Friday, October 20, 2017

Osr Commentary - Rumbles From The Caves of Chaos - B2 The Keep On The Borderlands As Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaign

" The PC's are based at a keep & investigate a nearby series of caves that are filled with a variety of  Chaos  monsters.The Cult of Chaos has been on the move! ""The Keep on the Borderlands is a Dungeons & Dragons module by Gary Gygax, first printed in December 1979. In it, player characters are based at a keep and investigate a nearby series of caves that are filled with a variety of monsters. It was designed to be used with the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, and was included in the 1979–1982 editions of the Basic Set. It was designed for people new to Dungeons & Dragons."

This is the classic D&D module!  The wide open full "sandbox" nature of the setting makes it suitable to drop into almost any campaign and especially Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerer of Hyperborea second edition. The keep is a perfect venue for PC's  for characters to base themselves in before setting out to explore the Caves of Chaos!


" (H]e described a sort of pool with a margin of mud that was marled with obscene offal; and in the pool a grayish, horrid mass that nearly choked it from rim to rim... Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk.
Clark Ashton Smith, The Seven Geases"

Forget little villages of humanoids, these forces are fully formed and birthed out into the world ready to take down Hyperborea at a moment's notice. The cult of the elemental evil religion is insidious because of the way that it spreads its power from village to village through the lowest ranks. The spreading of it has enabled the consolidation of power. This rise of power centers around the humanoids of B2. I think that there might be demonic influence from behind the scenes.

B1 can be the jump off point to really excel a campaign into legendary status where heroes are being hunted by the forces of darkness leading back into the adventure arch of the Temple of Elemental Evil. The forces are beginning to swell again as rank after rank is filled by vast numbers of humanoids. The caves of Chaos is the key to really bringing home the fact that the whole area is rife with agents and fifth columnists.

All in all this set up and adventure arch is perfectly timed to bring even the strongest players to their knees. Betrayal, background maneuvering, double dealing, assassinations, etc. are all a part of B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The adventure that you cut your teeth on is now a puzzle piece in an ever expanding Sword & Sorcery campaign waiting to happen!

'The Klystron Relays Affair' - Actual Halloween OSR Play Event -

Tonight wasn't your typical Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game session; instead everyone played a space ranger (read fighter) for a great Halloween game when my friend Steve blew into town on a Thursday night.

During tonight's adventure within Tegel Manor I had a party of adventurers in what they thought was a standard '30's pulpy science fiction romp. Nothing could be farther then the truth as our adventurers entered the haunted halls with simple blasters drawn! Yes that's right it was a quick Halloween themed game with our heroes drawn through a worm hole into the haunted halls of my version of Tegel Manor!

Our heroes managed to escape death at the hands of two spectres & a bunch of wraiths in a pantry of the house. They went looking for a set of klystron relays for their ether ship and barely managed to dodge a vampire's advances and attack. The vampire claimed two members of the good ship USS Monroe before being chased off by zeta ray blasts.

The party managed to get to one set of  klystron relays from the laboratories within the manor that belonged to an alchemist who had a set of the relays which he had traded some alchemically made gold for. The party had to fight their way past a group of serpent men who were going to raid the lab for certain herbal chemicals. The resulting fire fight destroyed or set on fire at least two rooms before being doused by a handy spell scroll. Most of the party of adventurers made it back to the wormhole gate & back to the USS Monroe with little effort. But not all of them made it through. Four of the away team were left behind and faced down a nasty surprise.
After the smoke break I unleashed my second nasty surprise a stone cold killer from the free Neoplastic Press's Night of the Slashers OSR rpg . Earlier in the day I had generated a strange faceless killer from the dice drop & minimalist rules of the game in about ten minutes.

