Monday, February 27, 2017

Running A Sword & Sorcery Mystery Campaign As A Viable Old School Setting Option

The legends speak of another world of the past, a world where adventure was just around the corner. That world was a long time ago! Things have changed much, the legends & myths foretold by our ancestors came to pass. Now things are very dangerous for there are monsters that come from the Shadowdeep and worse now! Welcome to Mystara Reborn!

So this little request appeared on G+ today with the following heads up from Brett Slocum, "You might want to read +Eric Fabiaschi's blog. He has a lot of insight into making a setting more Swords & Sorcery-styled" the gentlemen in question's blog post has a good start but let's go in another direction.
but work & real life got in the way but that's another blog post. Let's kick this into epic mythological high gear, the Ragnarok spoken of in numerous places in Mystara happens!

Let's say that events at the end of Wrath of the Immortals went very wrong & something broke with the spell of preservation in the Hallow World. Ragnorok happened! Numerous pieces of ancient City of the Gods technology have been uncovered by the upheavals of land & oceans boil across Mystara. The Elves & Dwarven Immortals walk the land as numerous human champions return to the world from beyond. Humanoid & Giant races hidden in communities have emerged as Drow tribes & champions rise from within as the sun turns the color of sack cloth. The way has been paved by numerous demonic cults and factions over the centuries.
There is betrayal from within the Immortals court & double crosses.

Engines of destruction are seized & these are used across the face of Mystara & entire populations are laided low. There are swaths of wastelands created as the destruction happens on an unprecedented level. This cracks the local space time continuum & the demon lords such as Orcus & Juiblex run ramrod over parts of Mystara.  Orcus leads the faceless hordes of undead across the world. Demogorgon raises wild in the hills as his cults take village after village.

There are rumors and signs that the Egg of Croot and his forces are behind many of these dire events! Once more the enemy of all Blackmoor has made its presence felt in the world and the world buckles & changes under its ministrations! Ancient orders of paladins & knights are needed to root out the horror of the Egg! The ancient Elemental Evil cult iwith its deep and mysterious ties to the Egg from Threshold
Issue 11: Thyatis and Alphatia has deep roots wound around the world of Mystara and in this new world are going to be major enemies and evils.

 Just when all seems lost and world of Mystara is going down that final spin into the Abyss 'The Spell of Preservation' cracks and breaks! From numerous tunnels and byways out pours the ancient heroes & peoples to take back what's there's! The Grand Battle Is Joined! Everything changes!
Nothing is ever going to be the same again. The weather patterns have changed, the land itself is weird and very dangerous! Monsters & ancient prehistoric beasts that have not been seen in centuries except in lost corners of Mystara now stalk the land! Here's where the Issue Nine of  the freeThreshold magazine comes into play!

Now given the numerous weird technological relics & odd artifacts that have been whispered about in legend a forbidden tribe of Elves is needed. They alone now the forbidden ways & means of these secret & dangerous things. Their blood is also needed to help revive the Elven race which is almost extinct because of the blood shed and warfare. The name of
Blacklore is curse and a forbidden word in numerous households but they alone know the secrets of these legendary artifacts of myth and forbidden legend.

The nasal filter - Male elf, by David Nash

But this is a world of men, cave men, and humanoid races not seen in centuries! Welcome to a world reborn welcome to a world of magic, super science, sorcery, & pulp adventure!
Welcome to Mystara Reborn!

Commentary On The Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarter From Kort'thalis Publishing For Your Old School Campaigns

Alright I've known Venger Satanis from the dark days of Alt Cthulhu rpg whatever I've known him to be passionate about his table top gaming. He's one of those writers/designers whose work I've come just put on automatic pilot so it goes to the top of the pile so to speak to run.

But +Venger Satanis  rpg products are not old school necessarily & adult oriented. Yeah, your completely right on that account but his stuff is the some of the most easily adapted O5R stuff into OSR products around. He's been in & a part of the OSR a long while. We're usually on the same page of gonzo old school adventures as me but from a totally different angle which is fine. The basics of his system go something like this;"


On the other hand, all three of my self-created RPGs are simple to learn and use.  Here are the basics - considering the type of character you're playing and present circumstances, you roll 1d6, 2d6, or 3d6 based on the likelihood of success.  
A routine task the character is prepared for would be assigned 3d6.  Another character attempting a difficult action - but still within his wheelhouse - would be assigned 2d6.  Let's say a third character is an accountant by trade, but suddenly he's thrust into a situation where he has to defuse a bomb that's about to explode.  I'd assign a 1d6 for that character's demolition attempt.
Rather than add up these d6, you take the highest result of the dice pool and compare it to the following chart.  Same goes for combat, I'll put the number of damage d6 to be rolled (based upon the result of a character's attack) in brackets.
1 - Critical failure  [miss - and usually something bad happens]
2 - Ordinary failure  [miss, no damage]
3 - Mostly failure or partial success  [miss, no damage... although, there's GM latitude here for something like inflicting minor damage but then incurring an extra attack]
4 - Mostly success  [1d6 damage, exploding]
5 - Success  [2d6 damage, exploding]
6 - Critical success  [3d6 damage, exploding... each additional "6" to-hit result adds yet another d6 of exploding damage]

