Saturday, September 30, 2017

OSR Commentary - Barsoomian Echoes In Original Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns & Adventures

Strap in, grab your short sword,long sword, dagger, & radium pistol as we make an astral projected journey back in time to 1977 with a merry Marvel excursion of Barsoomian goodness and old school adventure!

Cover scan taken from the awesome Giant Sized Marvel Blog

There are years in your life that you remember forever & for me it was '77 & '78. Not only was it the year that 'Star Wars' premiered but it was one of the golden ages of Marvel comics. Marvel kept coming out with some fantastic comics & during the Seventies they were looking for that sci fi market key. John Carter Warlord of Mars was special! For me as a kid the series hit all of the Edgar Rice Burroughs notes!

"John Carter, Warlord of Mars is a comics series published from 1977 by American company Marvel Comics. Created by Marv Wolfman (writer) and Gil Kane (penciller), it was based on the Barsoom series of Edgar Rice Burroughs and featured the eponymous character." The very next week I went to the local book shop that had really well displayed Edgar Rice Burroughs Michael Whelan paperbacks on display. But my uncle chided me because he had my Dad's full paperback run from when they were younger. I still collected the Whalen covers though. Now back to the Marvel Warlord of Mars, there was something very dynamic and well done about them. They fit in with the times & were pretty faithful to the books(mostly). Like all kids we were Star Wars crazy & my uncle channeled this into getting us kids to read anything science or science fiction related. As for myself I channeled it into anything related to this stuff from comics to original Dungeons & Dragons was far game. For campaigning on Barsoom the Marvel comics were a perfect fit because of the time period the series to place during in the ERB novels.

This page taken from the awesome Marooned on Mars blog here

"The entire series (with few exceptions) takes place between the third and fourth paragraphs of chapter 27 of Burroughs' novel A Princess of Mars."  This basically meant that PC's were going to come right in the background of those events as the Warlord made his rise onto power on Barsoom. We kids were bugging my adopted uncle to run us through Barsoom all through the year but we had to play the current campaign. It wasn't until the next year in '78 when we saw another film that would change my life that he got the idea for a campaign. Warlords of Atlantis was directed by Kevin Connor and co-starring Peter Gilmore, Shane Rimmer, Cyd Charisse, Daniel Massey, Lea Brodie and John Ratzenberger. From the same production team that made "The Land That Time Forgot", "At the Earth's Core", "The People that Time Forgot", and "Arabian Adventure". I watched everyone of these films and ate them up with a spoon.  These sorts of films make excellent adventure fodder especially for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

My uncle planned an island hopping campaign with our Original Dungeons & Dragons PC's. There had been a fire in the sky and our boat was wrecked by the streaking horror that howled through the clouds. The next morning we found ourselves on a beach with none of our equipment surrounded by six armed Green Martian warriors with strange metal antenna sticking out of their heads! Our treasure was gone and we were placed in a dungeon and had to escape. We came across and killed a group of telepathic elite Martian big brained leaders. My wizard was killed by a vicious calot pack allowing the party to escape. The invasive Martians became regular foes in our campaign world according to the scat notes that I've got from that time. But the important point here was the fact that my uncle used the Barsoomians as an invasive and invading species in our world. Martians scouting parties  began to show up with regularity. For modern & retroclone systems this style of gaming can be fun until the players catch on. The campaigns must have over arching goals end points this was something that would become more evident in the second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons prepackaged campaign world era.

To this day I blame James Ward's article 'Deserted Cities of Mars' from 'The Strategic Review Volume 1 issue #3 from 1975. Which I know for a fact that my uncle owned because I've still got my copy. We did the island hopping campaign for quite awhile in the Bermuda Triangle. Here's where the valuable lesson of setting vs substance was learned. If the dungeon master wants introduce a monster or setting element the 'monster of the week' format allows one to take on an issue by issue adventure style. I wasn't until much later on that I would go on to develop my own style of this type of dungeon mastering. Original Dungeons & Dragons encouraged this. Note that this was years before 'Isle of Dread' would appear in 1981. Don't forget to keep those dice rolling & I hope you make your saves this weekend kids!

This blog entry is for entertainment & educational purposes only. It is not an attempt to violate the trademarks & copyrights of Marvel Comics nor the original writers nor artists of such comics. John Carter Warlord of Mars belongs to its trade mark and copy right holders this blog entry is not an attempt to violate those holdings. Original Dungeons and Dragons is owned by Wizards of the Coast and this is not an attempt to violate that copy write or trade mark. All commentary and opinions belong to Dark Corner Productions@2017                  

Friday, September 29, 2017

OSR Commentary - Martian Echoes Of S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks By Gary Gygax

"The Grand Duchy of Geoff has recently been plagued by a rash of unusually weird and terrible monsters of an unknown sort. This western area, particularly the mountain fastness which separates the Grand Duchy from the Dry Steppes, has long been renowned for the generation of the most fearsome beasts, and it has been shunned accordingly -- save a handful of hardy souls with exceptional abilities. Within the last few months, however, a walled town not far distant from the area, and four small fortresses as well, have been destroyed by mysterious attacks! "