'The Samhain man' took out two PC's with silver plated hooked short swords & managed to get himself eaten my a man eating plant in the solarium. But he came back after 7 rounds for more punishment. Bits & pieces of the killer kept dropping off because of repeated blaster fire but he kept coming until the party found his strange puzzle box shaped relic that returned his vengeful spirit to Hell.
 'The Samhain man' has a special pair of relic short sword weapons called 'Moonbeam' & 'Cold Gaze' both of these blades are magical weapons of +2 enchantment. They are made of solid steel etched & plated with silver. Should they be lost from the killer's hands they will teleport back to him in two rounds. They are thirsty blades & anyone picking up must make a save vs spells roll or be inflicted with a murderous blood lust & berserk rage. In this state the wielder of the blades gains a +1 to all melee attacks. 
The PC's made it back to the Monroe and survived the evening but another party of fools errm adventurers has to face the vengeful spirit of  'The Samhain man' on Saturday night!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

OSR Commentary - Dark Albion As Clark Ashton Smith Science Fantasy Campaign

So Rpg Pundit talked about using his Dark Albion books for a complete Science Fiction campaign & mixing it with White Star. Yeah I don't think so, sorry Pundit I think that White Star is far more 'Star Wars' then 'the Dune like' complexities of Dark Albion. And no I don't think 40K is even a remotely good vehicle for this style of campaign. 'Dark Albion's' take on Chaos is far more nuanced & far less of the nihilist double bladed sword approach that the 40K universe takes. So put it in park as I take you on a far weirder tour of another epoch of  a Weird Tales style campaign with a side angle of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique , Dark Albion, & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition. Now bare in mind that the following is a thought exercise. Your going to need both Dark Albion & Cults of Chaos for this because they work very well with AS&SH first & second edition.

When we begin looking into Zothique through the letters of Clark Ashton Smith there's an interesting clue.
Clark Ashton Smith himself described the Zothique cycle in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp, dated November 3, 1953: "Zothique, vaguely suggested by Theosophic theories about past and future continents, is the last inhabited continent of earth. The continents of our present cycle have sunken, perhaps several times. Some have remained submerged; others have re-risen, partially, and re-arranged themselves. Zothique, as I conceive it, comprises Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, parts of northern and eastern Africa, and much of the Indonesian archipelago. A new Australia exists somewhere to the south. To the west, there are only a few known islands, such as Naat, in which the black cannibals survive. To the north, are immense unexplored deserts; to the east, an immense unvoyaged sea. The peoples are mainly of Aryan or Semitic descent; but there is a negro kingdom (Ilcar) in the north-west; and scattered blacks are found throughout the other countries, mainly in palace-harems. In the southern islands survive vestiges of Indonesian or Malayan races. The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days. Oars and sails alone are used by mariners. There are no fire-arms—only the bows, arrows, swords, javelins, etc. of antiquity. The chief language spoken (of which I have provided examples in an unpublished drama) is based on Indo-European roots and is highly inflected, like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin."

This campaign is going to be a prequel to the events & stories of Zothique in keeping with the Theosophic theories about past and future cycles of history. Now imagine if you will that in the chaos following Hyperborea leaving for space as mankind is cast into ruins. Feudalism comes back into vague as the ruling style of government & the old gods return. Sorcery and demonism prevail again in the disasters that follow. Think less 'Thundarr The Barbarian' and far more classic CAS. Mankind barely hangs on to the secrets of gunpowder as sword play & feudal warfare becomes the order of the day. What was France has fallen to the toad god and its demonic ilk. The Unconquered Sun shows brightly on the face of his chosen and what was England's history is a mix of Rome Empire ancestor & history worship. Fashions of the past are in vogue and Albion is barely hanging on. Couple this with the fact that the Elves of Dark Albion are crawling from their caves & round hills to claim  humans as their own through cults and whatnot. All of the while undermining the empire from within.

Artifacts & relics of bygone eras are worth a king's ransom & adventurers are risking everything in the caverns, caves, and ruins for anything of the so called 'golden ages of mankind'.  The countrysides & deserts are rife with cults of Chaos & decedent goings on as magick with a 'K' creeps back into the world. Inquisitors are busy as sin trying to root out the frog god's cells & the Deep Ones infiltration of the ports & trade routes.

