Saturday, January 21, 2017

Celebrate Robert Howard's Birthday With Free Sword & Sorcery Pulp Downloads

Happy birthday to Robert E. Howard, born on this day in 1906! If there was any writer whose had more influence on me or my life its probably HP Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe. But Robert Howard was the creator of Conan, Brian Mac Morn, and as host of other incredible characters! He is the father of the modern  sword & sorcery story. 
In his short  life time he changed the face of the pulp story with his writing but it wasn't until after his death at again thirty by his own hand that he was truly appreciated.
“I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”
― Robert E. Howard, Queen of the Black Coast

I first encountered Robert Howard at the tender age of 11 down at the five & dime store when one of the Seventies reissues of his writing hit the stands. The damn thing dropped into my hands & changed my life. His writing was/is evocative, fast paced, & pulpy to the core but speaks volumes to me even to this day.

So with it being Robert Howard's birthday I figured it was a fine day to grab a few titles from the Internet Archive! They've got a mess of Robert Howard's writing for free!

Commentary On OSR The Ice Kingdoms Source Book From Mad Martian Games & The Ice Kingdoms Map For Your Old School Games

No I'm not being bribed by Mad Martian Games but they did send me a really nice gift a huge color map of the Ice Kingdoms setting on heavy poster material suitable for actual play at the table. This piece of cartographic awesomeness is massive and works on a grand scale, it covers 24x36 inches and its available right over here. Now let me give you the scale of this map, I'm standing on a chair to get the whole thing in the frame!

The detail is very well done & Mad Martian is making it very difficult for me not to want to use their setting at the table. I believe that this is a part of some diabolical plan on the part of writer/designer  Christopher Barnhart
The Thanelands is very well detailed here and the whole thing resonates with me for a sword & sorcery style adventure setting. Even though the game setting is keyed for either second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or For Gold & Glory a second edition retroclone system. Neither of these options really clicks my switches but not because I don't like second edition AD&D but because I'm in a different place with my sword & sorcery gaming itch. Let me explain, The Ice Kingdoms hits the same sword & sorcery buttons that Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea trips. Congrats to all of the kickstarter backers who have gotten their books. They look from what I've seen fantastic & the setting resonates with a very different feel from other stuff on the market including some of the OSR Viking material. But what I like is the ease of use, there are several different pages of conversion tables that make The Ice Kingdoms very accessible to Ninety percent of the OSR retroclones currently on the market.
This book has all of the tools to take PC's into a home sword & sorcery Thanelands  based game campaign. Several reasons why this works is:

Shadows Of The Hundred Years War - An Adventurer, Conqueror, King/Dark Albion Mash Up Campaign Continuation

So I've been zipping around the local area for the last twenty four hours & got a chance to take a look at Autarch's facebook page tonight. 
They've added in a couple of new things into the Bundle of Holding that their doing for charity.
"We've added three issues of AXIOMS to our ADVENTURER CONQUEROR KING SYSTEM BUNDLE featuring Autarch's sweeping Old School FRPG that lets you build and run your own fantasy kingdoms. "Axioms" is Autarch's quarterly supplement for the Adventurer Conqueror King System. Supported by a Patreon campaign, each issue of "Axioms" offers a mix of short content updates for ACKS, such as new classes, new sub-mechanical systems, explorations of specific themes within the game, short adventures, and more. Though designed for ACKS, content in "Axioms" is compatible with any D20-based fantasy RPG.
If you've already purchased this ADVENTURER CONQUEROR KING SYSTEM offer, you get all three issues of "Axioms" automatically. Just visit your Wizard's Cabinet download page on the Bundle site, so our system can add these issues to your DriveThruRPG Library."

 But this got me thinking about devil mountain Dwimmermount & its its insidious influence upon the world. Especially when it comes to the life & death of Richard III. Richard III is central to the over arching plot of Dark Albion & the opening of Dwimmermount foreshadows his death. I wrote about the dire portents of the megadungeon's reemergence into the realm of Albion.
What I haven't written about is how Richard's death is one of the axis's that the realm of adventure in Dark Albion turns on. You as the Dungeon Master need to understand how central to the action he is;"Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England from 1483 until his death in 1485, at the age of 32, in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the historical play Richard III by William Shakespeare.
When his brother King Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. As the young king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to lodgings in the Tower of London, where Edward V's own brother Richard of Shrewsbury joined him shortly afterwards. Arrangements were made for Edward's coronation on 22 June 1483; but, before the young king could be crowned, his father's marriage to his mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed the claims. The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes were not seen in public after August, and accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard's orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower."
 Edward is central to the idea here that he is the axis upon which central key events happen affecting all of Albion. The opening of Dwimmermount which will probably happen months before the Rose War in the depths of the Black Forest of Germany. These are foreshadow the events in both Albion and the rest of Europe. Why because once the doors to the mega dungeon are open that corruption that has been held within over in Fairyland is going to be working its way into the way before the Rose War. So this places the events of the opening of the doors of Dwimmermount opening  about fifty or so years conservatively.

