Monday, November 28, 2022

The Lich

Here's an interesting piece of artwork from the 1985 book, The Art of the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Game. Does anyone know the artist? It doesn't look like one of the usual TSR heavy hitters from that era.

Addendum: I am apparently blind, since the artist's name – John Totleben – is on the piece itself. Perhaps I should get new eyeglasses!

REVIEW: Mörk Borg Cult: Heretic

Much like Dungeon Crawl Classics – another fantasy roleplaying game that sometimes catches flak for its deviations from old school orthodoxy – a remarkably creative community has sprung up around Mörk Borg. Dubbed the "Mörk Borg cult," this community has produced an abundance of new material for the game, some of which can be found on its official website, as well as scattered across forums and blogs across the Internet. Periodically, some of the best material from these sources is collected into a printed 'zine, the first of which I reviewed last year.

Heretic is the second such 'zine and, like its predecessor, it contains a varied selection of material for use by players and Game Masters alike, though, as is usually the case with products of this sort, it's generally of more immediate interest to GMs. Also like its predecessor, Heretic employs an anarchic graphic design suffused with arresting colors and cacographic fonts to assault the eyes of its readers. Like it or not, this is an essential part of Mörk Borg's appeal; the game and its supplements simply wouldn't be the same if they were more visually self-restrained. 

Heretic is a 62-page staple-bound book with a gatefold cover on which content is also included, such as "Seeds of a Cult," a series of random tables to aid the Game Master in generating a villainous secret society. Everything from the cult's name to its headquarters to enemies can be quickly determined with a handful of rolls, "Unheroic Feats," meanwhile, details thirty-six unusual abilities that a character might acquire when getting better, Mörk Borg's version of leveling up. Examples include Beastly Scholar, which gives a character the ability to scry by means a dead animal's viscera, and Piper, which enables a character to befriend and speak with rats. Most of these feats provide only a small mechanical benefit but all of them are fairly flavorful. Heretic also presents two new classes, the Sacrilegious Songbird, a bard who's made a demonic pact, and the Shedding Vicar, a religious devotee who sheds his flesh to gain power.

"Graves Left Wanting" describes the cemetery of Graven-Tosk and its weird inhabitants. "Bloat" is a much smaller (6-room) dungeon that was once an underground temple dedicated to an obscure goddess of fat and plenty. "Sepulchre of the Swamp Witch" presents the lair of a drug-fueled serpent cult found within the final resting place of an ancient sorceress. None of these are ready-to-run scenarios so much as locales that could serve as the basis for scenarios with some additional context provided by the GM. That's fine by me, since I prefer having a store of raw materials from which to build my own adventures and each of these gives me just that, with "Graves Left Wanting" being the best of the bunch.

"You Are Cursed" is a useful – and fun – collection of random tables for handling the nature and effects of curses upon a character, in addition to the method of lifting it. "The Merchant" offers an example of a cursed individual, Wretched Old Mikhael, an undead seller of peculiar goods. Just what he sells depends on where he is found and the results of rolls on a random table. Mikhael's an intriguing NPC and I can easily see him becoming an important part of a Mörk Borg campaign. "Blackpowder Weapons for the Rich and Foolhardy" are some simple rules for introducing primitive firearms into your game. As this variant's title suggests, such firearms are expensive but using them is not nearly as foolish as I had hoped they'd be. Mostly, they they're loud and slow to reload rather than potentially harmful to their own users, which seems like an opportunity missed to me.

"The Bone Bowyer" is a unique monster, a bogeyman said to slay children and fashion clothing and weapons from their bodies. Though simple in concept, the presentation is well done, complete with a creepy nursery rhyme to accompany it. The "Borg Bitor" is a giant centipede-like monster whose presentation is less compelling. More effective is the "Rotten Nurse," the risen corpse of a nurse executed for aiding and abetting the necrobutcher, Vretul Kanth. The creature is showcased in a short adventure, "Nurse the Rot," that sees the characters pay a visit a ruined chapel.