Don't get rid of the gun powder or siege weapons  because its needed to face down some of the horrors that have been seen out at sea.  This is a time of ruin & kings as an Empire here teeters on the brink of down fall under a bloated red sun!
Real world history events here play out just as they would lock stock and social tiers.

To flip this campaign concept further on its ear this could take place thousands of years before the events of Zothique at the height of the Hyperborean empire. The Hyperboreans are on the wane & the humans are beginning to flex their muscles in government & trade again. Cults of Elven worshipers are undermining the Hyperboreans rule with heretical cults offering an alternative as a Dune like dizzying array of characters play feudal chess with the governments. At the edge of the empires inhuman things are creeping in as demon worship threatens everything even remotely human. France threatens to invade as cells of frog cultists and worse act as 'fifth columnists throughout the countryside with inquisitors and adventurers trying to ferret them out.

Ancient monsters such as vampires, lamia, etc. which haven't been seen for two thousand years now rule empires of barbarians towards what was once Russia & Romania. They're sweet offers of alliance & worse are warned about in the highest levels of the court. Meanwhile there are rumors of fragments of Hyperborea that the astrologers have seen in the skies. Inquisitors descend upon royal cells as demons whisper sweet nothings of advise to druids in sacred groves and many others in throne rooms across what was Europe.
Forget not using Dark Albion rule book your going to need it due to several factors:
1. Even lower level PC's are going to have an effect on the world setting around them 
2. The magic & occult of Dark Albion doesn't really impact AS&SH's magic system in fact in some respects it enhances it. 
3. Alchemy could play a great deal in the setting. DM's are going to have to divide out how and where its impact might greatly be felt.
4. Gunpowder isn't going to make all that much difference to game play and in a world where fire balls can be used might be a detriment of epic proportions. 
5. Dungeon masters should take a look at Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne story cycles for some possible inspirations & adventures to crossover with this campaign.
6. DM's should use the artifacts & relics of AS&SH sparingly because they can literally change the course of the Rose War. 

7. CAS's cycles of science fantasy lend them well to having this style of campaign perhaps being a place where AS&SH adventurers might visit or die? 

Of course all of this is simply a thought exercise to see how far the Dark Albion setting can be taken along with my love of Clark Ashton Smith's literary work. Not to mention my love the new Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition which lots of people are gushing about these days.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1d7 Random Dire Encounters With The Undead Table For Your Old School Campaigns

"In relating the circumstances which have led to my confinement within this refuge for the demented, I am aware that my present position will create a natural doubt of the authenticity of my narrative. It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism."
HP Lovecraft
"The Tomb" - Written Jun 1917; first published in The Vagrant, No. 14 (March 1922)

There are those whose adventures cross the boundaries between realms of life & death. Those who are half way become a menace to all life. These beings are more monster in spirit then thought or deed. This makes them all the more dangerous. For theirs is a hunger that no mortal flesh can satisfy instead they hunger for the souls of human kind. That spark of life & youth is what they long for and they will do anything to satisfy that hunger which can never be. Adventurers, outlaws, & fools who cross the boundaries of life & death often encounter those who have crossed into this strange place of existence.

"There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret."