Yeah like I said its a good way to go folks, for me its really the adventures that I like we get thrust into the deep end of Crimson Dragon Slayer second edition land;
"The Stairway of V'dreen [Eldritch Science-Fantasy for Crimson Dragon Slayer and O5R systems]:  This is a location-based scenario... a weird location.  There are many planes connected to the realms of our world, and some of those dimensions are strange beyond imagining.  V'dreen is one of those weird places, and where its stairway reaches no living or sane man can say.
Each PC will have his own reason for visiting V'dreen - a random table will personalize every character's desire/need.  Reaching the stairway, V'dreen's greatest treasure, will not be easy - alien, mutant dreamland hazards bar the way!
This location will be the most bizarre thing I've come up with yet.  The main Kickstarter picture above gives you an idea of what's in store. But I've got some additional details and a b/w illustration directly below...
Fruiting bodies.  The scent of V'dreen is that of a corpse blooming with strawberry and apricot preserves.  A fragrance that one cannot easily forget.  Pungent jam and jelly intermingling with the sweat of human fornication.
Rumored tales of V'dreen: a magical timepiece is buried in the ground, preventing this place from aging, neither evolving nor decaying.  However, some believe the timepiece to be broken in some way - or perhaps it had always been corrupted - because slavering demons roam free, wizards scry and watch and influence life on V'dreen with their little knobs and levers and buttons... my God, even the tentacles have tentacles!
The stairway leads to an even more distant realm.  It is a personal voyage... the discovery of self-annihilation, where travelers lick savage dreams and ride bareback upon the sparkling-scaled magenta snake-thing with golden eyes coiled at the heart of eternity."

Knowing Glynn from Monkey Blood Designs's artwork & skill the way I do I know where we're going with the next adventure in terms of quality & design work. Venger's cleverness is interesting and no doubt in my mind that he's pulled off something very interesting & entertaining to add to the table top.

High Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
 [Retro Sleazy Sci-Fi for Alpha Blue]:  The annual Galactic-Series of Q'uay-Q'uar Main Event - sponsored by every lifeform's favorite grape beverage Purple Prizm - is about to convene.  It's a high-stakes gambling tournament not to be missed!  The PCs have various reasons (based on a random table, of course) for attending.
Chances are, they owe someone money or someone owes them.  Traditionally, the Q'uay-Q'uar Main Event is when outstanding gambling debts are settled.  And whatever amount is still owed from last year, once the final Q'uay-Q'uar wager of the tournament has been made, determines weeks, months, or even years of servitude.
Once there, gambling, interactions between degenerate lifeforms, a surprise visit from an old girlfriend, and an unexpected murder keep the PCs occupied, entertained, and struggling to figure things out while trying to survive, make a few credits on the side, and get their space rocks off.
I've created this game called Q'uay-Q'uar (which means "purple-yellow" in the Q'tari language).  Q'tarians are reptilian crystalline beings who believe in predestined fate, rather than individuals struggling to make their own destiny.
Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design is turning my terrible-looking prototype into something awesome that can be printed-out and used right at your game table.

Alright so there's another piece in the Alpha Blue setting. This is like one of those gambling games we used to see in the old 1970's Battle Star Galactica episodes and always wanted to play but couldn't. Well now you can.
There's some very weirdly awesome cover art but you can see that at the Kickstarter page. But I have a feeling that Venger is actually a very frustrated Neo Noir Lovecraftian mystery writer because we get a brand new Outer Presence adventure;"
His Flesh Becomes My Key [Pulp / Investigative Horror scenario for The Outer Presence]:  There's a serial killer on the loose.  The killer is carving strange glyphs in his or her victim's flesh.  These glyphs looked like they were starting to add up to something, possibly a clue to help the police understand the serial killer and eventually catch him or her.  
Unfortunately, the lead forensic investigator on the case, Richard Black (a friend to one or more of the PCs), has mysteriously vanished. 

The PCs can try to help the police by starting their own investigation into this enigmatic serial killer... that will also hopefully reveal the whereabouts of their missing friend."