Also included with Heretic is "The Hexed Gauntlet of Kagel-Secht," which takes the form of a fold-out poster consisting of a series of comic panels that seem to tell a story involving the discovery and use of the titular magic item. Interspersed throughout the comic panels are game stats for monsters, traps, and the Hexed Gauntlet itself. There's also a "word map" of Necrohell Manor; rather than being a graphic map, it employs words, lines, and arrows to show spatial relations. I'm honestly not entirely sure what to make of this last bit of Heretic, which seems more an exercise in idiosyncratic design than a useful piece of game material. Indeed, it's almost a parody of Mörk Borg and its unorthodox approach to both content and (especially) presentation.

Ultimately, Heretic is probably of most use to those who play or intend to play Mörk Borg, though it contains a number of ideas, such as the monsters, NPCs, and locales that could easily be used with other old school fantasy games. That said, the book's style and content are still very much in line with Mörk Borg's garish, irreverent, and occasionally puerile sensibilities, which will certainly limit its appeal to those not already sold on them. I don't mean that as a criticism. One of the things that I appreciate about Mörk Borg is that it's a game that knows what it's about and makes no apologies for that. It's not trying to be a crowd-pleasing lowest common denominator fantasy RPG but instead a brash and quirky take on "doom metal fantasy" and all that entails. If that's up your alley, Heretic is well worth it.

Pulp Fantasy Library: The Insects from Shaggai

The real appeal of many of the stories I discuss in this series isn't so much their plots or characters as their ideas. This isn't to suggest that pulp fantasy tales necessarily lack interesting plots or compelling characters. Rather, it's to emphasize that their greatest value, particularly from the perspective of roleplaying games, often lies in the author's imaginative conceptions of strange lands, weird magic, or terrifying monsters. One need not look very far into the contents of Dungeons & Dragons, for example, to find examples of ideas inspired by – if not outright stolen from – the works of fantasy and science fiction authors popular during the younger days of Dave Arneson or Gary Gygax. 

The early horror stories of Ramsey Campbell demonstrate my point quite effectively, I think. Like his fellow Brit, Michael Moorcock, Campbell began writing fiction at a very young age. His first professional sale was to Arkham House in 1962, when he was only 16 years old. This early success encouraged him to submit several more stories. Arkham House's editor, August Derleth, initially rejected them on the grounds their New England settings didn't ring true, since Campbell, a native of Liverpool, had never visited the region. Instead, he encouraged the young Campbell to rework the stories by setting them in England, leading to his development of the Severn Valley and its fictional city of Brichester. The result was the 1964 anthology, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants.

Among the best stories included in The Inhabitant of the Lake is "The Insects from Shaggai." Campbell later explained that the tale

is based on [an] entry in the Commonplace Book, or rather on my misreading of it. Lovecraft wrote "Insects or some other entities from space attack and penetrate a man's head & cause him to remember alien and exotic things – possible displacement of personality," a superb idea I rushed at so hastily that I failed to notice he hadn't meant giant insects at all ... Of all my stories, this is probably the pulpiest. As such, it has some energy, I think, but I wish I'd left the note alone until I was equipped to do it justice.

This is a very fair and indeed self-aware assessment of "The Insects from Shaggai." Campbell recognizes that its central idea, one he borrowed from Lovecraft's Commonplace Book – his notebook of story germs – is a strong one. He also recognizes that, at his young age, he wasn't quite up to the task of fleshing it out into a fully satisfying story. Yet, for all that, I still think it a story worth reading, if only for that central idea, which has stuck with me all these years and which likely served as the inspiration for at least one of my own creations.

The story itself is told from the perspective of a writer of fantasy, Ronald Shea, who "feel[s] bound to write down some explanation for [his] friends," since he "must not be alive after sunset," as his "continued existence might endanger the whole human race." This is another variation on a tried-and-true Lovecraftian formula: a narrator who wishes to explain his actions and why they were necessary to safeguard mankind, no matter how insane they might sound. When one considers that this is the work of a very young author who was attempting to imitate his literary idol, I think it's a forgivable set-up. 

While drinking at a hotel bar in Brichester, Shea is approached by a middle-aged teacher who promises to tell him "all the Severn Valley legends which might form plots of future stories." The teacher speaks of a meteorite that fell in Goatswood sometimes in the 17th century. The meteorite soon attracted the attention of the local folk, including one who discovered a metal cone "made of a grey mineral that didn't reflect, and more than thirty feet high." The cone had a "circular trapdoor on one side" and "carved reliefs" on the other. When he got near the cone, he heard "a sort of dry rustling inside," as well as "a shape crawling out of the darkness inside the trapdoor."