HP Lovecraft

These are spirits caught between life & the cold dead Hells of the Outer Darkness. These spirits are dangerous in the extreme and should be viewed with extreme caution. There are often treasures or artifacts that these spirits might be bound to worth at least several thousand gold pieces. Many of these undead scum are level drainers or worse. These beings are often former adventurers who have become trapped in the reality rending horrors of the Outer Darkness.
1d7 Random Dire Encounters With The Undead Table 
  1. A former Hyperborean traveler has run afoul of the most dire of liches. This being is a now a dangerous wight and consciously hunts those who cross into its demi plane domain. It often collects the valuables of its victims having about 6000 gold pieces within its lair. 
  2. An Amazonin princess has subcombed to a round of ghoul plague and now hunts her former students. She loves silently kill and eat her victims. She has a price of 20000 gold pieces on her head in two different realities. 
  3. This being is a former cavern explorer who was caught in a strange pan dimensional gate accident. Now she hunts the caves and caverns of mankind. When she catches a victim she skins the fool. She uses ancient black magick to shape shift into her victims & then take on their lives. 
  4. A black pool of goo is actually a level draining monster. She chooses  her victims due to acts of kindness and tries to murder them. She is only partially a part of this reality and is actually a ghost of very dangerous aspect. 
  5. Shadow demon whose former soul was freed in a raid by a group of adventurers. She now stalks specific adventurers in order to them down for her dark masters. She has all of the terrible wraith of her demonic patrons & she hasn't left single coin or the treasure behind . 
  6. A pit demon consumed the face of a former Hyperborean noblemen and now is the terrible tyrant of the myths & legends of the former royals She has stashed over 60,000 gold pieces in loot and treasure.
  7. This former Hyperborean prince is now a lich of dangerous aspect and loves to kill those that cross his path. He loves to hunt those who use magick and cunning to evade the tricks and traps of the old monsters. This being loves the hunt more then anything plus he can use super science technology and relics to even the odds with his prey.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique As Old School Campaign Destination

"the sun no longer shone with the whiteness of its prime, but was dim and tarnished as if with a vapor of blood. New stars without number had declared themselves in the heavens, and the shadows of the infinite had drawn closer. And out of the shadows, the older gods had returned to man…. And the elder demons had also returned, battering on the fumes of evil sacrifices, and fostering again the primordial sorceries."

Clark Ashton Smith

The Zothique stories are some of my favorite Clark Ashton Smith pieces that I've read over the years. The dead outnumber the living & adventurers are not as much in evidence. Yet I keep finding myself wondering if there are connections between the demonic planar scum that feed on the bones of the Earth during the time of Zothique & the alien entities of C.L. Moore's North West Smith space stories.

  Yet somehow I'm left with the gut feeling that 'Zothique' exists as an alternative Earth location  or adjunct location to Hyperborea within my own 'Old Solar System' campaign. If Hyperborea is waning under the Hellish eye of  Cykranosh ( Saturn ) then Zothique is one step away in another dimension or an alternative time line. 

Smith tells his tales with a gusto of vocabulary & vividness of a fever dream  that takes the reader on a delirious journey into his far future world. I'm often left feeling that there's far more going on below the surface of these tales, the irony & cruelty is both enticing & frustrating. I've written about Io being perhaps the Hyperboreans weapons testing facility within my home campaign. 
Yet the far future happenings of 'Isle of the Torturers' shows the mirroring cycles of events from 'The Silver Death’ — on the city of Yoros to the shadow of death from the ghastly events in the  city of Zul-Bha-Sair in the story “The Charnel God”
The dread sorcerer Namirrha of the story "The Dark Eidolon" is exactly the sort of wizard that might be socializing  with the sorcerers & wizards of Jack Vance's Dying Earth series.

“The Dark Eidolon”

Completed December 1932. First published in Weird Tales, January 1935.

Yet I mentioned C.L. Moore's North West Smith at the beginning of this blog post. So what does he have to do with this? Well, many of the pseudo demonic horrors that Moore's hero fights might be far more at home in Zothique then simply the planets of the solar system. Everything in these stories goes in cycles including mankind's ascend & extinction. Death & entropy are central themes laced with irony within the Zothique cycle. This same theme plays itself out within C.L. Moore's & Leigh Brackett's solar system stories. Zothique is one of the most dangerous places in the multiverse because of the excursions of 'otherness' from the 'Outer Blackness'. Wizards have been empire building for countless centuries here.