Last night I worked late into the night, I needed something breezy & quick to read. I turned to 'S3 Expedition the Barrier Peaks' Let's get this module's history out of the way quick;"Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was first played at the Origins II convention in 1976, where it was used to introduce Dungeons & Dragons players to the science fiction game Metamorphosis Alpha. In 1980, TSR published the adventure, updated for first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. The adventure was not updated for later rules systems, but a article did provide a conversion to Future Tech. It included a separate booklet of illustrations, in both color and black and white." Now I've been lately rereading a lot of pulp magazine sci fi & science fantasy stories which I've been incorporating into my 'Old Solar Solar' system setting. But bizarrely it was rereading  the Killraven mini series from Marvel comics about '03 when I noticed some parallels between the two series & Edgar Rice Burroughs. Killraven first appeared in Amazing Adventures 30 (1970) & I literally grew up with him. He's a gladiator stuck in a Martian area who escapes with fellow gladiators who wander a Martian wasteland that was once our Earth. This invasion was the second or third wave of HG Wells War of the Worlds semi set in the Earth of the alternative Earth-691 that happened in 2001.

This series has always sort of shared the Marvel super heroes world with Earth's mightiest heroes dying badly & repeatedly over the years trying to prevent Killraven's world from coming about. Its only now when I reread the '03 updated mini series that I started seeing the subplot of the Martians trying to terra form the Earth into something resembling Edgar Rice Burroughs & Albert Otis Kline's Mars?! Killraven has always had some really weird & funky concepts from Logan Run style gladiator areas, psychic & telepathic Martian soldiers, Martian gene modified beast men, to the Martians themselves. The series history has been interesting & problematic at times;"
Co-creator Neal Adams' early ideas for Killraven involved the character being the son of a Doc Savage archetype.[1] This conception had been reworked by the first issue, a multiple-creator goulash in which the two originators and co-plotters turned the scripting over to another writer, and in which artist co-creator Adams penciled only the first 11 pages and Howard Chaykin the remaining nine. The second issue was fully written by the debut's scripter, Gerry Conway, followed in the third by Marv Wolfman.

After this, the book became the province of writer Don McGregor for an acclaimed run[2] from #21 (Nov. 1973) to the final issue, #39 (Nov. 1976). Pencillers were Herb Trimpe, Rich Buckler, Gene Colan, and, most prominently, P. Craig Russell from issue #27 on."
"Alan Davis' 2002 miniseries Killraven depicted an alternate-future variation of the original series, set on the parallel universe Marvel Comics designates "Earth-2120"." This mini series comic version of the original saga pays homage to the original series but takes the action in another direction. Mainly we see Killraven & his freemen dealing with the transformation of Earth, its people, and the high cost of peace between Martians & humanity. Its a well done mini series & I highly recommend it.

What strikes me is the artificial nature of the Martian subjugation & transformation of Earth in the original series. This is a very invasive species.  McGregor's writing on the original series has parallels with the nature of concepts laid down in Gary Gygax's writing in S3. According to
"McGregor and Russell, however, remain the series' signature creative team; more than two decades after the original series' end, comics historian Peter Sanderson wrote that,It was writer Don McGregor who transformed the Killraven saga ... into a classic. Of all of Marvel's writers, McGregor has the most romantic view of heroism. Killraven and his warrior band were also a community of friends and lovers motivated by a poetic vision of freedom and of humanity's potential greatness. McGregor's finest artistic collaborator on the series was P. Craig Russell, whose sensitive, elaborate artwork, evocative of Art Nouveau illustration, gave the landscape of Killraven's America a nostalgic, pastoral feel, and the Martian architecture the look of futuristic castles"
This same feel in many ways comes across in S3 where the definitions of what D&D is and could be are challenged, bent, & in some places broken. Something that Killraven for me would go on to do with comic books. But back to the monster ecology. The Warden of S3 comes into & transforms the world of Greyhawk introducing an alien ecology that continues to plague that world for centuries. The lessons of both Killraven & 'Expedition To The Barrier Peaks' can be applied easily to
the current OSR. Invasive ecologies can serve as the prime motivator for a campaign quite easily. Take as an example many of the monsters of  Clark Ashton Smith or Lovecraft which fit the stereo typical 'outsider' or alien ecologies.

This is something we see time and again in adventures from Lamentations of the Flame Princess & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. It was also something that Robert Kuntz saw using many of the well established principals of science fiction and science fantasy to challenge many of the original players of this hobby of ours. Again the same thing happens in Killraven where species continue to plague the world over & over again. We become the monsters under the tendrils of the Martians something that gets repeated again & again as they continue to transform Earth into their new home. All of these themes are something we see again & again in pulp magazines going back to the childhood of both Gygax and McGregor.  The dungeon isn't a static organism or adventure location, instead its a point fixed by both circumstance & opportunity of creation.

Both S3 'Expedition To The Barrier Peaks' & Killraven are products of their time. They work to create what we know as the modern wasteland dungeon in pop culture. Killraven was/is one of my all time favorite comics, over the years its been a well written and incredible foot note in the incredible pop culture landscape. Both of these products are part of the  legacy of Marvel comics & Dungeons Dragons. Mainly due to the incredible writers and artists of Marvel comics & Gary Gygax.
Without Killraven we would not get the awesomeness of Ape Slayer but that's another blog entry for another time! For now keep those dice rolling.