Why because of the nature of Dark Albion's magic. The mega dungeon is struggling to make its way back into the world & feeding upon the violence, blood shed, depravity, & horror as it goes. This lines up perfectly with the events of the Hundred Years War.  Making an inquisitor's campaign have both gravity & history behind it.

And gives both gravity to the events of Dark Albion & Rose War by making the seething horror part of the bloody landscape of history. Think about it. You've got your PC's front and center via familial relations & crown loyalties minor as well as otherwise. This goes up to the highest levels of the courts of Europe & its the central business of both Dark Albion & Adventurer, Conqueror, King money,corruption, & power at its highest levels. The optional material in the three issues of AXIOMS perfectly balanced to dovetail into the power struggles going both in front of and behind the throne of Dark Albion.

While Dwimmermount is quote vanilla fantasy its ideas & foundations are not, the Europe of Dark Albion would have to have some serious adjustments but the basis is solid for a running tour investigative inquisitors campaign using Cults of Chaos that fore shadows the War of the Roses. From the machinations of the frogmen to the deeper horrors of the demonic this is all there right within Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos.

And what about the liches, ghouls, etc. of Dwimmermount? Well once again we refer back to the Hundred Years War here & make them part of the families involved in that conflict. You see your PC's weren't the first to fall into the trap of the megadungeon from its hidden valley in the Black Forrest of Germany. There undead within its walls who were a part of the great royal houses of Europe and they want their power back!

So all of this sets up a war that no one is going to want or expect, could the death of Richard III be the fuse that set's this sort of a powder keg off? This is where the undead want power from beyond the grave and their willing to wreck the world in their insanity. They've been held in check in the walls of Dwimmermount and now their crawling back into a world that neither wants them nor needs them.  The NPC's are there in the megadungeon & its a simple matter to make them a part of the ruling families of Albion. Dwimmermount has been luring men,women, warriors to their deaths for centuries with the promise of gold, glory, & power.

I know what your thinking here your talking all out war & chaos here, are there systems here that can handle this sort of conflict? The answer to this is yes! Two systems that work as one are  built into ACK's & couple with Dark Albion to handle just these sorts of high level Game of Thrones style weirdness. ACK's Domains of War is a solid system for handling just this sort of a dust up at the gaming table.  When you've got the combination of royal depravity, power, warfare, & the horrors on the battle field then you've got the makings of a great campaign set up.

So why do this sort of a campaign? Because it continues the line of thought proposed in Dark Albion & extends the line of play further along with the second Hundred Years War especially given that it would take things & events deep into an inquisitor style campaign into the highest levels of court. The higher the circles of power the more intrigue,murder, and power. This goes back to one of my first posts about this mash up idea back in December.  When your talking warfare on this scale then your talking shot & powder on the battle field. This is one of the exciting things about this time period armor, sword, and powder are seeing use. A friend remarked that Guns of War changes and alters the tone of ACK's entirely & so it should. The events of the Hundred Years War mark the inclusion of the future as they would for the coming battles up till the present day.

By taking Edward III's death as the signal all hell could break out across Europe & PC's could find themselves on the chopping block or on a seat of power. The nature of NPC's in Dark Albion makes this not only possible but something to be expected. More coming up soon. This bundle is for a great cause & you get some really top draw quality products.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Five Film Influences For Sustaining An Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Campaign For Long Haul Play

Right so how do you keep up momentum for a long term retroclone or OSR campaign as both a player & dungeon master? One of the ways that over the years that I have is through classic cult films. For a game such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea this is pretty easy or so it would seem. Well yes & no, the first film that springs to mind is of course the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan film.

And yes its a classic but if we look deeper into AS&SH then we see PC types such as cataphracts, lighter armored knights, etc. as the upper end of the sword & sorcery technology level  in the game. This is where another classic of the genre comes in. This is where we've got the Old Earth Keltic influence coming in heavy with Roman sprinklings playing the part of cultural influence. But what about the Old Earth Vikings? 

Well for that one I've got to go with an old favorite of my dad's here and I'm speaking of the 1958 Tony Curtis film Vikings. Yes I realize that there are tons of newer films out on the market & even a television show but I've never gotten into it. So I'm going with this cult classic here.I mentioned sustaining interest over the long haul & I meant that. Players & DM's have a tendency to drift in their interests unless the DM knows to dip into the deeper wells of imagination for twisting in the wind the various classic adventures to their modes for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Any of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad or his sandal & sorcery films are solid resources to go back to time & again for any of AS&SH's sea epics or island hopping adventures. These can be used as point crawling exercises for players & DM's. This all starts with," the first of three Sinbad feature films from Columbia,The 7th Voyage of Sinbad  from  1958 the much later two being The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977).