Gnome press dust jacket for North West Smith

So could the central government of 'Old Earth' (is there such a thing as its only two minutes to midnight when the 'Stars Come Right'?) know about Zothique? Not only do they, there's possibly a twenty to fifty thousand gold piece reward for such artifacts from the crypts & vaults of the setting. Because of monsters such as the ones found in CAS's 'Weaver In The Vault' & 'The Tomb Spawn' we are left with the feeling that very few with collect such a reward. The noses of the Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company & the Earth government or Terran authorities are going to be investigating any artifacts & relics by 'top men' in their fields. After which all of these artifacts are going to be consigned to a secret warehouse some place.

Warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

We know that Hyperborea of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition fame is the far future of an Earth. But could there have been a Hyperborean people on Zothique which experienced the Silver Death? The answer is a resounding yes! Ulua, the daughter of the king of Tasuun, from The Witchcraft Of Ulua By CAS is one whose description perfectly fits a Hyperborean sorceress of the highest orders & they are not someone to be trifled with.
"During his first month in Miraab, Amalzain heard much of the Princess Ulua, sole daughter of Famorgh and Queen Lunalia; but since the women of the royal family seldom attended the banquets or appeared in public, he did not see her. The huge and shadowy palace, however, was filled with whispers concerning her amours. Ulua, he was told, had inherited the sorceries of her mother Lunalia, whose dark, luxurious beauty, so often sung by bewitched poets, was now fallen to a haggish decrepitude. The lovers of Ulua were innumerable, and she often procured their passion or insured their fidelity by other charms than those of her person. Though little taller than a child, she was exquisitely formed and endowed with the loveliness of some female demon that might haunt the slumbers of youth. She was feared by many and her ill will was deemed a dangerous thing. Famorgh, no less blind to her sins and witcheries than he had been to those of Lunalia, indulged her in all ways and denied her nothing."
So perhaps the 'Silver Death' caused the 'Hyperboreans' of Zothique to build vast vaults just as they had in Hyperborea. And those vaults became their tombs. There are thousands of undead or worse waiting below the sands of Zothique. But could the 'Silver Death' or 'Green Death'  have been a milady of the soul rather then simply one of the flesh? There are eerie parallels with the movie 1985 film Life Force with its alien space vampires. The comet swings around Earth depositing the 'Silver Death' plague upon  on the city of Yoros as well as perhaps Hyperborea.
What other horrors await adventurers out in the Asteroid Belt as the Boreas Winds blow through? Zothique could well become more tomb then 'world of adventure' for your party's 'heroes'

'The Derelict' from '85's film Life Force.

Adventurers journeying to Zothique are going to have to be high level, prepared for a wide variety of undead, necromanctic magick, and far worse. There are few reasons why I'd position Zothique as an adventure destination:
  1. The setting works on its own and has a richly detailed setting primed & perfect for an old school Sword & Sorcery campaign. 
  2. There are literally thousands of potential dungeon & adventure locations. 
  3. Perfect as destination for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition's higher PC levels. 
  4. There are plenty of chances for necrotic adventures with high level undead such as liches, vampires, and more. 
  5. Demons, demons, demons, the setting is rife with extraplanar demons. 
  6. Perfect store house for foul and degenerate magicks of all types.
  7. Locations are alien enough to be molded into adventure settings for popular AD&D first edition or B/X D&D adventure modules. 
  8. The weird & strange seem right around the corner. 
  9. A world setting with a definitely history with lots of holes perfect for the DM to squeeze in their own DYI D&D creations with lots of epochs of undefined time periods & empires. 
  10. The perfect setting for all of those crazy Fiend Folio Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition monsters.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

OSR Commentary On The Lovecraftian Aspects Of B1 In Search of The Unknown By Mike Carr For Your Old School Campaigns

" In Search of the Unknown is a module for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, designed for use with the Basic Set of rules. It was written by game designer Mike Carr and was first published in 1979 by TSR, Inc. The module details a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. Reviewers considered it a good quality introduction to the game that was written in the so-called dungeon crawl style, where the primary goal of the players is the exploration of a dangerous labyrinth to battle monsters and obtain treasure."