This blog entry is for entertainment & educational purposes only. It is not an attempt to violate the trademarks & copyrights of Marvel Comics nor the original writers nor artists of such comics. S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is copyrighted & trademarked to Wizards of the Coast & this is not an attempt to violate those trademarks or copyrights. All opinions,ideas, etc are copyrighted and trade marked to @Dark Corner Productions 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

1d6 Random Treasures & Finds Of The Ancient Lotus Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Deep in the heart of certain Hyperborean ruins are ancient spirits of malevolent intent and dangerous aspect. These horrors are created from those who sucked down the fumes of the black lotus that grew from the corpse farms of Atlantis. These spirits are part of the family of specters created not through violence but the corpse born curse of the Black Lotus corpse flowers. They have energy drain abilities of their ilk because of the dreaded flower's connections with the Black Gulf.

These horrid spirits are addicted to the life forces of humans crave it as gives them a temporary sense of life and reality. These spirits have the appearance of addicts of the most morbid types but their eyes have been replaced by black purple orbs of the void. Their eyes tear with  a tarry black ectoplasm that causes fear & panic for anyone coming within thirty feet of its unnaturalness. Animals will not tolerate its presence at all & kill themselves to flee from it. It is is said that black lotus addiction caused the decline of the Hyperboreans and this often leads to the corpses of black lotus fiends being found with valuables. Black lotus vines are found entwined among the corpse's remains.

Upon 'Old Venus' deep within the swamp lands of the lower valleys there are the 'Spotted Purple Lotus' which grow entwined around the bones of old Hyperborean colonists. This plant only blooms when the star Aldebaran is in the house of 'El' in the Venusian sky. It is found wild among the oldest ruins &  cultivated by the dread lizardmen of Venus. They raise it using corpses of certain potent Venusian chieftains & wizards who consider it an honor to be placed among the fronds of the plants. These corpses become entwined in a mass of the plant until they become guardian monsters animated by the inherit magick of the corpses. 'Spotted Purple Lotus' powder  is worth over 6000 gold pieces per drought. It allows a wizard, druid, or even a necromancer to communicate with the Great Old One known as Sfanomoe. The monster god will grant 1d6 spells to the user but the user must make a 'Charisma' roll to gain such eldritch alien knowledge. Lotus women of Venus often hunt those who have consumed the spotted purple blossom. These horrors can smell its users up to 200 feet away and go into a blood frenzy around the pollen
Because of its strange alien connection to the monster god Sfanomoe 'spotted purple lotus' can cure any poison or radiation damage. But the user or recipient will have 1d10 strange visions as the powder courses through their brain. Many shamans, druids,and others who worship this strange being often seek out this lotus. A save vs. poison or become addicted to the lotus of
the monster god Sfanomoe.

Many strange treasures and weird artifacts are often interned with those who have been addicted to the various lotus. Their minds are consumed with matters of the occult as such visions poison their very being and they seek out weird & rude treasures of the Great Old Ones. Here are 1d6 such treasures & artifacts of the ancient addicts. Beware the fronds of the lotus adventurers or you may join the bones of those who have come before.

1d6 Random Treasures &
Finds Of The Ancient Lotus Table 

  1. A set of golden instruments used in the preparation of the the lotus powder worth 10000 gold pieces delicately craved from ivory, gold, and precious gems. 
  2. Beautifully carved knives of deep glass metal used to trim the buds of the lotus worth 7000 gold pieces and are +2 because of the demonic enchantments on them. 
  3. Nine forks of silver and gold that swim with the visions of the lotus. Druids and shamans must save vs poison handling these treasures or they will slip into visions of the lotus 
  4. A miniature brazer used to prepare the lotus enchanted with a fire elemental with Hyperborean command words carved into the bowl of the thing. It can create a 'flame strike' three times per day with a range of thirty feet. If any lotus is burned in the thing it will give visions and prophecies to the owner. Worth 30,000 gold pieces
  5. Twelve golden pipes carved from the bones of ancient Hyperborean priests worth about 7,000 gold pieces gilded with the wisdom of the ancients. When smoked with lotus powder these pipes act as a 'contact other plane' spell once per day. They are worth 20,000  to the cult of the monster god Sfanomoe. 
  6. 22 delicate carved cards made from the ivory & bones of the beasts of the .
    the monster god Sfanomoe. They are used to chop up the lotus powder and then used as a deck of prophecy cards. Once per day they will divine one future event for a user. They are worth 30000 gold pieces to an alien cult of semi demonic beings who worship the monster god Sfanomoe. They have been lost for centuries after the murder of the grand lama of this cult.

    I fain would love thee, but thy lips are fed
    With poison-honey, hivéd in a skull;
    They seem like scarlet poppies, beautiful
    For delving roots, deep-clenchèd in the dead.

    Thine eyes are coloured like the nightshade-flow'r.***
    Blent in the opiate perfume of thy breath
    Are dreams, and purple sleep, and scented death
    For him that is thy lover for an hour.