I know that a ton of bloggers speak with some sort of authority & expertise when it comes to their campaign worlds & settings. This is how my version of Hyperborea is set up and your mileage may very. For sustained play over months that turn into years, I've seen dungeon masters change, adapt, & roll with the punches that his players bring to the table. This became very evident to me when a friend's Greyhawk campaign went from the Bakshi's Lord of the Rings animated style straight into our next film influence. Yeah, I'm speaking of Bakshi's Fire & Ice which might as well be 'Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea the film'.

Fire & Ice brings up one of the setting conceits of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea that seems to get let out on in the cold with OD&D, B/X, and even AD&D first edition. That is the inclusion of cavemen, Neanderthals, and the various species of men, near men, and relatives from the Age of Mammals that have been a part of D&D for a long time. These monsters finally get their due in AS&SH & can be used as some of the most dangerous & menacing foes that a party can face. I've made an effort to include far more of these types of human & subhumans as NPC's monsters, random encounters,etc. The effects have been interesting to say the least. Nine times out of ten the players have been a bit put out because most of these men can be adventurers, outlaws, etc. within any of the classic D&D games & their retroclone systems. They can easily out class goblins, orcs, & half orcs in malice & evil.
  As always your mileage may vary but these films are classics for a reason & have been big influences on my games including Hyperborea. More to come!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

From Hyperborea I Can See Oerth - Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk Being Run With The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System

I'm never content to rest on my laurels, & last night I was zipping around the internet gathering up information about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Once again I came across the review that Venger Satanis did for AS&SH on (I'm not a fan of at all. That's a personal preference.),but I came across this bit,"Likewise, there are some really cool magic items and weapons, a few that have escaped from the science-fantasy milieu. We all know about Spheres of Annihilation… how about Spheres of Blackness or Girdles of Golden Serpents? Yes, there could be more than what's included, but this is a decent amount.
While the Hyperborea Gazetteer isn’t huge, this volume is may be the best part about AS&SH, where the uninitiated learns of the bloated and dying scarlet sun which never rises very far in the sky. It’s an icy realm surrounded by a Stygian abyss where Night Gaunts fly, Saturn is faintly visible, there’s a small moon associated with blood sacrifices, and curtains of red, green, and purple illumination in the sky signal the arrival of ultra-telluric beings" 
I suddenly started to remember a project that the Beyond The Black Gate's writer did, he took the  1983 campaign Greyhawk box set & turned it into a down & dirty Conan style campaign. Now mind you this was way back 2010
Now here's the thing, I didn't have access to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea at the time, but now that I do this not only would work but it could be run as a sustained campaign setting using the materials & systems of AS&SH.

There are more then a few reasons why this would not only work but it could be used as a sustained game world over the long haul:
This means that suddenly Greyhawk's Temple of Elemental Evil could have a very sinister connection to the Ashen Worm of Hyperborea. The Rain of Colourless Fire might have a far more reaching cosmic effect then even previously thought. 

PC classes, sword & sorcery substance, campaign setting material such as population distribution, settlement populations (village, town, city); also, fortifications and population communications are discussed in the Greyhawk box set. Everything you need to run this is in the AS&SH box set and the Eighty three Greyhawk box. Everything to run this is right out of the AS&SH player's hand book from classes to starting equipment.

In Greyhawk many of the lands on the map are discussed. It is important to note that there are many towns, villages, stretches of land, rivers, islands, and so forth on the map that are left blank for the individual referee to develop. But there's going to a ton of substitution from the Referee's Guide for monsters, races etc. but having said that this idea could easily be done in spades.


So while I don't hold any claim on the idea of this style of Frankencampaign setting I think its one that I'm going to keep in my back pocket for the moment. This idea has merit and its something that I'm going to explore in the coming weeks. I think that this could work as a long term campaign!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Season of Black - B2 The Keep On The Borderland By Gary Gygax Using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - Upcoming Actual Play Event

"Far from the lands of civilization along an old trade route thousands of years old sits an ancient keep, forgotten & long neglected by the royal courts of Khormarium. None the less the small keep has been sent supplies for its garrison of troops who keep the trade routes safe long the borderlands until three weeks ago when the bandit raids started."

That's when the first rumors of half demon things murdering peasants started. Help was not further coming from Khromarium nor any of its allied towns or villages. There are other rumors whispered in the smoke filled tavern & the lotus blossom incense  filled shrine that the hell religion of Chaos is on the rise. The ancient hell religion not heard from since the time of the Green Death. But now the ancient planet is in the house above the dread valley; the lizard men are stirring & there are are fell signs everywhere.  We know their priests are everywhere."

artwork by jcpag2012

We are a desperate  outpost on the frontier of law amid the forces of chaos!  So in our hour of need we have need of men & women of violence & action! "

A desperate group of survivors out on a lone outpost far from the forces of the
Khromarium empire needs the help of adventurers, outlaws,cut throats, swordsmen & magicians of the blackest vein! Can you help? 
The keep sits on one of the most dangerous wilderness borderlands of Hyperborea  an ancient evil is rising from the ashes to take back what was once theirs!