Anyhow the Outer Presence rpg is based around an old school horror Lovecraftian Mythos aesthetic but its its really its own rpg system. That being said way back in December of last year I adapted the first Trinity of Awesome +1's A Green Jewel They Must Possess into a space based science fantasy adventure one shot with some friends. Alright bottomline do I think this kickstarter is worth your time and money? In a word? Yes. I've got no dog or pony in this race at all per say but Venger does deliver the goods and more.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Commentary On The Free OSR Resource - Companion Expansion From Barrataria Games For B/X D&D & Retroclone Systems

Ask any OSR blogger or publisher & they'll tell you that they publish for the sheer love the of old school rpg hobby. Today there are literally hundreds of good, solid publishers out there but there are lots that have fallen through the cracks. Which is a shame.

Case in point with  Barrataria Games which produced one of the best damn B/X D&D & retroclone companions out there going all the way back to 2009.
Like I said I'm digging deep here folks but what's in it? Well according to The Companion Expansion presents additional classes, spells, weapons and equipment, creatures and magical items for fantasy roleplaying games for basic- and expert-level players and gamemasters. It includes 8 additional character classes (bard, druid, wildwood elf, gnome, half-elf/half-orc, half-ogre, illusionist, scout), expanded experience, combat, and saving throw tables, two additional types of magic (druid and illusion) and additional magic-user and cleric spells (90 in all), over 130 new or additional creatures (with a comprehensive index and suggested experience point awards), dozens of new or additional magic items, and extended treasure generation tables. There are also expanded spell tables for use with Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, and Swords & Wizardry.

These rules will be the basis for the WORLD OF STRONGHOLD gazetteer(s) as that setting is further developed. There will be additional or variant monsters and classes presented, and other information including stronghold establishment and management and additional information on maritime adventuring and combat, but I felt that a "world neutral" version could be immediately useful to GMs running basic- and expert- level games."

So what happened to Barrataria Games? 
I don't know but hope that Barrataia is doing well. What happened?  I have no idea at this point but the OSR market isn't an easy place to make a living in.  One thing I've learned about being in this hobby since 1977 is that there are no winners or losers in a zero sum game only to be the last man standing. The idea is to have fun at the table & for this hobby to create new friends and continue gaming with those friends. This needs to happen or the hobby of table top rpging will die a slow death.
Surely some free OSR download from 2009 can't be relevant to today's OSR games? Well actually I would say its even more so. The The Companion Expansion is a tool kit for B/X D&D that can also be used with Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, and Swords & Wizardry. Which means that it can also be used with Adventurer,Conqueror, King,  Stars Without Number & other retroclone systems with some adjustments. This basically means that your range of material for everything is expanded by three fold. This means you can take your home campaigns up the level  ladder without spending a huge fortune & the quality of material is there.

This companion expands the products of the imagination with new races, classes, kits, etc. all done with NEW thief skills, new spells, monsters and magic items etc. But I've got  the Rules Cyclopedia or the free  Dark Dungeons retroclone system From  Gurbintroll Games. 

That's perfectly fine & this companion actually complements those fine products but the focus here is narrower. This companion focuses on PC expansion with lots of interesting little twists.
Here's my advice if you own B/X D&D or Dark Dungeons, Or any of the retroclone systems  then grab this one too.
Alright So You Can Grab The Companion Expansion From Barrataria Games For Free  Here

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Free OSR Weird Fiction Resources of A.Merritt & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea As Well As Your Old School Campaigns

My schedule has been more then a bit erratic as of late with work to say the least, so I've been dividing up my time over the last couple of weeks here at Casa De Fabiaschi to concentrate on OSR sword & sorcery & pulp material that I already have. This turn of events has not going unnoticed in certain corners of the OSR namely those garage band marketing publishers and firms who are pumping out the usual fire hose of titles. So I've put a moratorium on reviews for the next six months because of work & familial concerns at home. Work has been going like gang busters with work. So  I've had to devote my time to getting articles,blog posts, & whatnot ready to go for readers of this blog. So where does that leave us with? Well. it left me to dip my wick into the deep end of weird fiction for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in the stacks of my gaming collection. I was specifically looking at AFS magazine issue #4, which if you're lucky enough to have a copy is one of their best. The contents speak for themselves and reads like a whose who of OSR gaming. But there's a specific adventure I'm going to be talking about tonight.