    Mandragora, within the graveyard grown,
    Hath given thee its carnal root to eat,
    And vipers, born and nurstled in a tomb,

    From fawning mouths drip venom at thy feet;
    Yet from thy lethal lips and thine alone,
    Love would I drink, as dew from poison-bloom.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Taking On Venger Satanis With A Review & Commentary For "Save Yourself From Hell" For The Alpha Blue Rpg System & Your Old School Space Opera Rpg Campaign

"This is a scenario for my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue.  It's funny, weird, gonzo scifi that references a number of familiar movies like Event Horizon, Hellraiser, Space Balls, Airplane II, various kung-fu films, and anything with Cthulhu in it. "

Right so I was handed 'Save Yourself From Hell' before Venger Satanis went on his familial vacation with the Satanis clan. The adventure clocks in a about twenty pages & like many of Venger's other 'balls to the walls' adventure this one is for Venger's Alpha Blue sleazy space opera rpg system. The adventure  set up has a lot in common with his 'How to Game Master Like A Fucking Boss' style.

"This is a one-shot Alpha Blue scenario for PCs who like to blaze through encounters. For those who prefer to take their time immersing themselves in this wacky scifi universe, it might take two or even three sessions before reaching the cataclysmic end.
This adventure attempts to blend sleazy space opera with horror while maintaining a sense of humor.
Accentuate those parts that the players respond to. If they like something, give them more. If they seem
bored, quickly shoo away whatever's currently on stage and bring out the next act."
The opening takes place with a douche of an NPC and no I'm kidding read that as you will folks. This is not an adventure for the KIDS OR The EASILY OFFENDED. Lots of blue & dirty humor throughout, 'Save Yourself From Hell'.
The real set up goes more along this line;"The X-III starship is an abyssal-class deep space exploration vessel that has successfully completed numerous missions on the outer edges of the known  universe.
The X-III entered Hell's Cluster, a treacherous region just beyond the Asmodeus sector of Galaxy 5, in order to answer a distress signal coming from a lunar base on the 7th moon."So we basically have Venger Satanis's breazy sleazy style of writing with a pretty good adventure set up that sort of whizzes around its plot and there's a cat. A ship's cat that resembles Jones from Alien but there might be more to him. There's a random table to determine this. Before you can blink the PC's are zipping across the adventure's plot erm universe. There's a truck stop 'Space Trucker's movie  references abound here with unwanted passengers and stowaways. 

One of my favorite bits is the 'Kung Fu Marauders in Hell's Cluster'. Who are the marauders?
'One part treasure-hunters, one part salvage team, one part nefarious martial arts school, and one part murder-hobos in space… the Black Dragon Fighting Society prey upon the weak, the rich, and those without honor. That means the PCs should be ripe for the picking.' Venger it seems like me was a watcher of those endless and endlessly cool 1960s & 70's Kung Fu movies. There's an escape pod because of course there is and Lovecraftian cultists. An 'Event Horizon' adventure plot moment and some really nasty bits when Cthulhu shows up!? There's a good bit of humor here but the over all adventure plot points are really directed toward its own internal Alpha Blue style setting.

Cthulhu from Freakazoid's episode 'Cthulhu Rising'

This is really where my problem is. Alpha Blue with each book that's come out for the gaming system has gone on to become its own thing in my estimation. I have no problems with its content but if I as an OSR dungeon master was to use this adventure I'd be gutting half of it. That's a shame because its a good solid adventure for Alpha Blue but I can't see running this adventure for anything else. Maybe a wacky DCC adventure campaign or one shot. I'm not savaging this adventure but I'm saying that its an animal that belongs to the Alpha Blue setting. Its short and well done but its not something that I would want to be running except as a one shot adventure and that's what Save Yourself From Hell is billed as. But is it good?! Yes if your looking for a humorously sleazy take on a one shot original Traveller game or as a one shot OSR space based adventure with lots of cracked up and sleazy humor. For Alpha Blue though? This is a whole other adventure really. For Alpha Blue this is a mid tier adventure that works as a bridge gap to get the PC's into some real danger and distress. Their going to have to think and keep the blasters on tap when their needed. Players are going to keep on their space scum toes. I'd give 'Save Yourself From Hell' a 3 1/2 for other OSR games and a solid four for the Alpha Blue rpg systems.

Grab The Alpha Blue Adventure
"Save Yourself From Hell'' HERE
for Four Dollars 

But what's really going on with Venger Satanis's Kort'thalis Publishing? For some months now I've been watching him working on and growing more independent from the both the OSR and the fifth edition crowd. Venger has been quietly been working on his own imprint now for many years. The latest Kickstarter for  Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport its basically another nail in the coffin of  table top codependence. Sure we've seen post apocalyptic adventures before but this is a homage to Seventies science fantasy after the big one scenarios.  The adventure plot is straight out of after midnight films on Channel eleven from the late Eighties.

"Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport emphasizes the American south-west (where I used to live for a little while - mmm... wish I was eating warm sopapillas with honey right now!) in the 25th century.  That area of the USA barely survived, dubbed Gamma Turquoise by the knuckle-dragging, one-eyed and three-breasted natives barely hanging onto the bottom of the evolutionary ladder.  High-tech meets sorcery in survivalist horror mode.  The hills have electronic eyes and traveling the road requires warriors with black leather balls!

There's a faction of shadowy militants led by an enigmatic sorcerer named Yrt'vash Saar (aka skull-face) threatening the safety of everyone in the Santa Fe Starport.  No one has ever seen these terrorists with their own eyes - only the robed cult leader Yrt'vash Saar - but they all live in the fallout shelter below New Albuquerque."
Post apocalyptic  isn't a genre that Venger Satanis has explored that often. I'd love to see this funded and color me curious to see what Glynn Seal does from Monkey Blood Design with this adventure project.