Mike Carr rolled out a classic module in the form of B1 In Search of the Unknown, there are flawed classics and this is one em.

"Many years ago two wealthy adventurers, Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, built a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. From this base, they conducted their affairs away from the prying eyes of civilization. While of questionable ethical standing, the two drove back a barbarian invasion and gained the support of locals. Eventually, they gathered their own army and went on an expedition against said enemies, where they met their demise."

I have run 'B1 In Search of  The Unknown'  way too many times to count. I dusted it off because of looking into the Sword & Sorcery rough & ready aspect of B1. I've talked about B1 many times & run it way back in January of this past year.
So when you begin to look at Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, then you begin to see the tale of two adventurers who were resisting the Hyperboreans in the 'Old Solar system' setting. Then the Green Death came along & killed off the adventurers and their crew. Now the reason why I chose the old version of B1 to look into is because of the conversion guidelines that were included to convert from Basic D&D to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition.

"When B1 was released, Basic D&D was not yet its own rule system, but rather an introductory set of rules that was intended to lead players on to the original D&D game or the AD&D game. The closeness of the Basic and Advanced lines in those days is revealed in B1's earliest printings, by the inclusion of a short section that explains how to convert the adventure to AD&D. That section was removed by the time the third printing appeared in 1979, and was the last attempt to overlap the two lines."Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown must have been generals & local powers in their own right. The Caverns of Quasqueton lay completely unfinished at the time that the Green Death struck Hyperobrea. What were they searching for? My guess is that they were specifically searching for weaponry  or artifacts left behind by one of the numerous prehuman races. Down in the lower unfinished levels are some
of the pre-filled rooms which include a museum, an arena, and grand cavern all of which points to incredible construction possibly started by others before our two adventurers moved in and took over. Many of the monsters & other residents that moved in speak of laboratories & other underground facilities. Lizardmen, troglodytes, fishmen all point to some very high level Lovecraftian race connections in the Caverns of  Quasqueton.

Fishman Jason Sholtis

So what's really going on here at
the Caverns of  Quasqueton? I believe that during the Hyperborean occupation & height of their power came across an outpost in Underborea belonging to the Great Race of Yith. "Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown" came across this knowledge during their exploration of the region & began to exploit it to gain power towards the end of their adventuring career. That is until the Green Death turned their plans to death. Where exactly does the Green Death come from? Well,"The Isle of the Torturers" appeared in Weird Tales, March 1933  & it was not a part of the Hyperborean cycle but Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique tales.  The tale speaks of a cosmic cycle of the 'Silver Death' visiting the inhabitants of Zothique from a comet.

Could the Great Race of Yith have been experimenting to avoid dying by the strange plague of the Green Death in
the Caverns of  Quasqueton? I think so. Given their precognition abilities and time travel connections from HP Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Out of Time' its easy to see them doing everything in their power to avoid being killed by the strange powder from the sky. "Dire was the Silver Death; and none knew the secret of its contagion or the cure. Swift as the desert wind, it came into Yoros from the devastated realm of Tasuun, overtaking the very messengers who ran by night to give warning of its nearness. Those who were smitten felt an icy, freezing cold, an instant rigor, as if the outermost gulf had breathed upon them. Their faces and bodies whitened strangely, gleaming with a wan luster, and became stiff as long-dead corpses, all in an interim of minutes.

In the streets of Silpon and Siloar, and in Faraad, the capital of Yoros, the plague passed like an eery, glittering light from countenance to countenance under the golden lamps; and the victims fell where they were stricken; and the deathly brightness remained upon them."

Isle of the Torturers Clark Ashton Smith. 

It all fits, the laboratories, the isolated adventure location, a vast array of experimental subjects/slaves, the lonely quasi mining operation, & more. All of it points to a vast machine of an operation going on within  the Caverns of  Quasqueton. Because of the DYI Dungeons & Dragons aspect of B1 In Search of the Unknown its very easy to slip it into a campaign even under the radar of experienced players. B1 still makes an excellent choice for a campaign stepping stone even today. Even though its flawed B1 has many excellent resources
Keep em rolling. 