FS Magazine #4   - Table of Contents

New Monster – The Gurondu by Tim ‘Turgenev’ Hartin

Variant Class – The Burglar by Scott Moberly (written for Holmes Basic)

Artifact -  The Iounic Loop – Reimagining the Ring of Gaxx by Allan T. Grohe Jr. (grodog)

Fiction – A Blizzard in the Sahara by Aleister Crowley (1911)

Table of Items – High Value Treasures by Scott Moberly

Variant Class – The Purloiner by Jeff Talanian & Colin Chapman (written for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea)

Adventure – The Lamia’s Heart, An Adventure By Jeff Talanian (set in Hyperborea

For 2–5 Zero Level Thieves)

Table – One Sentence Plot Hooks for Sandbox Gaming by Various (named) authors

Adventure – Theme for a Jackal (an adventure set in Hyperborea for character levels 2-3) by Scott Moberly

Article- Crawling Without Hexes by Chris Kutalik

Map – The Nooks & Crannies Level by Allan T. Grohe Jr. (grodog)

AFS magazine jacked up the idea of OSR fanzine & took it in a different direction. The thing about the OSR material  was the quality of the articles. The magazine covers every retroclone from Swords & Wizardry, AS&SH, & even Holmes Basic. Do yourselves a favor and pick up copies the next time the magazine is published.

Theme for a Jackal  by Scott Moberly really got me thinking about taking AS&SH's Hyperborea in a different direction & showed me a really well done Weird Tales style of campaign kit. The whole issue is outstanding really and acts as a sort of AS&SH preview of coming attractions for AS&SH second edition. But once again I digress. The adventure has a sort of Clark Aston Smith feel mixed with something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then it hit me early this afternoon, it reminds me of A.Merritt's science fantasy/sword & sorcery pieces of fiction. His life is as interesting as the fiction he wrote & he remains one of my all time favorite writers bare few. His writing have a timeless and almost dreamlike quality that reflects many of the ideas that seem to present themselves in  the Theme For A Jackel adventure and earlier Moberly AS&SH adventures.

If H.P Lovecraft is the father of cosmic horror then A. Merritt is the father of his own pulp style & sure has hell doesn't get his due today. "Merritt's writings were heavily influenced by H. Rider Haggard,[6] Robert W. Chambers,[7] Helena Blavatsky[8] and Gertrude Barrows Bennett (writing as Francis Stevens),[9] with Merritt having "emulated Bennett's earlier style and themes."" Umm. no I think Merritt doesn't emulate but improves upon Bennett's style of writing & makes it his own.

"Merritt's stories typically revolve around conventional pulp magazine themes: lost civilizations, hideous monsters, etc. His heroes are gallant Irishmen or Scandinavians, his villains treacherous Germans or Russians and his heroines often virginal, mysterious and scantily clad." Once again more pulp hand waving dismissive B.S. by Wikipedia. What really set's A.Merritt's work apart is his worlds, settings, originality, & pulpy sensibilities. Many of his novels & stories are now within the public domain. So let's get you some decent public domain downloads
  • The Moon Pool (fix-up, 1919) Grab it Right Here
    (The Moon Pool (1918) + Conquest of the Moon Pool (1919))
  • The Metal Monster (1920) Download Right Here
  • The Ship of Ishtar (1924) Download Right Here
  • Seven Footprints to Satan (1927) Download Here
  • The Face in the Abyss (fix-up, 1931) Download Right Here
    (The Face in the Abyss (1923) + The Snake Mother (1930))
  • Dwellers in the Mirage (1932) Download right here
  • Burn, Witch, Burn! (1932) Grab It Here
  • Creep, Shadow! (1934) Grab it Right Here 
  • A Merritt's Collected Short Stories  Grab That Here.
  • The Challenge From Beyond Features C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft,Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long & it showcases the vastly different styles of these giants of fantasy as each one picks up and takes over their parts of this entertaining piece of weird fiction. Grab That Here

    I've written extensively about A.Merritt before but he shares a sense of the alien & the lost world ethos that echoes many of the themes & ideas that creep through Astonishing Swords & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I think that his writings exemplify some of the best of the pulp authors making them perfect fodder for old school campaigns.

    While A Merritt was presented as a part of Appendix N for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's first edition Dungeon Master's Guide, he seems almost forgotten today by many of the fans of weird fiction and sword & sorcery literature. His writing reflects many of pop culture ideas of his time about Atlantis that one finds sprinkled throughout his work. There's some really incredible stuff to mine for adventures and campaigns especially for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. He's another writer that I'll be dipping my wick into for this upcoming campaign I've got happening soon.

    This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any 
    of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a 
    private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed 
    in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any 
    of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the
     thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions 
    are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner 
    productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes 

Mythologies, Commentary, & Dangers of the 'Star Cults' In The Dark Albion Campaign Setting

Sometimes over a beer there are avenues of unexpected adventure for old school  table top rpging case in point, one of the most dark & dangerous cults in Dark Albion, the Star Cults.