Shea is unimpressed with the legend's vagueness and Campbell uses this as an opportunity to mock the conventions of many Lovecraftian pastiches.

"Too vague – horrors that are too horrible for description, eh? More likely whoever thought this up didn't have the imagination to describe them when the time came."

It's a solid jab at the worst of HPL's imitators – and, honestly, some of the worst of HPL's own stories – that I can't help but think that Campbell was using it at least in part to cover for the flaws in "The Insects from Shaggai." In any case, Shea is nevertheless interested enough in the legend, vague though it is, that he seeks out more details and then sets out to look for the supposed location of the metal cone. 

Shea succeeds in finding the cone in a clearing within Goatswood – something he had not expected, given the vagueness of the legend. Equally unexpected was the fear he felt upon seeing it and hearing the "faint dry rustling sound which came from somewhere in the clearing." Not long thereafter, the circular trapdoor opened and

a shape appeared, flapping above the ground on leathery wings. The thing which flew whirring toward me was followed by a train of others, wings slapping the air at incredible speed. Even though they flew so fast, I could, with the augmented perception of terror, make out many more details than I wished. Those huge lidless eyes which stared in hate at me, the jointed tendrils which seemed to twist from the head in cosmic rhythms, the ten legs, covered with black shining tentacles and folded into the pallid underbelly, and the semi-circular ridged wings covered with triangular scales – all this cannot convey the soul-ripping horror of the shape which darted at me. I saw the three mouths of the thing move moistly, and then it was upon me.

The insect-creature flew straight into Shea's head but he "felt no impact" and, when he turned to look behind him, there was no sign of it. Yet, "the whole landscape seemed to ripple and melt, as if the lenses of [his] eyes had twisted in agonizing distortion." He then realizes that the thing "had entered [his] body and was crawling around in [his] brain." It's here that the story truly becomes interesting – or at least grapples toward being so. 

With the insect-creature somehow ensconced like a parasite within his mind, Shea experiences strange perceptions and equally strange thoughts. The young Campbell then attempts to convey the twisting, phantasmagoric experience of Shea's being a host to an Insect from Shaggai and, while the end result doesn't quite succeed, I appreciate his effort nonetheless. What the reader gets echoes the experiences of Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee in Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time," as his mind travels through time in bodies other than his own. It's a potent idea and should be at once wondrous and terrifying – if it weren't for the fact that Campbell uses this as an opportunity to regale the reader with a needlessly lengthy exposition of the history of the Insects, the home planet, their worship of Azathoth, and many other details. The elaborate exposition undoubtedly pleased August Derleth, whose own Lovecraftian pastiches luxuriated in similar catalogs of otherworldly places and entities, but it does little to improve the story.

And that's a great shame. As I said at the beginning, some pulp fantasies are best appreciated for their ideas than for their plots or characters and "The Insects of Shaggai" is a prime example of this. I absolutely adore the idea of psychic parasites that employ human beings as their vehicles on Earth. Likewise, the bizarre sensations and knowledge that come with playing host to these entities is worthy of exploration, since it's a splendid way to convey the cosmicism of Lovecraft's literary vision. Unfortunately, Campbell is quite right in judging that "The Insects from Shaggai" falls quite short of the mark. Yet, for all that, it's still of genuine interest to readers for whom ideas are paramount.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Computer God

Something I've observed is that, if you look at the totality of a creator's work, you'll sometimes notice patterns in their creations. By "patterns," I mean subject matter or themes that keep cropping up again and again. Sometimes, this is done deliberately, with the creator explicitly embracing this, while at other times, it's done subconsciously. There are plenty of exceptions to this, of course; not every creator is given to this behavior. Indeed, one could make a reasonable case that the best creators are those whose works are genuinely varied in their subject matter or themes. 

Yesterday, I posted a story about an "AI agent" that had supposedly become very adept at playing Diplomacy. In reflecting on it, I realized that one of the reasons the story so intrigued me is not simply for its connection to a game I enjoy, but because it connects to a recurring subject within my own creative endeavors: computers as gods. I was suddenly struck by the fact that, without my specifically intending to do so, I'd been playing around with this idea under a variety of different guises. Clearly, it's something that has fired my imagination, hence the prevalence of it in my works to date.