You Can Support This Kickstarter Right Over Here

1d6 Random Guardian Spirits of The Underworld Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Down in the depths of the Earth the world of the living, the dead, & the lost cross paths in the darkness. Time, space, & even reality breakdown in even measure but these are the places where even the gods fear to trod. They were not meant for mortals even heroes. But these pathways are guarded by terrible spirits of ancient times. Things fell & foul that man was not meant to cross paths with. 

Many of these beings are spirits of the underworld & have many of the characteristics of demons. They are often found guarding the treasures or relics of the gods. These spirits are often:
  1. Immunity to electricity and poison. 
  2. Only take a quarter damage from  fire, acid, & cold 
  3. Highly telepathic, & able to speak The Black Tongue, Hyperborean high & low, most known languages 
  4. Dark Vision 130' 
  5. Able To Summon A Minor Demon Once Per Day 
  6. Able to Polymorph three times per day 
These beings are able to be summoned by a witch with a minor summon monster spell for counsel and advice once a month. They often act as advisors & go betweens with certain underworld spirits or gods.

  1. Caulilalrgot Cangulkoncal was once a lamia princess but elevated to the position of guardian after slaying four hundred cultists during the wasting plague years. She guards a cache of Atlantis god works deep within a captured temple of Apollo. She will hunt and kill any parties of adventurers she comes across.
  2. Derc Hiaurcar 'prince of the vampire worms' is a foul being who has become a spirit guardian of the underworld after capturing a temple of the toad gods. He sacrificed all of his minions for this honor and now tracks the treasures he guards through the underworld. 
  3. Baellkordulug blessed of the water lizard is a lizard man whose taken on the ancient mantle of guardian of the foul shrine of his people's Lovecraftian god thing. He is slow to anger but takes his vengeance out on any adventurers. 
  4. Ninturnango is a throat worm that has become a humanoid horror in the service to his god master after possessing the husk of a mummy from Lemuria. He is now a guardian of ancient treasure from that lost country. His own spawn infect any bodies they can as foul demon throat worms.  
  5.  Valalangungbe 'the walker in darkness' is a shadow demon of horrid aspect that has possessed the body of a fell prince of the Ixians. He is now the guardian of a portal to an alien hell and a treasure of lost Atlantis. Hates Hyperboreans with a burning passion. 
  6. Gel Basrahuj - A Hyerpborean princess's mummy that has ascended into guardian hood of the foul treasures of her pleasure and demon lusting ancestors. She now has 1d6 demonic traits each time she awakens from slumber.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Lovecraftian Connections Of The Free Issue Of Fantastic Story Quarterly 1951 Winter v02n01 To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting

Its eleven thirty  in the morning & over the weekend the latest OSR stuff is now dying as people get back to work.This was one of the successor reprint pulp magazines to the original runs. There were a number of these magazines after the original pulps houses closed down or evolved into animals on the wilds of the news stands. Many of these issues had a bit of the HP Lovecraft circle of writers in the background of the magazine. Perfect Appendix N fodder. What's this got to do with Dungeons & Dragons? Quite  a bit folks, the science fantasy aspect was hot as many stories were inspired by the various Fantastic Story Quarterly's stable of writers including Gordon R. Dickson's first sale, "Trespass", and stories by Walter M. Miller & Richard Matheson"  

You can read the whole history of Fantastic Story Magazine here.
What made Fantastic Story different was Ned Pines who was in many ways a visionary behind the scenes comic book & science fiction magazine publisher. If your into public domain comic books & super heroes then the name Ned Pines comes up frequently.
"Fantastic Story Quarterly was a pulp science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1955 by Best Books, a subsidiary imprint of Standard Magazines. The name was changed with the Summer 1951 issue to Fantastic Story Magazine. It was launched to reprint stories from the early years of the science fiction pulp magazines, and was initially intended to carry no new fiction, though in the end every issue contained at least one new story. It was sufficiently successful for Standard to launch Wonder Story Annual as a vehicle for more science fiction reprints, but the success did not last. In 1955 it was merged with Standard's Startling Stories. Original fiction in Fantastic Story included Gordon R. Dickson's first sale, "Trespass", and stories by Walter M. Miller and Richard Matheson" 
Ned Pines connection to Fantastic Story magazine is interesting because of the direction he pushed the publication  in;" In 1936, Ned Pines of Beacon Publications bought Wonder Stories from Gernsback.[3] Pines changed the title to Thrilling Wonder Stories,[4] and in 1939 and 1940 added two more sf titles: Startling Stories and Captain Future.[5][6] Pines had acquired reprint rights to the fiction published in Wonder Stories as part of the transaction, and he instituted a "Hall of Fame" department in Startling Stories to carry some of this material. Captain Future also carried reprint material, but neither Startling nor Captain Future had room for some of the longer stories in the backfile. At the end of the 1940s a boom in science fiction magazines encouraged Pines to issue a new magazine, titled Fantastic Story Quarterly, as a vehicle for reprinting this older material. The original plan was for the magazine to carry no new fiction, but this policy was changed shortly before publication, and at least one new story was included in every issue."