Hi my name is Eric Fabiaschi & I'm a dungeon master with over forty years of experience. I'm looking for between five to seven players for a convention style old school adventure using the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system. Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax is a classic of Dungeons & Dragons. Its a fun and easy module to play, if your a novice or an experienced player here's your opportunity to get in on one of the classics of the old school table top role playing!

ASTONISHING SWORDSMEN & SORCERERS of HYPERBOREA is sword-and-sorcery role-playing about player characters who delve the mazes and labyrinths of vast dungeons filled with horrifying monsters, lethal traps, and bewildering puzzles. They explore savage frontiers, breach hostile borderlands, probe ancient ruins, and investigate cursed tombs!
Here's a small sample of the player characters you can play;an Amazon fighter, Atlantean magician, Esquimaux shaman, Hyperborean warlock, Ixian necromancer, Keltic barbarian, Kimmerian cataphract, Pictish thief, Viking berserker, or one of many other possibilities!
Sword & Sorcery table top role playing in the mode of R.E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft! 

So I need you to sign up for next Month on Thursday February 19th with C&S Gaming Empire in Torrington for The Keep On The Borderlands! All you need is your imagination, a pencil, lots of luck, and a thirst to crush skulls and grab the treasure!
This is going to be a Fifteen and above event, there will be a character workshop on the fifteenth of

Commentary On Greyhawk As Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg System Campaign DYI Tool Box & Old School Campaign Setting

So I got an email from Terry who had some questions about my favorite products & least favorite products from classic era TSR. But also wanted to know about a classic era  campaign setting with plenty of room for expansion. The set up here is going to depend a bit on upon the Wiki entry on Greyhawk for its background available here.  Then I'll get into its applications for OSR campaign use.

Thanks to an email from Terry tonight I get the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite TSR campaign world, Greyhawk & its impact on my gaming. No other single product put out by TSR has come close to equaling the hours of joy that this world has given me. I came into Greyhawk through the original Folio edition way back in Nineteen Eighty but it wasn't until three years later that I came into the Gygaxian campaign world fully. But I'm getting ahead of myself here because for years I heard about & played around Greyhawk itself according to Wiki;"
As Gygax and Arneson worked to develop and publish the rules for Dungeons & Dragons through TSR, Gygax continued to design and present the dungeons and environs of Castle Greyhawk to his circle of friends and family, using them as playtesters for new rules and concepts. As the players began to explore more of the world outside of the castle and city, Gygax developed other regions and cities for them. With play sessions occurring seven or more times a week,[25] Gygax didn't have the time or inclination to create the map for a whole new world; he simply drew his world over a map of North America, adding new cities and regions as his world slowly grew through ongoing adventures.[26] The city and castle of Greyhawk were placed near the real-world position of Chicago, his birthplace; various other places were clustered around it. For instance, the rival city of Dyvers he placed in the area of real-world Milwaukee.[27][28]
Gygax also continued to develop the dungeons underneath the castle. By the time he was finished, the complex labyrinth encompassed thirteen levels filled with devious traps, secret passageways, hungry monsters, and glittering treasure. Although details of these original Greyhawk dungeons have never been published in detail, Gygax gave some glimpses of them in an article he wrote for the European fanzine Europa in 1975:
Before the rules for D&D were published, "Old Greyhawk Castle" was 13 levels deep. The first level was a simple maze of rooms and corridors, for none of the "participants" had ever played such a game before. The second level had two unusual items, a Nixie pool and a fountain of snakes. The third featured a torture chamber and small cells and prison rooms. The fourth was a level of crypts and undead. The fifth was centered around a strange font of black fire and gargoyles. The sixth was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs... in inconvenient spots, naturally backed up by appropriate numbers of Wereboars. The seventh was centered around a circular labyrinth and a street of masses of ogres. The eighth through tenth levels were caves and caverns featuring Trolls, giant insects and a transporter nexus with an evil Wizard (with a number of tough associates) guarding it. The eleventh level was the home of the most powerful wizard in the castle: He had Balrogs as servants. The remainder of the level was populated by Martian White Apes, except the sub-passage system underneath the corridors which was full of poisonous critters with no treasure. Level twelve was filled with Dragons.
The bottom level, number thirteen, contained an inescapable slide which took the players clear through 'to China', from whence they had to return via "Outdoor Adventure". It was quite possible to journey downward by an insidious series of slanting passages which began on the second level, but the likelihood of following such a route unknowingly didn't become too great until the seventh or eighth level...
Side levels included a barracks with Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls continually warring with each other, a museum, a huge arena, an underground lake, a Giant's home, and a garden of fungi.[29]
Anyone who made it to the bottom level alive met Zagyg, the insane architect of the dungeons. (Zagyg is a reverse homophone of Gygax, and it was Gygax's inside joke that the person who had designed the dungeon—himself—must be insane.)[30] Only three players ever made it to the bottom level and met Zagyg, all of them during solo adventures: Rob Kuntz (playing Robilar), Gygax's son Ernie (playing Tenser), and Rob's brother Terry (playing Terik).[31] Their reward was to be instantly transported to the far side of the world,[32] where they each faced a long solo trek back to the city of Greyhawk. Terik and Tenser managed to catch up to Robilar along the way, and the three journeyed back to Greyhawk together.[33]
By this time, over twenty players crowded Gygax's basement almost every night,[34] and the effort needed to plan their adventures took up much of Gygax's spare time. He had been very impressed with Rob Kuntz's imaginative play as a player, and appointed Rob to be co-Dungeon Master of Greyhawk.[35][36] This freed up Gygax to work on other projects, and also gave him an opportunity to participate as a player,[37] creating characters like Yrag and Mordenkainen."
Already you can see the workings of Greyhawk itself as a world through the various tourament level modules that had come out from & around it:
"From 1976–1979, Gygax also shared some glimpses of his home campaign with other gamers when he set several TSR Dungeons & Dragons adventures in the world of Greyhawk:[77]
In addition, Lawrence Schick set his 1979 TSR adventure S2 White Plume Mountain in Greyhawk."
All of these classic adventures can be easily placed with your version of Greyhawk but over the years dungeon masters & fans have moved their locations around.