The initial intention behind my Dwimmermount campaign setting was to create a setting for D&D that was outwardly fairly ordinary and traditional but with a secret science fiction background. Part of this background is that the gods of the Great Church were, in fact, artificial beings created by technological advanced Men in the ancient past and whose civilization was ultimately destroyed as a consequence of their hubris. None of this was ever revealed in the course of the campaign, but it provided the intellectual frame by which I understand the setting.

In my House of Worms Tékumel campaign, the characters have spent a long time, both in game and in the real world, interacting with several strange cultures of the mysterious Achgé Peninsula. Among the many ways these cultures differ from those of the characters' homeland of Tsolyánu are the gods they worship. One of the most important is called Eyenál, who is generally depicted as a war god. Some months ago, while interacting with a device of the Ancients, the characters learned of the existence of "ANL/1043," described as being "a 301st generation strategic agent" – in short, Eyenál is some sort of artificial intelligence, possibly charged with Tékumel planetary defenses.

Likewise, in the Secrets of sha-Arthan, I've imagined many different artificial beings created by "the Makers" whose ruins are scattered across the True World. Some of these beings are mere automatons without much in the way of individual will or intelligence, while others are closer to Men. Others still possess vast and alien intelligence utterly unlike that of any other intelligent species. Some of these direct and guide cities or even entire nations, ruling them as gods, though, of course, few on sha-Arthan understand this. 

In each case, knowledge of the true nature of the gods as artificial beings is largely unknown within the setting. Naturally, I know the truth and occasionally the players (as opposed to their characters) catch on to what's really going on. The reaction has been universally positive, so far as I can recall. I distinctly remember the revelation about Eyenál being met with pleasure by several of the players, who felt it provided a clever and unexpected re-interpretation of many of the details they'd already collected about the Achgé Peninsula and its history. 

I presume regular return to the subject of artificial gods is rooted in my lifelong love of science fiction. Stories of "computer gods" or, at least, computers viewed as gods are commonplace in the genre. I wonder, though, if there's more to it than that and, if so, what it is. Clearly, I'm trying to grapple with something through the vehicle of my imagination, though I'm not yet sure what it is. Regardless, I find it fascinating that I continue to revisit this idea and wonder if others find that they return to the same ideas over and over within their own creations.

A Single Roll of the Dice

One of Gary Gygax's most famous – and often lampooned – assertions in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide is that "YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT" [capitals Gygax's]. I'd like to suggest that even more important to a meaningful campaign is the inclusion of randomness. The traditional way this is achieved is through the use of dice, but I'm quite willing to accept other forms of randomness, such as cards, chits, or even coin flips. What's important is not the method so much as the fact that not every aspect of gameplay is within the control of its participants, including that of the referee himself. Some degree of what transpires in a roleplaying game must be left to the whims of chance.

No one who's read this blog for very long should be surprised by this. I am, after all, a huge proponent of the oracular power of dice, as well as the belief that "gamey-ness" is no less important to what makes an RPG an RPG than its "roleplaying." This is a big part of why I'm opposed to any definition of roleplaying games that likens them to an activity of "collaborative storytelling," unless that definition also includes collaboration with random elements. Without some degree of randomness – including the concomitant possibility of failure – my level of interest diminishes (and I say this as someone whose ongoing Empire of the Petal Throne campaign often goes weeks without a single die roll).

I was reminded of my feelings about this during a recent session of the Barrett's Raiders Twilight: 2000 campaign I began in December of last year. The characters are currently in the process of exfiltrating the Free City of Kraków, which they have come to realize is a nest of vipers liable to get them all killed. However, one of the characters, a CIA field agent who'd been posing as a Polish civilian prior to the outbreak of the war, recently received information that suggests an important contact is being held captive in an abandoned farmhouse northwest of the city. Since his captors were likely Soviet agents, the character felt an obligation to rescue his contact or, failing that, to ensure he didn't divulge operational secrets to the enemy. 