'So just how deeply entrenched are star cults in Dark Albion?' This was the question over a beer last night. 'Deep, very deeply in fact.' was my answer. Going all of the way back to the beginning of civilization of mankind Astrology has played its part in our lives in one facet or another. But in Dark Albion well your looking at the stars affecting the lives of the War of Roses players as a backbone of the movement of the war. I'm speaking of the heavy hitters here; the heads of the houses of Lancester & York were right in back pocket of a few star gazers. But this sort of thing goes deeper still.

Remember Dark Albion is based partially on Roman thinking & religious traits, Rpg Pundit knows this and built it into the back pocket of his Dark Albion setting. We're not light weight stuff here, we're talking about about very foundations of the course of the War of Roses. Every level of society is going to have interaction with those who consult the stars for births, deaths, crops, money matters, etc. Those players are going to be consulting with all kinds of alchemists, seers, etc.

At one time or another there are hints throughout Dark Albion that there will be seers, astrologers, and prophets of the stars from the lowly astrology chart maker to the prophetess who sits over an entrance to the underworld all of these are going to be consulted. And who do you think is going to be behind these? As I've said before chaos in Dark Albion is insidious and very personal.

Those little grey bastards from Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos who have been pulling the strings of the royals of Dark Europe from the foundations of the beginning of history. And they just might be pulling your PC's as well.

"A rare typeset book from 1493 contains what may be the earliest pictorial representation of a UFO. The book Liber Chronicarum (or commonly known as the Nuremberg Chronicle), describes a strange fiery sphere, seen in 1034, soaring through the sky in a straight course from south to east and then veering toward the setting sun. The illustration accompanying the account shows a cigar-shaped form haloed by flames, sailing through a blue sky over a green, rolling countryside. This may be the first work that actually contains actual illustrations of UFO's." 

From the UFO Evidence website

A quest might be to find an oracle who might be able to give advice to one side or another but whose actually pulling the oracle's strings? And who would question the will of the gods? Such an oracle or advisor to kings could be a much sought after and powerful individual. This might even be a quest unto itself within Dark Albion. But given the cybermagical technology of the star cult's benefactor's & the remote locations of temples of oracles they might not be found out for centuries. The elves of Dark Albion could also use this same mode of operation to exact their will on Earth as well.

What are the star cults connections to chaos? Well there are secrets within secrets when your dealing with these types of cults. Evil stars, comets, & other sky phenomenon are the stuff of occult legend & Biblical mythology.
Wormwood (ἀψίνθιον apsinthion or ἄψινθος apsinthos in Greek) is a star or angel from the Book of Revelation. There are some UFO theorists who believe that the Greys of popular culture are the quasi demonic servants of the angel or celestial being. So there could be deep star cults operating behind the scenes of Dark Europe connected to the prophecies of The War of the Roses.  But there's more too it then simply this.

If there is an Albion version of the Bible then it would contain verses based on " the New Testament is in the Book of Revelation: "The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter."" Which is going to be one the dangerous chaos Celestial  objects that the Inquisition is aware of. This makes a Cults of Chaos campaign all that more dangerous.

This is only some of the impact that Star Cults can have on the Dark Albion setting. There is a tremendous impact that their influence has throughout Dark Europe & I'll get into that another time.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Free Adventure OSR Adventure Resource The Black Gem By Jeff Sparks For Your Old School Campaigns

So I'm looking around for some options for a pulpy beginning dungeon for a group of experienced D&D and AD&D players for this upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game. Then tonight I was doing some OSR research and came the Black Gem by Jeff Sparks. This is the sort of adventure with a Weird Tales pulpy kinda feel but with a straight up sword & sorcery backbone. Intended for low level characters (1st-3rd), it's perfect for a spooky one-shot adventure. The Black Gem throws the heroes right into the deep end of the OSR adventure action. Left for (un)dead in an abandoned necropolis crawling with undead horrors

It clocks in at about nine pages and can easily be adjusted for the AS&SH aesthetic especially given the circumstances that the PC's find themselves in. I would suggest that the PC's be allowed scavenge and root around before the DM hits them with some of the harder encounters and horrors. The PC's are not going to have the chance to grab their normal weapons & equipment when they rush head long into the dangers of this adventure. The execution is dark and dangerous down this end the street. There are parts of this adventure which will challenge and  cause the PC's to come back for more.

This is one of those adventures that's easily adapted into an old school world where the undead are winning against the forces of good and stability. The Black Gem does a good job of creating tensions and sustaining them in many areas they where mood falters. "The PCs must use their wits to survive the night or fall prey to the power of the Black Gem!" The power of the gem is not to be underestimated & PC's need to realize that the power of the undead is growing under its influence.


Layout is clear & concise, the subject is brought to life with little fuss and the PC's goals are clearly laid out. This is a great module to introduce new players into the world of old school gaming and just East of the capital of Hyperborea are several areas where this adventure might work in the wilds. PC's have to survive the night or fall prey to the power of the horrors of the  Black Gem!

