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Know ye seeker, by the evidence of thine senses… that the flame of wonder doth burn in the world and magic doth live again!

Context

Modred is a very minor magic man in the Marvel Universe, who appeared in 1975. Back then Marvel was revitalising its horror titles, but Modred didn’t stick.

Like Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and others Modred has ties to Mount Wundagore in Transia.

He’s also tied to the Arthurian Camelot.

Modred (one R) shouldn’t be confused with Mordred (two Rs), Morganne le Fay’s ally.

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Background

  • Real Name: Modred.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base of Operations: Mobile in England ; formerly VIth century England.
  • Height: 5’11″ (1.80m). Weight: 175 lbs. (80 Kg.).
  • Eyes: White. Hair: White.

Powers & Abilities

Modred possesses strong personal magic energies, and can tap more from his environment.

Furthermore, he can receive an even greater power from the Elder God Chthon. Chthon invented black magic and necromancy – at least for Earth.

After the Ritual of the Darkhold (see the History section), Modred’s magic is wielded more like a super-power. He simply has to concentrate and gesture to manipulate the world around him.

His powers seem focused on the elements – earth, water, air, fire, wood. This likely is the kind of magic that Gervasse taught Modred.

But during this era, Modred starts evolving toward spells tied with the Elder Gods. Such as Chthon’s.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances)

A kind of magic

Examples of magical feats by Modred the Mystic during his early appearances :

  • Absorbing flames within his body, or dispersing a demon made of fire.
  • Repelling large masses of soil and stone to create or close tunnels.
  • Animating large masses of soil and asphalt to form giant waves, a bit like Avalanche does.
  • Animating nearby trees to turn them into dim but strong and obedient “soldiers”.
  • Controlling air to form small but mighty hurricanes.
  • Teleporting over at least a hundred miles (160 km). This works even without being familiar with the place he’s teleporting into. Or if it’s enclosed. But one suspects teleportation into an enclosed place is only possible if it is closed by natural elements.
  • Levitation.
  • Taking mental control of elementals, or destroying them outright.
  • Magical mesmerism to make people forget or remember. This is likely limited to memories that these people would wish to forget or remember. Modred could affect an entire crowd this way.
  • Seeing at a glance that Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) was a human being. Though what “human being” means in this case is hazy.

Fire walks with him

Modred seems able to absorb magic fire into his body to reinforce himself. This is a very tentative observation, though.

  • When awoken he stumbles into the enchanted braziers in his crypt. His body just absorbs the flame. There’s a loose sense that it helps him recover from suspended animation.
  • After getting hit by a flame bolt from a fire elemental, Modred suddenly claims that he has switched to another dimensionOther realms of existence that are not our universe where his power has tripled. He can affect the Earth dimension from there. The dimension thing is hazy, but his spells did seem more powerful.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) smiling face closeup

Bite the bullet

Modred may or may not be wearing body armour. The grey parts of his “costume” resemble the way chainmail is usually drawn on, say, Captain America’s costume.

But neither primary sources  nor secondary sources mention chainmail. And there isn’t evidence of such.

On the other hand, Modred does seem more durable than he should. He was once shot in the shoulder by what was probably a .455 Webley round (EV 03, in DC Heroes terms) but fully recovered within perhaps an hour. This was after some amateur first aid in the back of a moving van.

Our TTRPG stats therefore assume :

  1. A minor “built-in” regenerative ability.
  2. A high but clearly not superhuman level of durability.

Touched by The Other

Once he’s possessed by The Other, Modred’s magic becomes less elementally-themed. The spells get closer to generic comic book magic.

This will be covered in Modred’s second profile.

Soundtrack

A notable hit in the UK when Modred debuted was Mike Oldfield’s version of a traditional tune, In dulci jubilo.

So it dates from the Middle Ages (as a Christmas carol), yet has a very 1970s pop-folk music sound to it (the electric guitar is markedly Oldfield). Which sounds about right for Modred.

A question of time

When awoken in 1975, Modred stated he was from 1,100 years in the past, so 875-ish AD.

However, the Camelot and Merlin he mentioned existed in the late Vth and early VIth centuries. So, 500-ish AD.

The simplest hypothesis is that “1,100” years was in error. Modred was clearly confused at that point.