That brings me to our issue for free download

Fantastic Story Quarterly v02n01 (1951 Winter)


  This issue is pivotal to my campaign because it contains not one but three of the H.P. Lovecraft circle of writers. Endo Binder has his novel 'The Enslaved Brains' in this issue in the far future of an alternative 1973, this novel smacks of Great Race of Yith technology gone awry.

Clark Ashton Smith details his "Captain
Volmar"novel A Captivity in Serpens (1931, also known as The Amazing Planet) which has some awesome action as Captain Volmar leads a crew of space explorers  on the ether-powered ship Alcyone.  I've already talked about the connections between The Great Race of Yith, Forbidden Planet, and Captain Volmar here. But 'The Museum' by Frank Belknap Long is a whole other matter. This story services a perfect bridge gap between the Mythos and traditional science fantasy adventures. The concept is about a museum which alters its visitors and staff into alien life forms shapes ala polymorph spell technologies.  Perhaps your adventurers might work for the staff on a few expeditions across time & space. Again this sounds very similar to Great Race of Yith technologies. HP Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time contains many of the technologies described in these stories implied or within the background of the novella.  

 "Stephen Marlowe (born Milton Lesser, August 7, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, died February 22, 2008 (aged 79), in Williamsburg, Virginia) was an American author of science fiction, mystery novels, and fictional autobiographies of Christopher Columbus, Miguel de Cervantes, and Edgar Allan Poe. He is best known for his detective character Chester Drum, whom he created in the 1955 novel The Second Longest Night. Lesser also wrote under the pseudonyms Adam Chase, Andrew Frazer, C.H. Thames, Jason Ridgway, Stephen Wilder and Ellery Queen.

Lesser attended the College of William & Mary, earning his degree in philosophy, marrying Leigh Lang shortly after graduating. The couple divorced in 1962. He was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War"  
Stephen Marlowe wrote under his given name of Milton Lesser and is better known today for his detective fiction then his science fiction creations. In this issue his work on 'When Flame Globes Dance' is perfect fodder for an alien menace on one of the asteroid belt in the 'Old Solar System'. Perhaps these were artificial life form creations left behind by Hyperboreans many thousands of years before. Explorers should be very wary of them. Reign of the Reptiles by A.Connell is again exactly the sort of prehistoric weirdness that one could be finding when messing with time travel and alternative time lines. This novella first appeared in Wonder Stories v7 03. So what does all of this mean? Well  Fantastic Story Quarterly v02n01 (1951 Winter) could be used as a back Appendix S for my 'Old Solar' system campaign in which the PC's begin to suspect that there's far more to the background of the Great Race's time travel & alternative time line efforts. We really have no idea who created the time gateway from the classic original Star Trek Episode City On The Edge of Forever.  But the technology seems eerrily similar to the technologies used by Gary Seven including the Beta 5 computer hidden in his office in Apartment 12B at 811 East 68th Street in New York City. 
And some of the dimensional  travel, alien life forms,etc. described in the 'The Museum' by Frank Belknap Long. Are we really looking at the remains and door stops of the Great Race of Yith as it continues to poke and prod the little ape life forms that the Elder Things accidentally created so many centuries ago? Why? What does this all mean? It means that the war 'The Great Race of Yith' started  continues across many branches of alternative time and space.

This means that the Great Race or its agents could appear anywhere. The fact is that the giant machine from Forbidden Planet is only one of a vast array of mechanisms that have been designed for a slow war that has been fought for billions of years.
The danger of the Great Race of Yith & its various branches of the Pnakotic brotherhood become evident. In the 'Old Solar system 'campaign setting there are literally thousands of Great Race mega dungeons scattered across the universe waiting for adventurers to find them. Those players who have played through Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's Taken From Dunwich know just how dangerous these bastards can be.

The Errol Otus depiction of the Great Race of Yith from
the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition
Deities & Demigods remains a personal favorite of mine.

The fact is that there are literally thousands of agents, facilities, & bases belonging to the Great Race scattered across time & space. They continue this horrid 'slow war' across a wide variety of alternative timelines and Earth with little regard for the safety and well being of anyone. 
  They're agents & the cult of the the Pnakotic brotherhood know the truth about the Flying Polyps & why the Mi Go have only the least warriors tending their hives in the Old Solar System. They know what waits in the darkness between the asteroids and its dire horrors only hinted about in this issue of Fantastic Stories. We'll get into that soon kids. Till next time keep those dice rolling!  Stay away from the nippers of the Great Race of Yith!

This post is not an attempt to violate the trade mark or copy right of the film  Forbidden Planet or Star Trek & its attendant properties.  The contents of this post are for entertainment & educational purposes only all writings are the copyright and trade mark of Dark Corner productions


Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Care & Feeding Of OSR Super Science Wizards In Old School Campaigns

So I've been doing a lot of thinking about Clark Ashton Smith's Xiccarph cycle which centers around his planetary and system ruler  Maal Dweb is exactly the sort of wizard whose on the same scale as the wizards of Jack Vance's Dying Earth series of novels. Wizards of immense power ruling over star systems using super science & magick. The native humanoids have no idea of the power & breath of these beings mostly owe themselves to the knowledge & wisdom of these characters. This set up fits in entirely with the early creators of D&D's vision for the original game.

