Saturday, May 28, 2016

Two Free OSR Downloads Including The Molds & Slimes of Vilnid By Dyson Logos & Gregorius21778: 20 bookplate spirits From Kai Pütz a.k.a Gregorius21778 For Your Old School Campaigns

I've been working a heck of a lot of hours so I didn't get a chance to see this piece of OSR material that I inspired.  Kai Pütz a.k.a Gregorius21778 is someone whose work and random table work I've been keeping up with along with a number of other OSR authors. The man does very good work and I very thankful for the mention and so glad I had a hand in inspiring and getting this into the wild. Its very nicely done.


"I have been following the Sword & Stitchery Blog of Eric F. for more than a year now. Every now and then Eric will post a list with random finds, encounters or other stuff for use with OSR roleplaying games (Fantasy, SciFi, Post-Apocalyptic and others). A while ago, his blog featured an article about spirits bound into bookplates, including 20 inspirational examples. Immediately, my own creativity was ignited and I started to put down my own 20 bookplate spirits and now want to share them with all of you. And I take my hat off to Eric, this was a wonderful idea of him" 
The original blog post can be found right here. But use these guardians carefully and they'll continue to cause mayhem for your parties of adventurers.

The second thing that I ran across was another perfectly dangerous and deranged adventure;"
The Molds and Slimes of Vilnid" which appeared in the wonderful Narcosa book compiled by +Rafael Chandler."


There's a great copy of this adventure right over on Dyson Logos 
blog. The adventure works on a number of levels for parties and could serve as a bridge gap into Narcosa's dangerous and drug filled environs.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Review & Commentary On England Upturn'd By Barry Blatt For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG System

Blood, thunder, violence, and the nastiness of war explodes across the page as we look into England Upturn'd by Barry Blatt From  Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

"The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists over, principally, the manner of its government." According to the internet and the combatants were simply the  Cavalier, & Roundheads 
But like many events in history the reality is far more complex especially with your party of adventurers caught right in the cross hairs of history with a dark and dangerous Lamentations twist to the whole affair. 

This was one of the most dangerous periods in English history and one that hasn't been tackled by too many old school retroclone systems. Like many other Lamentations of the Flame Princess products this is not simply another adventure; here's the thing about Lamentations products on the surface they can appear to be simple adventures when in fact there is a bit more meat on the beast's bones. In this case it's a bloody and quite complex beast of an adventure with the PC's taking part in the back scenes of the events of history & legend. Barry Blatt does an exceptional job created a campaign kit as well as an adventure based around the events of the English Civil War.
 Because this is a Lamentations product the political & religions factions of history are tackled head on. These powers and factions are central to the plot of England Up Turn'd as are the supernatural and occult elements of the adventure. This adventure takes the events of history and twists them through the lens of  the Lamentations system in such a way as to be both workable and unique in its approaches to the events of history.
According to the author; "While the Civil War changed little in itself, it
marked out the issues that the Glorious Revolution   of 1688 eventually resolved. The waves
of emigration immediately preceding, during, and after it exported those same issues to the
American colonies, which had a few rebellions and riots of their own at this time. Lamentations of the Flame Princess does the Early Modern period well enough already, but in the appendices you will find optional  setting specific rules to give an English Civil War game a bit more flavour should the Referee
wish to expand on this adventure and run a full blown Civil War campaign. Needless to say the author is not a historian and various small liberties have been taken
with the facts in the interests of fun and not boring the arse off’ the reader with too much
tedious historical exposition. This adventure features real locations in Lincolnshire and refers to real people alive at the time; my fictional depictions are just that - fictional, no offense is meant, and hopefully none will
be taken. This adventure owes an obvious debt to the film A Field in England directed by Ben Wheatley, what with the alchemy, the buried treasure, mud, and hallucinogenic ending. If you haven’t seen it, do so."