'Echoes Of A Distant Manor' - Actual Play Session Event

Lomar as a campaign destination hit a bit of a snag when the player's PC's turned back into Tegel Manor. But this isn't so much a problem as the problem itself presents the solution.

Last night's Tegel Manor game went weirder then normal, the house continued its journey after the players took a wrong turn and completely muffed up my plans or did they? The adventure in Tegel Manor has taken on a life of its own. Its gone from being an adventure taking direct inspiration from  classic 'The Adams Family'  television show  & Disney's original Haunted Mansion ride to something darker. They've ended up fighting turf wars through the house with giant rats & their were rat masters.

Dealing with degenerate serpent men in the tea room & having running fights with high weirdness in the solarium. Then the action returned into the dungeon below the house. Hmm I'm reminded of another classic Eighties film of mine?!

So Tegel Manor has different factions of ghosts & Lovecraftian nightmares fighting over the treasures & resources of the place. Dimensional doors last night were opening & closing, all of the while the PC's were dealing with trying to play around with the changing conditions. This isn't the first time the players have put a stick into the spoke of my campaigns. Sometimes when this happens it best to go with it & expand on the fly as needed.

So how does this effect the overall feel, placement, etc of the overall campaign? Well it really doesn't at all. The facts are that this arch actually plays into the timeline of the campaign by making Tegel Manor 'The House on The Borderland' of my campaign. That is to say that William Hope Hodgeson's 'House on The Borderland' adds in that element of perfect Hodgeson mayhem & weirdness that the campaign has taken on.

Ace Books, 1962, cover by Ed Emshwiller, the cover at depicts events of the story.

"The world was held in a savage gloom—cold and intolerable. Outside, all was quiet—quiet! From the dark room behind me, came the occasional, soft thud[10] of falling matter—fragments of rotting stone. So time passed, and night grasped the world, wrapping it in wrappings of impenetrable blackness.
There was no night-sky, as we know it. Even the few straggling stars had vanished, conclusively. I might have been in a shuttered room, without a light; for all that I could see. Only, in the impalpableness of gloom, opposite, burnt that vast, encircling hair of dull fire. Beyond this, there was no ray in all the vastitude of night that surrounded me; save that, far in the North, that soft, mistlike glow still shone.
Silently, years moved on. What period of time passed, I shall never know. It seemed to me, waiting there, that eternities came and went, stealthily; and still I watched. I could see only the glow of the sun's edge, at times; for now, it had commenced to come and go—lighting up a while, and again becoming extinguished.
All at once, during one of these periods of life, a sudden flame cut across the night—a quick glare that lit up the dead earth, shortly; giving me a glimpse of its flat lonesomeness. The light appeared to come from the sun—shooting out from somewhere near its center, diagonally. A moment, I gazed, startled. Then the leaping flame sank, and the gloom fell again. But now it was not so dark; and the sun was belted by a thin line of vivid, white light. I stared, intently. Had a volcano broken out on the sun? Yet, I negatived the thought, as soon as formed. I felt that the light had been far too intensely white, and large, for such a cause."

On the whole the haunted house aspect has taken on a much darker tone but this plays quite heavily on the Weird Tales angles of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's second edition. More as the factions & destinations of Tegel Manor develop.

Friday, October 13, 2017

OSR Commentary - Strange Lost Worlds of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition's I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City By Dave Cook

"Somewhere in the heart of the steaming jungle lies the answer to the whispered tales - rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Here a brave party might find riches and wonders - or death! Is your party brave enough to face the terrors of the unknown and find - the Forbidden City!"
Where do I really begin with I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City By David Zeb Cook? Its an old favorite module of mine that I've run countless times for large groups of experienced players & it reeks with the hollowness of its pulpy underpinnings. The real heart of the module is the quasi oriental city of the module. With Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition winging its way to the door steps of the Kickstarter backers I'm dusting this classic off from 1981. Today I began to think about 'I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City' because of its self contained adventure setting & isolated adventure location. I1 is a mini sand box location with its own self contained factions & weirdness that could potentially be used as a Hyperborean fragment adventure location. 