Greyhawk continued to be expanded upon, fleshed out, given more flesh on its campaign bones with gods, weather, population details, social bits, & details on weather all within the pages of Dragon magazine. The Eighties were a classic period in TSR. In Eighty three the Greyhawk boxed set hit the shelves &  it changed everything in many ways. It was bigger at one hundred & twenty eight pages. " According to game designer Jim Bambra, "The second edition was much larger than the first and addressed itself to making the World of Greyhawk setting a more detailed and vibrant place."" It is beyond  vibrant after cracking open my box set which I haven't done for a couple of years.

The box set contains everything that you as a DM are going to need to introduce a group of brand new players to the world of Greyhawk. The entries are flexible and well laid out with enough room for the DM to make them their own. The world breaths & the content are very well organized with enough room to customize the campaign setting into your own version which what was expected back then.

There are some great online resources such as the Greyhawk Online,site & The Greyhawk Grognard,blog and even a poster sized map of the world of Greyhawk.

So what's all of this have to do with the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg system? Well since ACK's is partially based upon the Labyrinth Lord retroclone which is It's B/X (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) D&D. The system  that can easily be expanded into an AD&D style clone with the  Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord. This makes it a snap to use with the classic Greyhawk boxed set
 Using this campaign setting with the Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg system works very well. Because Greyhawk has many of the bits & pieces within it that marry up to the types of expansions that the classic box set talks about such as:

  • PC's setting up their own kingdoms & carving out a piece of the world as their own. 
  • Game of Thrones style intrigue as the players have to contend with some very dangerous NPC's along their path to power. 
  • Many of the classic TSR era adventures are actually stepping stones on that path. And it also means that their going to have to deal with many of the really nasty evils of Grayhawk including the Temple of Elemental evil. 
  • PC's are going to be major players on Grayhawk's stage. They're not going to be able to be sitting on the side lines because of the level expansion & ladder clime inherit in the ACK's system.  
  • Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters book's system are ideally suited for Greyhawk. They enable the various dragons & monster rulers to actually have an expanded role in the setting. 
  • Domains of War adds in a system that works straight across the board for actually running wargame warfare that works & can change the world on an expanded level.  This becomes important later as the Temple of Elemental Evil's rise to power has to be stopped.  
Part of the idea of Grayhawk is for the PC's to be the big noise in the world setting and for their achievements to leave a boot print on the pages of history of your campaign setting. This is the sort of thing that players talk about for years to come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Commentary On S1 Tomb of Horrors 's Nega Dungeon As Campaign Build For Adventurer, Conqueror, King & Your Old School Campaigns