The whole adventure is going take about a night's worth of play but its time well spent when the PC's deal with these threats and then go quite literally Hell on Earth. From monsters to treasure everything the Black Gem is geared for adapting this adventure to your home campaigns. Do I think it fits AS&SH? Yes I do and its easily customizable to fit your home school style of OSR setting.

Commentary On Nexus's The Infinite City rpg & Grimjack issue Sevenity Six 'Battle Rock' WIth OSR Overtones

There are some days when I get a point to prove & today happens to be one of those days. I ran a Nexus The Infinite City campaign for years,at its height I had nine players & we did everything from comedy to serious interdimensional science fiction adventures. Now there was poll over in the G+ OSR group
now about ninety two percent hadn't even heard of the game. Nine percent had played & liked the game and one guy who started the poll didn't like the game because it didn't capture the essence of the GrimJack comic book. The game wasn't ever meant to actually but it was meant to emulate certain aspects of the comic book series. Namely the idea of an interdimensional city at the center of the multiverse with different dimensions phasing in and out of the city. It was actually the forerunner of Feng Shui first edition.. Lots of folks used Nexus The Infinite City as an add on game supplement to Feng Shui's time war.
Now since I didn't have the time to address certain aspects of the discussion about the game I want to wanted to do a blog post about them. Let me make the following very clear, THIS ISN'T A PERSONAL ATTACK ON EITHER Norbert G. Matausch or Dave Sherohman. Mr. Dave Sherohman 
made the following statement; "Guess I didn't express myself clearly in my earlier comment. That seems to happen a lot...

Tech level scales are what I don't think fits Cynosure. Yes, there are places where certain tech or magic works and other places where it doesn't, and yes, there are "no tech zones" and the havens (which are completely devoid of magic), but it's not laid out in a line like every tech level system I've seen does it.

The best example of this is probably the issue Battle Rock (issue #86, according to google), based around a battle of the bands in a dimension where a well-played bass line can demolish a city block. It's never explicitly stated whether a machine gun works there or not, but I assume not, because people use electric guitars instead. So is that higher-tech or lower-tech than the universe we inhabit? It's neither! It's entirely different, not merely "more" or "less" than our world."
There are some aspects of his statement I'd like to address.
Right so the issue in question is Grimjack issue Seventy Six called Battle Rock, in this issue GrimJack's James Edgar Twilley incarnation goes to fill a blood oath to the Ragnarock n' Roll dimension. In this setting modern musical instruments are used instead of weapons & basically drums instead of guns,guitars & voices  instead of lasers,here a battle of the bands is a thermonuclear event. Grimjack goes to play at the FillAlmo and defend the 'Heart of Rock & Roll'. All of these events are sketched out by the artwork of Flint Henry!

In Nexus The Infinite City terms bards are going to be king but it can be a bit tricky here.
Ragnarock n' Roll dimension
Moderate Tech  High Magic

Here the laws of physics are quirky at best, a PC is going to need to make a performance or skill roll with an instrument to make an attack. Drums are going to do gun damage, guitars are going to have the same damage as a medium laser pistol, synthesizers are going to do similar damage to a heavy pistol, voices can do damage similar to a machine pistol, etc. The 'Heart of Rock & Roll lays at the center of  the FillAlmo and is the spiritual center of the entire dimension. Any performer who falls to the forces of evil has a bit of their soul taken by the heart. In extreme times of danger the heart may call upon these spirits to help defend it against the forces of music industry mediocrity.
The Philistines represent the forces of instability, mediocrity, & entropy they take the form of zombies, lawyers, record executives, & sometimes other undead. They are lead by media moguls & corporate magus of the lowest orders. Should they get their hands on the Heart of Rock & Roll then all is lost. A new heart will have to be forged and it could take centuries.

Time flows differently in the Ragnarock n' Roll dimension, two hundred or more years may pass in Nexus while only a 20 years passes in Ragnarock. This leads to many retiring to the life of battle rock within  the Ragnarock n' Roll dimension to battle new crops of Philistine forces & train the next band of battle rockers.

Now as far as OSR terms are concerned you've got to be a 2nd level bard or shaman to participate in 'battle rock' functions. A successful wisdom roll is needed to operate a modern instrument and a charisma roll is needed instead of a normal combat roll. Mutant Future or a similar retroclone would have the appropriate technological instruments to make battle rock.
I've run two adventures in the the Ragnarock n' Roll dimension using Gamma World 1st & 2nd edition where the PC's were battle bands on war tours.