This is a module for PC's from levels 4 - 7 within an isolated ruined cityscape straight out of Robert Howard or even a Doc Savage novel. David Zeb cook thinks I1 might be the reason why he was hired by TSR in the first place.
"The module was written by game designer David "Zeb" Cook, who partly ascribes his hiring by TSR to his work on this module. In the adventure, the characters are hired to find an object taken to a lost oriental-style city, which has been taken over by a cult of snake-worshipers, the yuan-ti, and their servants, the mongrelmen and tasloi." But its the influence & deadliness of the snake cult that interests me tonight. These various factions compete against one another within I1 but many of the monsters of the modules compete against one another but could the mind numbingly dangerous religious cult of the Yuan-ti escape from I1 and back into Hyperborea? Hear me out here. The serpent men of Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess be another faction competing against the Yuan-ti? With so many dwelling places within the city ruins of I1 its not hard to imagine.

Everything within I1 is geared for a South East Asian style adventure with its own unique Lovecraftian style twist. Having visited Thailand I can honestly say that the Yuan-ti can easily compete with or be traded in for the Serpent men  of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition's
'Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess.' Given the map of I1 its easy to see how the hidden ruined city can become another part of the 'Serpent Isles'. By making the adventure module locations separate its easy to run I1 first to get the PC's levels up and then bring them through Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess'. This gives the whole affair an epic mythological quality.

We are not talking a light weight campaign we're talking about a mini campaign of more then a couple of monthsBecause I1 was a competition module originally there is an element of having this become a campaign location where the party of adventurers will have to dip in and out of it in the tradition of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. This also means that the link between I1 & The Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess is going to more then fleeting.
"Less than a month ago, your party found itself in Port Zangerios, where you heard of an Esquimaux thief selling a treasure map. Low on wealth but high in courage, you sought him out. The man turned out to be a fearful ex-slave who had “acquired” the map from his Ixian master. The map is incomplete but shews the Isle of the Serpent in far-off Lemuria, where rests a fabulous treasure called the Feathered Crown of Nanasa (or so thought the Ixian). Pooling your money to purchase the unfinished map, you bought passage on an Amazonian trade ship. After passing through tempests and torrential rains that shimmered with auroral light, you have come to the great city of Jhaman Ket. Now you must seek out the location of the Isle of the Serpent."

Within the introduction we're getting the outline to the placement, ideas, and possible hooks for not only the PC's but further adventures within this adventure. I've said before Forgotten Fane is as much source book as it is adventure. This means that the PC's are going to have more then their hands full with it. They're going to be running for their God forsaken lives with some of the monsters from this adventure.
The menace of 
the Yuan-ti make an excellent counter point to the lost world horrors of the monsters of the Forgotten Fane. If the Yuan ti get to the mainland of Hyperborea's jungles then there's going to be Hell to pay for the already beleaguered continent

I've written extensively about using I1 with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as a jump off point for domain level games. This style of lost world game is the complete opposite & journey into the heart of darkness of a lost world setting. Something similar to many of the ill conceived adventures of Clark Ashton Smith's
"The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" or Robert Howards Temple of the Toad From 'The Thing on the Roof'

The jungles of Lemuria from 'Forgotten Fane  of the Coiled Goddess' are highly dangerous & incredibly weird settings. The PC's are going to be up against some of the toughest customers that the old school can through at them in a one on one style of balls to the walls adventure mini campaign. Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition has many of the existing monsters from Forgotten Fane and simply catalogs them. Players are not going to expect the Conrad's Heart of Darkness old school style mini campaign.