In the far reaches of the world, under a lost and lonely hill, lies the sinister Tomb of Horrors. This labyrinthine crypt is filled with terrible traps, strange and ferocious monsters, rich and magical treasures, and somewhere within rests the evil Demi-Lich.
Recently I've been thinking about the infamous Tomb of Horrors module, I'm fascinated by it in a number of ways. First a bit of background courtesy of Wiki;"Tomb of Horrors was written by Gary Gygax for official D&D tournament play at the 1975 Origins 1 convention.[3][5][6] Gygax developed the adventure from an idea by Alan Lucien, one of his original AD&D playtesters, "and I admit to chuckling evilly as I did so."[7] Gygax designed the Tomb of Horrors modules for two related purposes. First, Gygax explains, "There were several very expert players in my campaign, and this was meant as yet another challenge to their skill—and the persistence of their theretofore-invincible characters. Specifically, I had in mind foiling Rob Kuntz's PC, Robilar, and Ernie Gygax's PC, Tenser." Second, so that he was "ready for those fans [players] who boasted of having mighty PCs able to best any challenge offered by the AD&D game."
So right away this was one of the high level tournament style modules with the special 'S' designation. Once again this is a competition module that was used at the D&D Seventy Five Origins convention. I would have been just a touch young back then to attend. I was about five back then. I didn't get introduced to the infamous tomb until about Eighty One or so. There was one very important influence on how I perceived the S1 Tomb of Horrors Adventure. His name was Indiana Jones. Alright so the family dog's name was Indiana but we didn't get to know that till Last Crusade.

What would the Tomb of Horrors really mean in a campaign setting? I think personally it would be a legendary place a sort of tomb of legend such as the tomb of Alexander The Great or Genghis Khan's final resting place.  Think about it, the demi-lich Acererak has got to be one of his world's most infamous wizards & tyrants. He's not trying to simply keep his treasures & relics, he's trying to kill the adventurers dead with all kinds of tricks and traps. But why? Well because he's keeping himself amused & entertained throughout the centuries. The tomb is one more project ahead of him, he's got eternity ahead of him & possibly to him this is the greatest chess game of all time. He's got one of the greatest egos of all time so why not test your mettle against some of the greatest thieves, cut throats & murderers that society can produce?

The tomb isn't just some nega dungeon to draw PC's to their death; no this place is a giant sink of ego spanning evil that plays a giant game of chess with the campaign setting. I've written about Dwimmermount having earth shaking connections well think about this. You've got a giant animated chess board of a tomb that continues operations & a wizard whose probably at one point in his life conquered half of his world to build this thing. He's going to have entire blood lines running around with all kinds of 'Game of Thrones' style NPC's murdering each other, petty kingdoms ruled by family members, main court murders, affairs of power etc. Perhaps Acererak got tired of court life & ruler ship & simply retired to the tomb? Naw, I think he's ruling from the shadows through a number of proxies.  This is where Dark Albion could come in very handy to set up the types of intrigues & double dealing that the Tomb could inspire.

The thing to remember about Tomb of Horrors is not only the legend & mythology of the place but its fame. This is a competition module & its one that has a reputation that it deserves; the freaking thing is deadly. Could such a place be built in the real world and if so where? I think that China or Mongolia might be the places where this tomb would be built and maintained.
But why?

The dungeon of the demi-lich Acererak is being maintained so that the demi lich can eliminate his potential rivals with little issue to himself. I've been rereading Adventurer, Conqueror, King & Dark Albion this is just the type of tactic that an evil megalomaniac wizard would do. He'd be using his country's GDP to create just such an enterprise and then maintain it. Why? Well in ACK's terms this place would be a 'sink of evil' where magic is going to be easier to cast. He's got a steady supply of sacrifices to the gods that maintain his lichdom & he's got an eternity of bloody murder for entertainment. But to what end?

You've got to think outside the box here. This is a guy whose got eternity to play with so not only can he expand upon his tomb but he's got plenty of time to expand upon his bloodlines, family position, and even role out monsters to guard his domains. Using the ancient China analogy here  Acererak could play this cat & mouse game with his entire country using monsters, lairs, politics to pull his power together. This is something that Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Monsters & Lairs has a ton of rules and systems for just this sort of play.

Tomb of Horrors can be used to build an entire campaign around with the right view point & looking at the long term goals of the players & PC's. The challenge is to create an engaging & pulpy feel to this wonderfully classic nega dungeon. Right now is a great time to pick up any of the ACK's titles. The entire system is well done and offers tons of options, systems, and more for OSR style play!  This bundle is for a great cause & you get some really top draw quality products.



Monday, January 16, 2017

A Review Of Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6 Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rpg System & OSR fanzine From Clint Krause & Red Moon Medicine Show

This afternoon I was so glad to get a copy of Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6 from Clint Krause & Red Moon Medicine Show via email. Vacant Ritual Assembly is part OSR fanzine & part useful love letter to the Lamentations of the Flame rpg system. The reason that I was overjoyed is that its been a long while since we've seen quality of this level. VRA is a Weird Tales OSR style zine that plugs right into the actual Gothic aesthetic of LoFP. Clint Krause & company are not simply authors & designers they're actual on the ground players who are using all of  VRA's material at the table. This makes a big difference when it comes to the quality of the material.

A good example of the type of material that I'm speaking of is  The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem. 
This is a solid OSR style adventure with some really great weirdly dark adventure material that can be dropped who cloth into an LoFP style game or straight into a Gothic B/X Dungeons & Dragons game. If you haven't picked it up I suggest you check it out.