This blog post is for educational & entertainment purposes only and is not a challenge to the trade marks or copyrights of any to first comics or the holders of the Grimjack copy rights or trade marks. Nor Nexus The Infinite City. None of the role playing games mentioned in this blog entry are responsible for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Commentary On The Hyperborean Legacy Of Atlantis On The 'Old Mars' Campaign Setting

"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars"
Robert Howard's Conan
Upon Hyperborea there are remnants & ruins of Old Earth's Atlantis but these are pale reflections of the glory and power of ancient empire. Scattered across space & time are the echoes of this once mighty nation. Now only the Deep Ones remain to claim the glory & power of this once great legacy or do they?

Throughout Hyperborea there are pockets & fully integrated populations of Deep Ones. They walk among mankind unnoticed and unchallenged. But there are rumors of older races of fish like men and aquatic peoples with gills who do not have the taint of the Deep Ones running through their veins nor hear the song of
Tulu. Atlantis faced destruction & its colonies on 'Old Venus' & 'Old Mars' were their only hope of survival. Clark Aston Smith wrote about this in the Poseidonis cycle of stories. Poseidonis is the last remaining island of doomed Atlantis and there are hints in those stories that perhaps the Atlanteans adapted themselves to their watery environment.
  1. "The Muse of Atlantis" (prose poem)
  2. "The Last Incantation"
  3. "The Death of Malygris"
  4. "Tolometh" (poem)
  5. "The Double Shadow"
  6. "A Voyage to Sfanomoë"
  7. "A Vintage from Atlantis"
  8. "Atlantis: a poem" (poem)
Throughout Lovecraft's Mythos stories there are hints about the Cthulhu cult & its world spanning organization that goes all the way back to the days of Atlantis perhaps even before. The Deep One's influence was felt all the way back to before the fall of Atlantis destroyed the mighty empire totally. The technologically advanced empire had pockets of mystery cults operating within various temples & woven into fabric of the worship of Dagon & Mother Hydra The Great Old Ones. Throughout the Atlantean empire there were renegade temples, mystery cults, proto-cults operating within the shadows of the technological achievements of the once mighty empire then turned decedent. Echoes of these can be seen within the Church of Starry Wisdom  & many of its later pre-mutations 
The thread of the Clthuhu cult continues well into the twentieth century & beyond if we except that Hyprborea is the far future of Earth. Dagon, Mother Hydra & the Great Old Ones continue their corruption well beyond the foundations laid down in Lovecraft's writing;
"men—at least, a certain sort of men; though the creatures were shown disporting like fishes in the waters of some marine grotto, or paying homage at some monolithic shrine which appeared to be under the waves as well... [T]hey were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and feet, shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other features less pleasant to recall. Curiously enough, they seemed to have been chiseled badly out of proportion with their scenic background; for one of the creatures was shown in the act of killing a whale represented as but little larger than himself"
Dagon"  by H. P. Lovecraft,  July 1910

But what about the Atlanteans themselves there were pockets of other Old Ones & Outer Gods worshiped throughout the empire and there is evidence that lots these entities preserved their little corners of Atlantis on the sea bottom.

"It is well that the reader accept nothing which follows as objective truth, for since the events transcend natural law, they are necessarily the subjective and unreal creations of my overtaxed mind. When I attained the conning tower I found the sea in general far less luminous than I had expected. There was no animal or vegetable phosphorescence about, and the city that sloped down to the river was invisible in blackness. What I did see was not spectacular, not grotesque or terrifying, yet it removed my last vestige of trust in my consciousness.
For the door and windows of the undersea temple hewn from the rocky hill were vividly aglow with a flickering radiance, as from a mighty altar-flame far within."
The Temple HP Lovecraft 1920

Lovecraft wasn't the only writer who chronicled the survival of
Atlanteans, in 1929 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Marcot Deep but you might know it by its Nineteen Seven Eight title Warlords of Atlantis.

In The Marcot Deep we have all of the classic elements of Warlords of Atlantis & more;
"The novel begins with preparations for the dive, off the coast of Africa. Prof. Maracot claims to have located the deepest trench in the Atlantic and is vehement that he shall go down in the specially prepared submersible actually a bathysphere along with Headley and Scanlan. On reaching the edge of the trench, a description of the undersea world is presented. The team comes face to face with a giant crustacean who cuts off their line and hurls them down into the trench. Down in the trench, the team is rescued by the Atlanteans who are the last survivors of the land that was Atlantis.
Although the description of Atlantis may not sound quite futuristic and may seem fantastic, the fact that the novel was written in 1929 should be taken into account. One device in particular is often made use of. This is a thought projector which visualizes the thoughts of a person for others to see. This helps the team and the Atlanteans to communicate.
Descriptions of work habits, culture and various sea creatures are provided. The Atlanteans forage for their food from the sea bed and their slaves, Greeks who are the descendants of the original slaves of the kingdom of Atlantis work in undersea mines. This is made possible thanks to an exceptionally strong and light transparent material which is fashioned into helmets to enable people to work underwater.
The team eventually uses the levity of these spheres to escape to the surface. Headley elopes with the daughter of Manda, leader of the Atlanteans.
In the later part of the novel, Headley describes the encounter with the Lord of the Dark Face, a supernatural being who led the Atlanteans to their doom and was the cause of untold miseries to humanity ever since. This being is likened to the Phoenician god Baal who was demonized by later religions and cultures.