When it comes to the material the author borrows heavily from history and pop culture while giving the whole affair a Gothic horror and occult spin.A spin that could have the PC ending up in one of the many mass graves scattered across the sea of history of England Upturn'd.
The material pulls deeply from the alternative occult legends and mythologies of England whist vexing the PC's deep into the plot it does indeed remind me of  the film "A Field In England".

Much of the material is both real world and alternative roles in history of the PC's in the adventure set against the events of the English Civil War and it does it very well. The adventure takes great advantage of the usual tropes of OD&D's magic system and spins them into a different occult direction to great effect. But is it worth the download?

Well yes it is and in fact its a damn fine product and here are some of the reasons why :
  • The England Upturn'd product is a major turning point for the Lamentations line in my opinion it lays out a sprawling LoFP campaign option for the DM. 
  • There are literally several adventures tucked into one book Russian doll style. The adventures are linked via the plot line and have a thread of adventure, blood shed, & politics running through them. 
  • These are quite nicely the age of rebellion in English history with the War of the Roses being a close second in terms of adventure opportunity for a Lamentations style game. 
  • The occult is quite central to the adventures and much of the material revolves around the axis of the first half of the English Civil War. There are plot and adventure hooks that are scattered throughout the text to move things towards the next end of history. 
Magical treasures and occult items in England Upturn'd are very in keeping with the times and circumstances of the history of the era. An example of this are as follows; Crocodile boots—made in Amsterdam by a
cobbler with access to exotic Egyptian wares, these fashionable riding boots grant +1 Armour,
and once a day can be commanded with the words ‘Ik denk dat ik moet vertrekken’ (‘I
think I should leave’ in Dutch), to allow the wearer to walk on water for a minute."  Its all of the little touches that add up to creating a veneer of weirdness and pulpy strangeness in England Upturn'd that makes this adventure campaign so damn fun to read. It also makes me want to run this adventure and this is the book where factions, weirdness, and history all collide in a more then dangerous mix of the supernatural and adventure. Parties of adventurers are going to hard pressed to not get dragged into the politic of the history of England Upturn'd.

Oliver Cromwell

Note that even though England Up Turn'd is steeped in real world history the myths, legends, and mythologies of England the classic literature of Europe is in evidence throughout the adventure source book. I'm sure that some folks might compare England Upturn'd to Dark Albion because of the historical aspects of these product but they are very different animals. England Upturn'd is set in  the real world history of the English Civil War with fantastical and occult elements thrown in. Whist  Dark Albion takes a much different approach by creating an entire world setting around its own version of the  historical events of the War of The Roses even though that book follows the War's events exactly.
England Upturn'd is a party's chance to make their own mark within the campaign world and make it well if they are very lucky and play their cards right. There are lots of opportunities for the forces in this book to quite nicely kill off a party. Between the moments of violence and horrors of the events of England Upturn'd there is a solidly done book with lots of well written bits that will keep a party busy for months and months of play.

Do I think its worth your time and money? In a word yes in spades, this a well written and dangerously devilish designed & will provide a well set piece of weird horror adventure for both Lamentations of the Flame Princess DM's and players. Five out of five for England Upturn'd.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.
The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.
‘Protest Ballad, Anon. circa 1635’

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dave Sutherland III Thursday Appreciation

David C. Sutherland III (April 4, 1949 – June 6, 2005)  was and is for me one of the most iconic and understated early artists of  TSR and D&D. His fantasy art work has an honesty to me that that really echoes back to the early days of the hobby. Mr.Sutherland's work today seems to have a place of nostalgia among my circles of friends and players.
Iconic pieces of artwork such as this one from 
B1: Journey into the wilds in search of adventure by David Sutherland tells a story of a beginning party.

The same party much later on in their adventuring careers encountering a
a mezzodaemon and nycadaemon for the first time. (David Sutherland from AD&D module D3: Vault of the Drow, TSR, 1978.)

His artwork for me had me staring at the pages of OD&D and AD&D products for hours conjuring up all sorts of adventures of the party in my head.