(The number is repeated in a caption, so if you are a caption please do not blindly trust what Modred says. Seriously, caption, you had one job).

A 1989 account by Roy Thomas  and Jean-Marc Lofficier  states that Modred lived “some 15 centuries” ago. So that puts us near the year 500 A.D., which doth seemeth to be the correct approximation.

Plus, Roy and Jean-Marc wouldn’t lie to us.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) with Janice and Gervasse

History

During the late Camelot era, young Modred was the apprentice of one Gervasse, a wizard. Though the two men didn’t get along, they almost considered each other father and son.

Modred was also the betrothed of Janice, Gervasse’s daughter.

The aging King Arthur then ordered Gervasse to send Modred to Camelot to become Merlin’s apprentice.

Both Modred and Gervasse were aghast, as Merlin was rumoured to have gone mad and/or evil. His apprentices were now sworn to silence and forbidden to ever leave.

(Unbeknownst to them, “Merlin” was an impostor. The unageing mutant known as Maha Yogi or Merlin Demonspawn was impersonating him. He was also manipulating the weakened King Arthur).

(FWIW Gervasse’s hold *probably* was on the Isle of Wight  . But it’s not clearly stated.)

The book of Darkhold

The fiery Modred decided to defy the will of his King. By this point Camelot was embroiled in treason and civil war. The Queen had left, and the evil Mordred (two Rs) was warring against the King.

Furthermore, young Modred refused to leave the side of his beloved Janice.

In order to challenge Merlin, Modred studied the Book of Darkhold – an atrociously powerful tome of magic. The Book was under Gervasse’s safekeeping, locked in the Darkhold – a remote tower on the Isle of Wight.

The tower had powerful enchantments keeping anyone of ill intent at bay. But Modred’s motives were pure when he entered the building.

When he approached the book, he was promptly corrupted. Modred was also mind-taught invocations to free the power of the book. This was done by a sort of shadow avatar of Chthon, tied to the book and called The Other.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) levitating over fire

Interlude – origin of the Book of Darkhold

The Book is one of the four artefacts of the Elder Gods left on Earth. The rest are :

  • The Ebon Rose (associated with Gaea).
  • The Sword of Bone (associated with Oshtur).
  • The infamous Serpent Crown (associated with Set).

The Elder Gods were the first inhabitants of Earth – god-like beings who sprang from the primal biosphere. They degenerated into cannibalistic demons until one of them, the untouched Gaea, had enough. She had a son called Atum, whom she sicced against the fallen Elder Gods.

As the Demogorge, Atum slew most of them. Only a few could flee to other dimensions.

Chthon, a god of earth, necromancy and evil magic, was one of these refugees. But before fleeing, he had time to inscribe a series of scrolls with his secrets. These awful writings would serve as his anchor to one day come back to Earth.

Like the other three artefacts, these scrolls are indestructible. On occasion they have appeared to be destroyed or damaged, but they can just recreate themselves.

Interlude – more about the Book of Darkhold

The Book of Darkhold is oft called “the Darkhold” through metonymy  . It has also been referred to as a mirror (since it is the reflection of Chthon’s soul) and by many other names.

The scrolls have frequently been incorporated into other books, or collected and bound as pages in a grimoireA book of magic spells and invocations. Furthermore, texts by other authors (such as, oh, Mephisto) were added to collections of Chthon’s work.

The version kept in the Darkhold had been specifically assembled and bound by Morganne le Fay and her allies. But it was too powerful to handle, even for Morganne. Howbeit she did manage to stop Chthon from returning to Earth via the Book of Darkhold. She magically locked part of his essence into Mount Wundagore.

Morganne’s ally Magnus then betrayed her. He handed the tome over to Gervasse for safekeeping.

The reason may simply have been that Gervasse was wise enough not to mess with the Book, and had access to the Darkhold Tower. It may not be Gervasse who built and enchanted the Darkhold Tower, since the origin of the name is said to precede mankind.

The scrolls are tied to many evil rituals and curses. The most notable of those was the creation of the curse of vampirism, back in the days of Varnae.

The likes of Conan of Cimmeria and Red Sonja of Hyrkania also ran into Chthon’s writings as they were used by corrupt wizards.