Now let's dive right into the disturbing & more then slightly off kilter world of Vacant Ritual Assembly issue # Six  filled to the brim with even more of the OSR madness that the Red Moon crew is known for.  First up is an effort by Klint Krause  with Grigoro’s Wonders Untold (pgs 4-7) is a traveling medicine show NPC deviants,freaks, mutants, lovable demons, fairies, & a huge variety of NPC's, magic items, & adventure opportunities galore. Each of these NPC's is fully developed with weird histories, background, & really nice details to be dropped right into your game campaigns. These folks are well done with lots of dripping ichoric background.
From Dunnholt It Rises (pg 8-15) is both an adventure waiting to happen & a campaign mini event.  Kathryn Jenkins  writes a thundering VRA horror themed adventure that lives up to many other Lamentations
island adventures with her own dark and abiding twists. This is an adventure that will have PC's needing to stop a campaign level event & the horrors that follow in its wake. This one could be used as a Call of Cthulhu Fourteenth Century period adventure as well.
The Gallows on Heretic Hill  (pgs 17-19) puts a brand new faction with a horrid twist right into the background of a campaign with several score weird bits that will have players guessing & pulling them deeper into the world of Heretic Hill.
A Light in the Black (pgs 20-21)  connects up with another aspect and faction of the Gallows on Heretic Hill with several twists of their own. These folks are very well done & have the feel of something that crawled out from the darker aspects of Ravenloft without the holding back that one would expect from that era of TSR adventures. Dark and twisted material without the usual thud & blunder efforts of some 'horror'.
Death Planted the Esther Tree   (pgs 23-37) is a dark,haunted house crawl  adventure by Kreg Mosier that ties into the Driftwood Verses material's darker and deeper down into the setting's weird bits. Well done but use with caution.
The Grimsly Hill Cherubs (pgs 38-  39) is a thumbnail  NPC profile/preview  for the upcoming book Undertow. Imagine if Norm Bates & Lord of The Flies had kids; well this would be those NPC kids.
The Lathnos Sugar Cane Crop  (pgs 40-43) is by Anxy P. & presents a horrific adventure encounter that is one part Brazilian mythological cane sugar weirdness & two parts Heart of Darkness blended in a blender set on eleven.
Emmy Allen: Of Wolves and Winter rpg fame  (pgs 44-51) is an interview with Emmy Allen, author of Wolf
Packs and Winter Snow that is not only decent but dives deeply into one of the OSR lights and the creative process behind not only the games but the deeper aspects of the game world. Emmy Allen's blog Dying Stylishly is well worth checking out.   It has lots of content for Of Wolves & Winter as well as deeper insights into not only the game itself but her choices as a writer/designer.

So is Issue Number six of Vacant Ritual Assembly worth getting? Well in my humble opinion absolutely, for the Gothic or OSR horror themed player or DM its well worth the price of admission. The material of VRA is an original take on Lamentations of the Flame Princess & it takes the game in a slightly different direction then most of the day to day Lamentations stuff I've seen. There's a far more dark fantasy & Weird Tales feel to  VRA then many of the other Lamentations efforts I've seen over the years.
In fact many of the adventures, encounters, etc. from this issue could be used with not only other OSR games such as Dark Albion or other retroclone systems. I can also see using it for other games such as Call of Cthulhu or even Dungeon Crawl Classic's Gothic adventure supplements. That being said I don't know if VRA could be used for a game such as White Wolf's Vampire Dark Ages or another WoD period product. I think that the tone, subtleties, & uniqueness of Vacant Ritual Assembly would be lost in the wash of game setting details  of World of Darkness. 
The thing about Vacant Ritual Assembly is rather unique tone, style,and content that is uniquely its own and belongs to its authors. I give issue number six five out of five for original content and sheer incredible OSR originality.Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6  should be available sometime tomorrow when its released to the general public! So grab a copy! 


The Surpising Ecology Of The Morlocks in My Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign

I've written extensively about my obsession with HG Well's The Time Machine's Eloi & The Morlocks over the years on this blog. But last night I shut down on social media & began to dig back into my extensive notes about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. What do the Time Machine & AS&SH  have to do with one another? Quite a bit actually, in my mind Hyperborea was a place that was once flourishing had its moments of incredible technology as the Hyperboreans inherited the forbidden ruins, legacies, & technologies of the Great Race of Yith & the Elder Things. They improved upon & refined these l in some respects. They had extensive colonies across the dimensions & planes making war with their former masters & overseers. By the time get to when the oceans drank Atlantis they were well into almost extinction. But these were not true Hyperboreans but hybrids who had settled down into the local respective societies.
"Meanwhile, the first of the Hyborian kingdoms has come onto existence, the rude and barbaric kingdom of Hyperborea, which had its beginnings in a crude fortress of boulders heaped to repel tribal attack. There are few more dramatic events in history than the rise of this fierce kingdom, whose people turned abruptly from nomadic life to rear dwellings of naked stone, surrounded by cyclopean walls." -- Robert E. Howard: "The Hyborian Age"
You get a sense of  legendary  about Hyperboreans or the mythical ones who lived "beyond the North Wind" This bit struck me from the Wiki entry;
"However, it is also possible that Hyperborea had no real physical location at all, for according to the classical Greek poet Pindar"
neither by ship nor on foot would you find
the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.
Pindar also described the otherworldly perfection of the Hyperboreans:
Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle they live"