" The Dying Earth was featured in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Advanced Player's Guide under Appendix N: Literature as one of the works that was read during the development of the game system.[2] The designer, Gary Gygax, also credited the novel with being the inspiration for the magic system, which he called "Vancian.""

Maal Dweb is more then capable of rubbing shoulders with any of the wizards of Jack Vance's Dying Earth series especially Mazirian the Magician &
Turjan the wizard

All of this relates back to the recent Kickstarter of  Dark Wizard Games: Double Mayhem Adventures  How? Because The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn adventure takes full advantage to many of the conceits of this style. The Star Spawn is nothing more then a powerful bully himself taking full advantage of the locals & using a vast array of super science & sorcery at his disposal. 
Maal Dweb is another of these anti heroes ruling "four diminutive moons" [because of their size or because each is "decrescent"?] — "the juice of a jungle plant [is] repugnant to all the fauna of Xiccarph" — chimera-skin used as leather — has reptiles, dragons, pterodactyls, chimeras, poisonous "winged vipers", ape-like creatures — three suns, all dawn in the east, set in west: the earliest sun is "gamboge-yellow", second is emerald, third is carmine" ("The Maze of Maal Dweb", Clark Ashton Smith)

We see the full scope of this anti hero in the two CAS stories and the sort of power he's fully used to wielding especially in Maze of Maal Dweb, The (1938) & his personality in the The Flower-Women,  (1935). 
These power mad bastards see nothing wrong with become invasive interstellar tyrants on a grand cosmic scale and causing all kinds of problems. There even seems to be a level to the heights of their power from local king then onto world conqueror followed by cosmic horror level.

Looking into the plot of Star Spawn the parallels become even more obvious;"

Locals have been hearing whispers of strange happenings around the Ancient Volcano. Rumors over the last few months of an unspeakable evil that has risen up inside. An evil that “fell from the stars.” They say there is something wicked and devilish going on inside. Highwaymen report of strange creatures, mechanical monsters, and "Little Green Men" that are roaming the land causing chaos and mayhem!

The locals are at their wits end. They put out a call for the bravest, the strongest, the smartest group of adventurers they could find... and unfortunately for them, your group has "answered the call." You and your stalwart band of adventurers know exactly what to do...  plunder the mountain for the treasure within! And maybe figure out what those pesky locals are bitching about!

Half of the adventure takes place in the Volcano Dungeon Lair and the other half on a huge, Futuristic Spaceship which the Star Spawn has had "parked" above the planet unknown to anyone for the last 1000 years! "
The events of Secret Machines of the Star Spawn have continued because of the adventure's cosmicism. That's right this little comedic science fantasy adventure has a good strain of cosmicism throughout.

"cosmicism (uncountable) The literary philosophy developed by the American writer H P Lovecraft, stating that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as God, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence." The vile villain anti heroes of these science fantasy romps share many of the qualities of the modern Cosmicism of the recent Rick & Morty television episodes. Rick Sanchez  might be in the same mad scientist/wizard's union as many of these folks mentioned in this blog post.

So what's going to make a difference to the events of a mad uncaring universe & its insane alien tyrant wizard scum? Well that's where your PC's come in, their the 'heroes', 'explorers' and exploiters who have chance to turn back the tide of weird tyrannical wizards. Dark Wizard games newest kickstarter is redefining the artwork within its adventures but its your PC's who are going to be kicking ass and taking names within these adventures.  What does all this mean? It comes down to a long tradition of wizards using a mix of mad science, magick, and any means necessary to keep down locals to give heroes excuses to kick ass and take names in Dungeons & Dragons games. 

Don't Forget To Support Dark Wizard Games Kickstarter
& Keep Those Dice Rolling

This blog entry is for educational and entertainment purposes only. This blog post is not an attempt to violate the copyright or trade marks of the 'Rick & Morty' television show nor are we responsible for the actions of Morty 6424 whose vile acts this blog can not condone nor the Rick belonging to that Morty. Further Dark Wizard Wizard Games is no way responsible for the insane content of this blog. All ideas & opinions are copyrighted to the writer.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

OSR Commmentary & Reskinning Of D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax

"The final confrontation with the giant, King Snurre, and the entry of mighty adventurers into the cavers under his stronghold discovered that Dark Elves, the Drow, had instigated the giant alliance and its warfare upon mankind and its allied races."

Another one of those classic modules by Gary Gygax that shows the genius and flexibility of the father of Dungeons & Dragons.. ""Shrine of the Kuo-Toa," the second adventure in this collection, was used as part of the D&D tournament at GenCon XI (1978)." What we're really dealing with is a solid exploration and tournament style adventure. Violence is not always the answer with Descent Into The Depths of Earth & mixing & matching campaign elements doesn't take away from this classic module in the least.

Let's begin by changing the Kuo-Toa to Deep Ones which gets in more in tune with the Clark Ashton Smith vibe & HP Lovecraft. There's a certain amount of the Hyperborean cycle within D1-2 with its foul verminous humanoids and Deep One style monsters. The inclusion of  D2: "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" (1978) gives the whole affair a foulness that sometimes seems to overwhelm the whole affair of the adventure which reminds me of HP Lovecraft's Shadows over Innsmouth.  Originally the Drow were mysterious and merely a legend mentioned in the Monster Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. Here in Descent into The Depths of the Earth their fully realized. I want them back to being weird, twisted, and completely dangerous beings of myth & legend. How can I accomplish this with my limited schedule? Well fortunately Gavin Norman has done the Complete Vivimancer.