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Magic slumber, and a saint

When Janice and Gervasse reached Modred, The Other was already manifest as an evil smoke. It demanded a sacrifice. However, Modred hadn’t yet fallen to corruption.

Seeing where this was going, Modred sacrificed himself to save Janice. The Other took his lifeforce, leaving him in a sort of coma.

The Other soon ran into Brendan (later Saint Brendan  ), a powerful special agent of the Catholic Church. Brendan had been warned by the real Merlin that the Book of Darkhold was about to be compromised. He reached the Isle of Wight in time.

Brendan took down The Other. Apparently that required no small measure of luck.

Gervasse determined that Modred wasn’t dead, but was being changed and cursed. The wizard had a crypt built, and enchanted it to preserve Modred’s body. The crypt would also “store up [Modred]’s power”. Whatever that means.

Meanwhile Brendan strove to destroy the collected Darkhold tome. What he achieved was to magically disperse the pages far and wide. Whether that made the Book less of a threat than as Morganne’s collection is debatable.

The pages would turn up in many sad, horrific circumstances. One example are the occult efforts of the Werewolf By Night’s father and grandfather.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) riding toward the tower of Darkhold

Fifteen centuries hence

In 1975, two British archaeologists were working on the Isle of Wight. After lengthy research at the British Museum  , they had located the site of the Darkhold. The tower was long since gone, though.

They did reach the crypt holding Modred. Perhaps under the faint influence of The Other, they woke him up.

After telling his tale, Modred used powerful magic to open a tunnel back to the surface, then close it once they had left. Though he could see that the Book of Darkhold had given him great power, he also knew that The Other would be back. This power would likely come with a terrible price.

Magic: the wuthering

The archaeologists, Janet Lyton and Grant Whittaker, took Modred to London. However, the time-tossed man panicked. He caused a major commotion and police response on Piccadilly Circus.

After Modred was hit by a police bullet, Lyton and Whittaker took him to their van. They fled Northward, with Lyton applying first aid.

In the countryside, the van was stopped by The Other, manifesting as a telepathic ball of light. It and Modred had a magic duel, and Modred won. Yet his attacks against The Other also hurt him, for The Other was now a part of him.

Furthermore, contact with The Other brought Modred under Chthon’s control. But this wasn’t apparent right away.

(The simplest explanation is that this process took months. Chthon likely considered that a negligible time span when he recounted the event.)

Four elementals and one spider lady

In 1977, two robbers conducted an elaborate heist across London, stealing a medieval-era chest.

However, the chest had been enchanted, presumably by Merlin Demonspawn. When opened it freed four powerful elementals. These were tasked with finding Modred and bringing him back into the past to serve “Merlin”.

The elementals went to Stonehenge. Presumably this structure could facilitate magical time travel to bring Modred back.

They took the tourists there hostage, which led to a fight with the Thing (Ben Grimm) and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew).

Modred came in – presumably receiving a telepathic challenge from the elementals. But even he was overwhelmed.

Yet after invoking Astoreth (see our game stats for more) then absorbing a magic fire attack, Modred turned the tables and destroyed the elementals.

When Spider-Woman mentioned that she wasn’t human, Modred assured her that she was. He also mystically restored her memories.

Spider-Woman could now remember her childhood, her disease and the High Evolutionary’s intervention. Or at least a version of those – see our Spider-Woman profiles.

Modred, on the other hand, soon fell under the thrall of The Other.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) eldritch bolts

Personality

Modred is a young man of fiery passions. He’d make a truly terrible Jedi.

Among his passions were:

He also wishes to help and protect people, a bit like a pop Arthurian knight.

Of course, he speaks the Marvel Comics pseudo-Shakespearean lingo also used by, say, Thor.

Benign ?

At this point, Modred is a heroic — if a bit flawed — character.

He appears to have won his fight with The Other, and one assumes he will keep repelling attacks from The Other as he adventures. That he’s a thrall of Chthon, and in fact Chthon’s very existence, are story elements that appear in later years.

Bill Mantlo  and co-creators likely intended him to be a time-tossed magic super-hero. When the character didn’t take, he was repurposed into a tragically cursed victim in an epic Avengers plot.

This will be explained in .