The being is defeated by Prof. Maracot who becomes possessed by the spirit of Warda, the man who managed to convince a handful of Atlanteans to prepare for the worst and thus built an Ark which saved them from the cataclysm which destroyed their land."
You Can Download The Maracot Deep By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Here

We know that some of the Atlanteans escaped their doomed world and fled into the solar system some even settled on 'Old Mars'. They brought with them some of  their guardian animals, prehistoric monsters, & other life forms.  This was chronicled in Aelita, or The Decline of Mars is a 1923 science fiction novel by Russian author Aleksey Tolstoy. It was later filmed as a classic silent film in 1924. It is one of the first science fiction films from Russia but what does it have to do with Atlantis? There's a fantastic article by Den Valdron that places our  Russian Princess on Burroughs Mars. Originally Aelita's Martian colony is a survival of Atlantis.

We know that the Atlanteans & the Deep Ones were competing for the same natural resources, materials, & land areas  this made competition & infiltration inevitable.  This collision course would once again rear itself when on 'Old Earth' when in  3994 a group of Deep One tainted river pirates under the control of Captain Kordon, Queen of the River Pirates attempted to steal the treasure of the Moks the fire lances of the ancients. This happened near Norfolk Virginia in the Treasure of the Moks episode of Thundarr The Barbarian. Later near Mount Rushmore, South Dakota Thundarr & co. would tackle a group of  Atlanteans Amazons who had used Great Race time travel technology to cast their minds ahead in time. Their queen had her rule taken over by Stryia, a Deep One tainted evil witch. These forces appeared in the
Attack of the Amazon Women of Thundarr The excellent The World of Thundarr The Barbarian Sourcebook -- Final Version For Mutant Future contains a great version of Stryia and her underwater Amazons.
Both C.L. Moore & Leigh Brackett would use similar artifacts to connect their work with both Edgar Rice Burroughs & Robert Howard's King Kull of Atlantis. When in The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune King Kull's consciousness is almost drawn away into an alternative world someplace in the time stream.

"Then came a day when Kull seemed to catch glimpses of strange lands; there flitted across his consciousness dim thoughts and recognitions. Day by day he had seemed to lose touch with the world; all things had seemed each succeeding day more ghostly and unreal; only the man in the mirror seemed like reality. Now Kull seemed to be close to the doors of some mightier worlds; giant vistas gleamed fleetingly; the fogs of unreality thinned; “form is shadow, substance is illusion; they are but shadows” sounded as if from some far country of his consciousness. He remembered the wizard’s words and it seemed to him that now he almost understood — form and substance, could not he change himself at will, if he knew the master key that opened this door? What worlds within what worlds awaited the bold explorer?
The man in the mirror seemed smiling at him closer, closer — a fog enwrapped all and the reflection dimmed suddenly — Kull knew a sensation of fading, of change, of merging...
“Kull!” the yell split the silence into a million vibratory fragments!
Mountains crashed and worlds tottered as Kull, hurled back by the frantic shout, made a superhuman effort, how or why he did not know.
A crash, and Kull stood in the room of Tuzun Thune before a shattered mirror, mazed and half blind with bewilderment. There before him lay the body of Tuzun Thune, whose time had come at last, and above him stood Brule the Spear-slayer, sword dripping red and eyes wide with a kind of horror."

Does this mean that in fact the Barsoomians of 'Old Mars' are actually
Atlanteans? Could the Deep Ones of Venus from ERB's Escape on Venus & numerous other 'Old Venus' science fantasy stories hint at a symbolic relationship between the humans & near humanoid races of the old solar system? I think so.

Leigh Brackett & C.L. Moore map out the relationship between the god like alien races that have their roots in HP Lovecraft & the Lovecraft circle's Mythos based mythology. Otis Albert Kline's Venus follows the same type of vein & there are Atlantean roots & ruins within his Planet Of Peril series.

The legacy of Atlantis can be seen throughout the Old Solar System & the influence of Atlantis echoes through out tradition of weird fiction and old school science fantasy gaming.

More To Come

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