Suddenly the Drow are far closer to the bio engineering terrorist nation of Cobra la and less of the fetish & leather crowd that players of later editions seem to love. Yeah that's much better and keeps things rolling along onto my  'Old Earth ' setting. So what exactly are the Drow now? These are
Myrkálfar straight out of Norse mythology & legend twisted by super science of space gods eons ago. We see this in the Myrkálfar's god  Atlach-Nacha lair later on.

Artwork used without permission from here
Ropers, Umber Hulks, & many of the iconic monsters of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons fit into alien and artificial breeding aspect laid out in this module. All of this ties back into the ideas of A.Merritt & Arthur Machen where the underworld is truly alien which is closer in keeping with the Underborea of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea then the Underdark of AD&D's later books. All of these are factions in the inner Earth's various underworld adventure locations. This ties back into A.Merritt's 'Moon Pool' & the caches of alien technologies from 'The Metal Monster'. 

All of this ties back in with the planet Cykranosh (or Saturn as we know it today) & with Tsathoggua. Whose machinations have been spinning for centuries leading the fire giants & Myrkálfar alliance. This leads into events happening on Hyperborea where the Deep Ones are beginning their push again for dominance of the land. This connects in with events from The Mystery At Port Greely!

Various caves, caverns, etc of the underworld have ruins & dimensional gate ways that lead off world across the planets & only the gods know where. The events depicted in D1-2 Descent Into The Depths of the Earth could be signaling that the stars are coming right as inhuman powers move the hands of the clock closer and closer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

'The Pnakotician Echoes' - More Swords & Strangeness - Actual Play Adventure Event Commentary

The PC's are about to enter the lands of Lomar & they've had their first glimpse of a Gnophkeh  skull in the alchemist's shop last week. This brings up the question will they abandon the lands &grounds of the dimensional traveling Tegel Manor or stay awhile within Lomar. My version of Lomar is a mixture of Alaska, Canada, bits of Iceland, the poles, & pieces from H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands.  This is about as dangerous as it gets and the players know it


Olathoë, lying on the plateau of Sarkis has a deep connection with my version of the classic haunted manor. The manor rooms have artifacts, relics, and reminders of the lands of Lomar even as the strange ghosts, ghouls, and horrors made from the Rump family haunt the halls. The weird city of time haunted marble is the abode of a strain of Hyperborean of distinct linage who have faced down Esquimaux raiders time and again. The lands of Lomar are distinctly alien and yet here walk normal human traders, Hyperboreans from across the Old Earth, and all kinds of warriors on business of all kinds. Some come to hunt the long armed cannibal races that exist in the hills, low lands, and upper mountain peaks. Still others come for work with the Pnakotic brotherhood and its other cults.

A good portion of the savagery & super science of my version of the lands of Lomar is inspired by George Pal's 1961 film Atlantis The Lost Continent which has been largely forgotten by today's audiences. The film supposedly isn't very good but strangely enough has a pretty hard core cult audience among certain fans. Strangely enough this film hits many of the high notes of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's high notes. Strange relic technologies, decedent society hell bent on extinction, sorcery and weird corrupt religions. Many of the high notes are hit in this film yet it remains mostly ignored by modern audiences. This suits me fine as a dungeon master.

The citizens of the lands of Lomar are mostly going to be a blend of humans & Hyperboreans with the ruins of immemorial Commoriom buried in a nearby glacier where the cult of the White Worm meets for their secret cabal scarifies & twisted pagan rites! The cult of Nodens, Tsathoggua,the spider-god Atlach-Nacha, the Great Old One Rhan-Tegoth and Ithaqua  are growing by leaps and bounds as the corruption  spreads across the lands. 

All of this ties directly into the over arching themes of AS&SH second edition, my home campaign takes full advantage of the fact that Hyperborea disappeared from 'Old Earth' one night leaving a gaping hole in the ocean where Greenland & Iceland used to be. Hyperborea is now floating out near the planet Cykranosh (the planet Saturn). The solar system is serviced by atomic rockets and mankind has lost his faster then light travel capabilities.

Ten reasons why this campaign has worked so far with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and why I'm shifting over to the AS&SH second edition.
  1. The expanded rules & PC classes make perfect sense in this altered world and the Green Death of AS&SH fits right in with some of the ideas put forth in Leigh Brackett's world settings and time line.
  2. Expanded spell lists mean that I've got more magickal choices to screw around with the PC's. 
  3. Actual Lovecraftian and Smithian deities to add to the setting instead of the usual replacement Lovecrftian horrors. 
  4. Solid player character classes mean better rounded NPC's. 
  5. A solid science fantasy play ground instead of a broken setting to add in the players too. 
  6. A beginning adventure that actually fits the rule book's implied and expanded upon setting. 
  7. More monsters! 
  8. Solid writing behind some of the NPC's and monsters 
  9. Second edition is clearly written, perfectly suited for long term campaign style play
  10. I can run a solid Clark Ashton Smith style setting with weird Sword & Sorcery rules that make sense.