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) in magical suspended animation

Quotes

(Gleefully) “Didst thou not hear my tale, my friend ? Didst thou not hear me tell that I was a mystic ? The *only* mage to survive the Ritual of Darkhold ! Although it dist, I needs must admit, cost me several centuries !”

“Get thee back, damnable demon of darkness ! Thou hast no old on Modred’s life !”

“Let them scream on as they will — for am I not Modred ? Is not the power of the Darkhold mine own ? Am I not a MYSTIC !?!”

“No ! ’tis not your vehicle that is at fault here… I have heard him call, though I did hope ’twas naught but the wind or the rain through the trees… But that it was him I must now believe, for the words did grip my heart in a fist of iron !”

DC Universe Adaptation

(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).

He would be a Bronze AgeSuper-hero comics from (roughly) the mid-1970s to the early 1990s encounter of the Phantom Stranger, I reckon.

His ties to Chthon would be replaced by ties to the Pre-Dead (say, the Demon Three). He’d have bedeviled Zatanna for a bit, though perhaps his main enemy would be Felix Faust.

Note that in the DC Universe the existence of Camelot is cyclical. See the profile for the Shining Knight (Ystina) for more.

Modred could thus come from a stranger version of Camelot than the standard pop Arthurian one in the vintage Marvel stories.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) animating trees using magic

DC Heroes RPG

Modred the Mystic

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 05
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 08
Init: 012 HP: 035

Powers:

Air control: 11, Air walking: 03, Awareness: 08, Control: 10, Damage absorption: 08, Damage capacity (Physical): 04, Earth control: 11, Flame control: 11, Plant animation: 07, Power Reserve (All Powers): 03, Regeneration: 01, Sorcery: 10, Teleportation: 11

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Mystic-Linked.
  • The [Element] Control Powers are routinely used to Block enemy attacks, particularly if they use the same element (+0 FC, this is a normal use of these Powers).
  • Awareness is lowered by 1 CS if the events in question have no tie to the elements.
  • Awareness is lowered by 1 Cs (stacking with the above) if the events in question have no tie to the Arthurian Era.
  • Control is limited to magical elementals.
  • Damage absorption is limited to enchanted fire. Absorbed energy adds to Power Reserve.
  • Plant animation has a 2 APs Area of Effect, but only works on plants with 3 or more APs of mass.
  • Power Reserve is inert unless fed by Energy Absorption.

Skills:

Accuracy (Magic): 06, Animals handling (Horses): 03, Occultist: 04

Advantages:

None demonstrated (unless you use the Homo Magi Advantage).

Connections:

None demonstrated.

Mystic Entity Connections:

Ashtoreth (Low).

Drawbacks:

Exile (Involuntary).

Motivation:

Mixed.

Occupation:

Wizard.

Wealth:

000


Design Notes

Since he’s empowered by The Other, Modred doesn’t follow the normal structure of the Magic Ranks expounded ‘pon in yonder Guide to Marvel Magic.

Verily.

Mystic entity connection

Modred has a Mystic Entity Connection with Ashtoreth. This special type of Connection is also described in the Guide to Marvel Magic.

Ashtoreth boosts Neutralize (hostile magical effects only), Air Control – and probably Exorcism and other effects that “burn away” impure magic. The effects receive an additional +1 AP bonus if the caster can directly see the Sun, but are penalised by 2 APs if they can’t.

“Ashtoreth” is simply a Hellenizedmade Greek or Hellenistic in form or character variant of “Ishtar”. However :

  • Ishtar has TMK no association with the Sun.
  • In the Marvel Universe one should be wary of names. It is common for demons and other mystical entities to ride the coattails of others by claiming a name associated with them. Ashtoreth (or Astoreth) might thus be completely different entity from Ishtar.
  • This is especially likely since Ishtar (going by an older name, “Inanna”) is documented in the Marvel Universe as having been tricked into degenerating into a demon. She clashed with Hellstrom and lived in the Underworld. Therefore links with the Sun are unlikely.

Sorcery!

Modred’s power of mesmerization has a “just so” quality to them I associate with Sorcery. Especially since they seem orthogonal to his elemental-themed Powers.