Scientist philosopher kings who might have been messing with forbidden sciences far from the purview of the gods who began to fade into HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands as time went on.
I know that the Hyperboreans must worship Boreas as an important god in their former religion;"
Boreas (Βορέας, Boréas; also Βορρᾶς, Borrhás)[6] was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter. Although normally taken as the north wind, the Roman writers Aulus Gellius and Pliny the Elder both took Boreas as a north-east wind, equivalent to the Roman Aquilo.[7] Boreas is depicted as being very strong, with a violent temper to match. He was frequently shown as a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, holding a conch shell and wearing a billowing cloak.[1] Pausanias wrote that Boreas had snakes instead of feet, though in art he was usually depicted with winged human feet.
Boreas' two sons Calaïs and Zetes, known as Boreads, were in the crew of the Argo as Argonauts."
Wind god Boreas, Hadda, Afghanistan. Musee Guimet. Personal photograph 2005.

They began to fade from the pages of history & the realms of imagination or did the Hyperboreans actually fade because of a far more sinister reason. They had access to the Great Race's secrets & legacies because they were used by the Great Race as experimental fodder & slave labor. This has been implied from the pages of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Referee Guide. The Great Race  is of course is  ;"The Great Race of Yith  a fictional race of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Introduced in Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow Out of Time," the Great Race was a prehistoric civilization that populated much of the Earth until their demise in the late Cretaceous era. Their great power derived from their mastery of precognition via time travel."  Suppose that the Hyperboreans began to mess the time travel & other dimensional machinery of the Great Race. Suppose that they began to look to other branches of time & alternative worlds of reality beyond The North Wind.
[T]he Great Race ... waxed well-nigh omniscient, and turned to the task of setting up exchanges with the minds of other planets, and of exploring their pasts and futures. It sought likewise to fathom the past years and origin of that black, aeon-dead orb in far space whence its own mental heritage had come – for the mind of the Great Race was older than its bodily form. . . The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago.
— H. P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Out of Time"
The Great Race is mostly gone from Hyperborea except for perhaps a few hundred gate keepers & key master scientists who look after the machinery & works. It would be quite easy for the Hyperboreans to overwhelm their former masters & assume control of the machinery. They might have by this time assumed a height of incredible social & technological mastery over time & space; opened up colonies on various worlds and other dimensional locations until they came to Earth with a London of the early 22nd century. This is not our world instead its another world entirely. This is the world of  HG Well's "A Story of the Days To Come" & "When the Sleeper Wakes" "A world of early 22nd century is over 30 million people in population, with the lower classes living in subterranean dwellings, and the middle and upper classes living in skyscrapers and largely communal accommodations. Moving walkways interconnect the city, with fast air-travel and superhighways available between cities. The countryside is largely abandoned."

In other words a perfect location for a highly technologically magically advanced people to invade & cause all kinds of havoc by sewing confusion with a war between the East & West. . They released artificially created bio weapons upon this world with each side blaming the other for starting the apocalypse. Resulting in the perfect conditions for others to artificially create the Eloi & The Morlock species respectively.

So what happened to the Hyperboreans? They reaped what they sewed as they had not counted on the ripples across the space time continuum something the Great Race of Yith was well aware of. They never experimented with physical time travel to alternative time lines. Almost overnight the Hyperboreans were engulfed in madness & paradoxical spasms that caused a third of the population to go extinct. Dimensional ripples cut off other worldly colonies, interstellar settlements, and other dimensional locations without mercy. The hyper morlocks are aware of the part that the Hyperboreans played in their timeline's destruction. And there has been racial warfare between the two ever since. Underborea has seen extensive wars between the two races for centuries. 

Virgil Finley Time Machine artwork copyright & trade mark to their respective holders.
Used without permission

The Morlocks  made their way to Hyperborea from the still working time tunnels of the Hyperboreans bringing with them their Eloi cattle to settle in isolated parts of the world. From time to time their colonies are are found on isolated island or underworld locations. They receive extensive competition from a wide variety of the Underborean races but have managed to carve out their own niche on Hyperborea.

This blog post is for educational and entertainment purposes only, any of the game company's mentioned here are not responsible for any opinions expressed here. This post is not an attempt to violate the trademarks of the holders of the 1960's Time Machine movie. This is the ramblings of a fanatical fan of  the film, HG Wells, and old school games. All ideas are copyrighted and trade marked to the author.

Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is trade marked and copyrighted to North Wind Adventures.