To that end, he and one of the other player characters set off, under cover night, to the location of the farmhouse. The farmhouse was surrounded on one side by a copse of trees that his player felt would provide excellent cover, especially in the dark. What the player didn't know was that the same copse of trees was being used by a Soviet lookout. Thus, when the character and his companion (another PC) entered the copse, I called for a Recon skill roll, this being the skill used in Twilight: 2000 for determining, among other things, if a character can successfully travel through an area without being seen.

The dice were in the characters' favor that day – so much so, in fact, that they not only succeeded in not revealing themselves to the hidden lookout, but they also succeeded in spotting him. Armed with this knowledge, they decided that discretion was the better part of valor and retreated back in the direction they came. Of course, events could have just as easily gone badly for them, in which case they'd likely have alerted not simply the lookout but the other Soviets patrolling the grounds of the farm. In that event, there's a very good chance that the player characters would have been badly wounded, if not captured or killed, since they were outnumbered and outgunned. 

I found this tiny moment in the session quite thrilling, as did the players involved. Though they didn't realize it at the moment I called for a skill roll, a lot hung on the results of that throw of the dice. Indeed, the entire course of the next session, which involved a planned raid on the farmhouse, might have gone completely differently had the characters failed that Recon roll. This is precisely why I so value randomness in RPGs: you can never be sure what will happen next. The entire course of my House of Worms campaign was altered by a single failed saving throw, for example. Indeed, many of my fondest memories of playing roleplaying games include unexpected moments occasioned by the results of a single roll of the dice. 

I can't speak for anyone else, but that's how it should be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Diplomacy in the News

It's relatively rare to see a news story in the mainstream media that touches upon one of my interests. Consequently, I was surprised this morning to read about the claim that an "AI agent" named Cicero had "achiev[ed] human-level performance in the strategic board game Diplomacy."  Needless to say, this story caught my attention, as I was once a very avid player of Diplomacy and still retain a great fondness for it, though I haven't actually played it in many years. 

I'm naturally skeptical of these kinds of claims. I likewise lack the specific technical knowledge necessary to evaluate their veracity. Nevertheless, this is quite fascinating to me, since, if correct, it would represent a significant step in the evolution of computing. Mind you, much like chess, the degree to which being good at Diplomacy has any correlation to intelligence is separate question. In high school, my friends and I liked to flatter ourselves because we enjoyed playing "cerebral" games like this. I wonder if this story might be something similar, with the bravado of AI researchers standing in for that of fifteen year-old boys. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

What Does It All Mean?

Over the course of the last year, I've been sharing a number of creatures from the science fantasy setting I'm developing, sha-Arthan. If you look carefully, you'll notice there have been small but significant changes to the creatures' game statistics. The stats of the earliest entries are nearly identical to those found in Old School Essentials, which is itself nearly identical to the TSR era Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons rules. As I've developed sha-Arthan more and done some preliminary playtesting of it, I've also deviated from OSE and those changes are reflected in the game statistics of the creatures I post here. Since a number of readers have asked me to explain those changes, I thought I'd do so briefly in this post. 

I'll use the stats of the kelthaga as an illustration:

DR 14, HD 3** (13hp), Att 1 × touch (1d6 + Vigor drain), AB +2, MV 18p (6p), SV F12 D13 M14 E15 S16, ML 12, XP 65, NA 1d4 (1d6), TT None (see below)

DR stands for "Defense Rating" and is more or less the equivalent of the creature's ascending armor class score. 

HD is, of course, "Hit Dice" and is the number of d8 rolled to determine the creature's hit points. The asterisks indicate the number of special abilities the creature has for the purposes of calculating experience points, while the number in parentheses indicates its average hit points.

Att indicates the number and type of a creature's attacks, along with the damage caused by each one.

AB is "Attack Bonus" and represents the bonus added to a creature's d20 attack roll, which is compared against an opponent's Defense Rating.

MV is the speed at which the creature moves, given in paces, a unit equivalent to 5-foot (or 1.5-meter) increments. The first number is the creature's base movement rate, while the second one in parentheses is its encounter movement rate.

SV represents the creature's saving throws, with the letters being the following:

  • F = "Fortitude"
  • D = "Devices"
  • M = "Mental attacks"
  • E = "Evasion"
  • S = "Spell"
ML is the morale rating.

XP is the experience point value of defeating the creature.