He could affect an entire crowd. But it can be done with trading APs for Limitations (only to affect memories people would prefer to see edited, -3, balanced by an Area of Effect). And the player could always bullshit something about the spell drawing energy from Stonehenge or the crowd being weakened by the magical transfixation they’d just been through.

Ditto for his ability to establish Spider-Woman’s nature.

(Trading Limitations for APs when using Sorcery is explained in the New Powers document).

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) magic moves stones

DC Adventures RPG

Modred the Mystic (earliest) — Averaged PL 7.2

STR STA AGL DEX
00 03 00 00
FGT INT AWE PRE
01 02 01 02

Powers:

Magic ● 62 points ● Descriptor: Magic, elements, Elder Gods
Array :

  • Earth control — Burrowing 7.
  • Earth control — Move Object 11 (Limited 1 to soil/earth/minerals).
  • Earth control — Environment 5 (Impede movement 2)
  • Fire control — Nullify fire 11.
  • Animate trees — Summon 6, Multiple Minions 3 (Horde), Limited 1 (must have trees nearby to animate), Quirk 2 (the number and size of trees may restrict minion numbers and Rank).
  • Air control — Move object 11 (Limited 1 to air).
  • Air control — Ranged Burst Area 3 Affliction 6(Dazed & Hindered, Immobile & prone), resisted by STR, Quirk 1 (non-selective), Quirk 2 (requires an atmosphere).
  • Air control — Ranged bludgeon Damage 6.
  • Air control — Flight 4 (Levitation).
  • Teleport 17 (Quirk (no unwilling targets), Feature (can teleport to unfamiliar places), Feature (can teleport into a place enclosed by natural elements)).
  • Elemental mastery — Ranged Affliction 8 (Entranced/Compelled/Controlled), resisted by WIL, Limited 2 to magical elementals.
  • Elemental mastery — Ranged disintegration Damage 10 (Limited 2 to magical elementals).
  • Senses 7 (Magical awareness), Quirk 1 (two fewer useable Ranks if the effect isn’t about the elements), Quirk 1 (two fewer useable Ranks if the effect has no ties to the Arthurian era).
  • Variable 7 (magic).

Oddly durable ● 2 points ● Descriptor: Magic ?
Protection 2.

Fire walks with me ● 2 points ● Descriptor: Magic
– Protection 6, Limited 3 to magical fire.
– Enhanced Advantages (Ultimate Effort (Magic Power), Extraordinary Effort) Limited 1 (Having been exposed to magical fire).

Guided by Ashtoreth’s light ● 1 point ● Descriptor: Magic
Enhanced Advantages (Ultimate Effort (Magic Power), Extraordinary Effort) Limited 1 (to Effects that control air or burn away impure magic), Quirk (must be able to see the Sun).

Combat Advantages:

Close attack 2, Defensive Roll 2, Favored foe (magical elementals)

Other Advantages:

None demonstrated.

Skills:

Athletics 1 (+1), Deception 2 (+4), Expertise (Magic lore) 5 (+7), Expertise (horse riding) 3 (+3), Expertise (Arthurian era lore) 4 (+6), Insight 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Persuasion 3 (+5), Ranged combat (Spells) 9 (+9).

Offence:

Initiative +0
Unarmed +3, Close, Damage 0.
Spells +9, by Effect.

Defence:

Dodge 03
Fortitude 08
Parry 03
Toughness 05*/07
Will 10

* Without Defensive Roll.

Complications:

  • Hark a vagrant Modred has no money in the modern world.
  • Time-tossed Modred comes straight from the distant past.
  • Temper Modred is a man of fiery passions, prone to rash decisions.

Powers Levels:

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 8, Dodge/Toughness PL 5, Parry/Toughness PL 5, Fort/Will PL 9.
  • Points total 126. Abilities 18, Defences 18, Skills 18, Powers 67, Devices 00, Advantages 05. Equiv. PL 9.

Design Notes

The DCH modelisation assumes that he has a number of standard packages, such as the Earth Control Power. This doesn’t work in Effect-based M&M.

So the M&M modelisation is based on the Effects listed in the P&A section (that is, what he did in the comics) rather than on the DCH stats. Which may make it a bit overly specific, since there isn’t so much material we have to generalise.


Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Universe.

Writeup completed on the 16th of July, 2016.