Monday, July 9, 2018

Monster Monday - Lammasu

Today I wish to talk about lammasu. Or more specifically, lamassu. Going down a rabbit hole, I found these listed as a type of "bovine creature." I had always known them as lion-like. From there I did some digging.

Assyrians worshiped Lamassu as a god (a good and protective deity.) Over time, lamassu statues were placed throughout cities, as watchful protectors.

As you can see from this image, they could be depicted as having bullish bodies. This image is far different than the ones seen in 1E and S&W.

The lammasu seen on the left is the 1E Monster Manual version (used here to highlight the historical and fantasy differences between the two.)

There are significant differences between the historical and RPG versions. It is important to note that the historical version could also be depicted as a lion, but most images when searching show the cow/bull body.

My best guess for the lion version being the RPG version: Lions have claws. Lions are predators, and therefore "scarier." (However, I don't want a bull to kick me any more than I want a lion to rake me.)

I don't ever remember running across a lammasu in a published module. In fact, I don't ever remember coming across a lammasu while adventuring. Now that I am looking at them closely, I feel this is a shame.

From Matt Finch's Monstrosities: "Lammasu are akin to angels . . . serves as temple guardians and agents of divine law. . . but because they are ogten pledged to guard particular places, people or objects, they will often engage other servants of Law to pursue such threats." (Page 285, S&W version.)

So, lammasu are akin to sphinxes in some aspects. They are protectors and watchers. Building off of this I present the following ideas for using lammasu/lamassu/ shedu in your OSR adventures:

A lammasu flies into town, roaring and screaming. The tomb of an ancient king has been desecrated. This tomb was so ancient, not even elves remember the king's name, only the lammasu. He promises that any pure of heart that find the king's grave robbers may use the king's sword (a holy avenger) for their lifetime.

Mistaken information on the location of a lich's lair has brought the party to a museum lost to time. As they interact with the ancient technologies, a lammasu awakens wondering who is disturbing their site.

Deep within the accursed mummy's pyramid, the adventurers are exhausted. They seek refuge from the undead onslaught that blocks their exit. Nearby, in a hidden room, a lammasu who had been tasked with keeping the evil at bay has noticed the heroes' plight. He escorts the group to his holy ground for respite.

Eve's Garden, long thought to be a myth has been found. None have been able to pass the guardians. The two lammasu who guard the Font of Immortality will only let the most pure within. A dying king, who knows he is not pure, fears his evil son's ascent to the throne. He knows the people will suffer, so he tasks the party to enter Eve's Garden and bring him a flask of the water from the Font.

Picture by Tyler de Noche - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Lammasu stat block from Monster Manual (1978), by Gary Gygax, TSR original publisher. Now owned by Wizards of the Coast.

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