NA is "Number Appearing," with the first number being the number encountered wandering through the Vaults beneath sha-Arthan, while the second indicates the number encountered in a lair. 

TT is "Treasure Type" and is used in conjunction with a table to determine the amount of treasure, if any, a creature has on its person or in its lair.

As you can see, most of the game statistics are like those found in most forms of Dungeons & Dragons, with a few changes here and there to better reflect the setting of sha-Arthan and my personal preferences as a referee. Like all such things, I continue to tinker with these details; they will probably not reach their final form until I've had the chance to playtest them more fully (which I hope to begin in the new year, but I make no promises).

Grognard's Grimoire: Kelthaga

Kelthaga (Hateful Dead)

A kelthaga by Zhu Bajie
A kelthaga is a mindless undead being fueled by hatred of the living. There are two known means by which a kelthaga comes to be. The first is death through obliteration (see Magic); the second is through a recondite version of necromancy known to certain sects (see Alignment). The only difference between the two types is the singular focus of the first compared to the more general malice of the second. Once a kelthaga of either type comes within 6p of living beings, it will relentlessly pursue them until it is physically unable to do so. 

DR 14, HD 3** (13hp), Att 1 × touch (1d6 + Vigor drain), AB +2, MV 18p (6p), SV F12 D13 M14 E15 S16, ML 12, XP 65, NA 1d4 (1d6), TT None (see below)

        • Undead: Makes no noise, until it attacks. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading disciplines and spells.
          • Mundane weapon immunity: Only harmed by spells or magic weapons.
            • Regeneration:  A damaged kelthaga regains 1hp at the start of each round, as long as it is above 0hp. Severed limbs reattach.
              • Return from death: If killed (0hp), will regenerate and fight again in 2d6 rounds.
                • Fire: Cannot regenerate damage from fire. The only way to kill a kelthaga permanently.
                  • Vigor drain: Victims lose 1 VIG per hit. Recovers after 8 turns. If reduced to 0 VIG, the victim becomes a kelthaga.
                    • Necromantic plaque: Kelthaga created by necromancy wear a plaque worth 500dm for its materials alone, possibly more to a connoisseur of the arcane.

                The V.I.P. of Gaming

                Issue #99 of Dragon (July 1985) contains the advertisement below. It's for a gaming magazine that is completely unknown to me. Looking into it, I discovered it had only five issues, published between October 1985 and September 1986 and was published by a company called Diverse Talents, Inc. The same company was also responsible for publishing Space Gamer for a short time in the late 1980s. Since I know nothing of The V.I.P. of Gaming Magazine – what a mouthful! – I'd be curious to hear from anyone who knows anything more, especially if you actually read it when it was released.

                Thursday, November 17, 2022

                Grognard's Grimoire: Gorodaka

                Gorodaka (Haughty Dead)

                A gorodaka by Zhu Bajie
                Death knows no distinctions of power or status. This abiding truth has not stopped sorcerers throughout time from seeking a means of sidestepping it. One such means is laid out in the Kadil Sho'i ("The Breaking of the Cycle"), which provides a complex alchemical formula for extending one's life indefinitely. The successful execution of the formula arrests the process of physical decay, transforming the sorcerer into something simultaneously greater and less than human – a  gorodaka.

                Initially, a gorodaka looks no different than it did in life, except that it no longer breathes, eats, or sleeps. Over time, putrescence sets in, leading many gorodaka to hide their rot behind masks, as well as ornate suits of armor or other similar finery. Despite their unnatural origins, not all gorodaka are wicked, though nearly all see themselves as superior to the living.

                DR 19, HD 9+5**** (45hp), Att 1 × touch (1d10 + paralysis), AB +8, MV 60’ (20’), SV F8 D9 M8 E11 S4 (Sorcerer 14), ML 10, XP 3700, NA 1 (1), TT A

                • Undead: Makes no noise, until it attacks. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading spells.
                • Energy immunity: Unharmed by cold or electricity.
                • Mundane damage immunity: Can only be harmed by spells or magic weapons.
                • Paralysis: For 2d4 turns (fortitude save). 
                • Spell immunity: Immune to magic causing death or polymorph.
                • Sorcerer: Casts spells as a 14th-level sorcerer.