’s priests wear robes with long, bell-shaped sleeves, and from their belts hang long strings of gems, stones, metal chains or ropes that splay out as they dance.
Clerics of Hasrit can turn lycanthropes as if they were undead. Such lycanthropes can never be destroyed, just forced to flee.
The Law-giver, the Judge.
Aratshi appears to be a tall man, nearly seven-and-a-half-feet tall with dark grey eyes and long, silver hair. His clean-shaven features are long and lean, as are his hands, which some have described as spider-like. He’s usually seen wearing either a fringed kilt of red wool belted with a broad girdle of gold, or robes of purple silk. He bears a staff of pale ash capped on either end with gold and iron. The shaft is heavily carved from end to end, inscribed with the core of the law he administers.
Aratshi’s priests dress in accordance with their duties. Those who serve as judges dress in kilts of white wool striped with purple. Enforcers of the law wear sleeveless chain mail over red tunics and bear iron-headed maces. Inquisitors wear long crimson robes. Aratshi’s symbol is a long chain from which hangs a conical stone or weight, to point true to the ground.
The god himself creates the laws; his priesthood is tasked with enforcing them. They concern themselves only with obedience and due punishment. Justice is not their concern. Judgment and punishment are both sacred acts, and smaller devotions are marked by repetition of the law’s preamble, an argument and justification for the importance of the law as a bedrock of any stable civilization.
The hound is sacred to Aratshi, and his greater servitors are the (man-headed bull things which are not in the 1st edition Monster Manual like I thought they were, darn it). The sixth day of every week is considered sacred to Aratshi, as this is when most trials are held.
In civilized lands, the priests of Aratshi carry powerful influence, as they are both admired and feared by the citizens.
God of Slavery, Aratshi’s Hound
Shkeen is closely associated with Aratshi, and it is said that he is in truth a creature of Chaos bound in obedience to Aratshi. That would make him not just the god of slaves, but also the slave god, if it is true.
Shkeen stands just under six feet tall. His body is that of a muscular man with bronzed skin, broad shoulders, and large hands and feet. From the neck up, however, he has the head of a red-furred hound with golden eyes. Around his neck he wears a collar of black dragonscale studded with gold spikes. He wears a kilt of leather stained a deep rust color. He usually bears a staff of venom-green poisonoak shod with iron on either end.
Shkeen is no executioner, though he is a hunter of those who flee justice or their owners. Slavery is a common punishment under Aratshi’s law, and many who are brought to face one of Aratshi’s judges end up in the hands of Shkeen’s priests. They are tasked with marking slaves (usually by branding), breaking them, and then selling them, as well as hunting those who flee from their servitude. While they do not command a monopoly on the slave trade, the priesthood of Shkeen has grown very wealthy in this business. This has lead the priests to branch out into aspects of slavery, including transport, marketing, training, and financing.
The vestments of Shkeen’s priesthood include rust-colored tunics worn with belts of plaited green ropes, heavy bracers of green leather covered with bells that they clash loudly during services, and red dog masks. Shkeen’s symbol is a short length of chain, usually just three links, each incised with the four triangles arranged like the canines of a hound.
Hounds, of course, are sacred to Shkeen, as are gelded bulls. His higher servitors are tamed mammoths and a certain species of giant ant. As with Aratshi, the sixth day of the week is held as sacred.
The transformation of a free person to slave is a sacred rite, as is the manumission of a slave to freedman. Most rites, including smaller, daily devotions, are marked by the repetition of the Hunter’s Oath, said to be the exact same words Shkeen used to pledged his obedience to Aratshi.
Goddess of the Underworld, Keeper of the Dead
Lergan is rarely seen in the living world, as she is mistress and governor of Tartarus, the Grey Lands of the deceased. When she does appear in the living world, she is a tall, matronly woman of serious mien, dressed in a gown of black silk, tasseled in crimson and wearing jewelry of silver and bright jewels.
Lergan is not the goddess of death, as the Elder of the Silver Moon, Ushk, holds to that title, and no god has yet been able to wrest that authority from him. Rather, Lergan is the keeper and queen of those who have died and passed into the afterlife. It is said she is barely able to hold on to that title, for the titaness called Grandmother Spider is said to pass freely between Tartarus and the lands of the living, and that the wily crone openly makes her home in Tartarus, in open defiance of Lergan’s claim to dominion.
Lergan’s priesthood, then, is little concerned with executions, burial rites, and the like. Rather, they primarily concern themselves with making sure the dead aren’t wandering about where they’re not supposed to be, specifically the lands of the living. The dead are given reprieve to visit the living world once a year, the day after the autumnal equinox. The day after, the most sacred day of the year for Lergan’s priesthood, the priests go from house to house and search all around to make certain that none of the dead have remained behind. On this day, they may not be denied entrance to any place.
Lergan’s priests dress in grey kilts or robes and wear ivory jewelry. Her symbol is a skull. Rites usually conclude with a dirge-like chant called Lergan’s Welcoming, a reminder that all who live will eventually find themselves in her realm.
Bats and snakes are sacred to Lergan. Certain spirits, those of exceptional devotion or honesty serve her as go-betweens and messengers between her court and the living world.
Priests of Lergan turn undead as if they were two levels higher.