"A Fire Giant and his Faithful Hell Hounds" by David C. Sutherland III - from Perpetual Role blog

His work on Empire of the Petal Throne and Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition were key in my getting into science fiction. I came across these Empire pieces on the Tome of Treasures website last night. I forgot how awesome they are.

Last night I read up on Mr. Sutherland III and to a certain extent some of the wiki entry broke my heart;"
Sutherland's involvement in game art began in 1974. After meeting Michael Mornard, a player in Gary Gygax' "Greyhawk" and then Dave Arneson's "Blackmoor" in the SCA, he was introduced to Professor M.A.R. Barker at the University of Minnesota in 1975. Barker was designing Tékumel, an imaginary world for use with D&D, published by TSR, Inc., the Wisconsin-based company that became the dominant publisher of role-playing games.
The professor put him in touch with TSR,[2] and soon after, Sutherland was working for TSR.[when?] Sutherland worked with the D&D game's co-inventor, Gary Gygax, as part of a team of illustrators, including Erol Otus, Darlene Pekul, David Trampier, and others.[2] Sutherland also worked as TSR's artistic director, but preferred working on his own illustrations.[2] He worked at TSR until 1997 when the company was in the process of being purchased by Wizards of the Coast and he was not offered further employment.[2]
After his relationship with TSR ended, Sutherland found it difficult to find work and, according to friends, felt abandoned by the gaming industry.[citation needed] Recently divorced,[when?] Sutherland remained upset about the dissolution of his marriage,[2] became despondent and his health began to fail.[citation needed] An auction of Sutherland memorabilia—including artwork, miniature sculptures, games, and game memorabilia—was held in 2004, raising USD$22,000, used to set up a trust fund for his two daughters.[2]
He died of chronic liver failure on June 6, 2005 in his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan" 

Had he lived to see 2016 I think that many folks in the OSR and gaming in general would come to acknowledge not only his artwork but his contribution to the gaming industry especially those of us who grew up with his iconic images. Recently I've been coming back again and again to the Swords and Spells OD&D book. The iconic artwork really speaks volumes to me as a DM sort of demanding that I craft an adventure around it. His pig faced orcs are the standard for me as a dungeon master.

There is something very iconic and nasty about his orcs and humanoids that until much later in life I've come to appreciate as both a dungeon master and a D&D fan.

I end this post with one of my favorite monsters from the Monster Manual, the Sutherland Naga a very underutilized of the dungeon and ruins in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

1d20 Random Marrow Gnome Encounter Table & Call Marrow Gnome Spell For Your Old School Campaigns

There are things and creatures in the dungeons and ruins that clean, strip, and devour the remains of anyone they come across including dead adventurers.

Marrow Gnomes are a specialized type of Fey found in some of the deepest dungeons and sections of the nether world. They are a capricious, and highly dangerous distantly related species of Gnomes that specialize in stripping down the remains and corpses of humanoids. They are much smaller then the average Gnome standing only two foot tall and having less then half the hit points of their larger fairy cousins. They make up for this with a mean streak a mile wide and a toothy addiction to the marrow of humanoids of all sizes. The marrow gnomes also have the following innate magical powers they can use once per day; they have access to many of the most common Cantrips of wizards and magic users. They also have the ability use an acidic touch for 1d4 points of damage per round from both their impressive tiny fangs and delicate looking hands. They are servants of Entropy and have deep connections to the Negative material plane enabling them to hide in shadows a per thieves abilities. Marrow gnomes are able to work in swarms of 1d20 individuals to set traps for large humanoid prey. They are often found stripping, and cleaning the bones of their victims and many monsters often employ them to act as a chaotic but efficient clean up crew around lairs. Marrow Gnomes are notorious dungeon gossips and if paid in tiny silver trinkets or dolls toys the gnomes may let slip some important detail or rumor. Marrow gnomes are often found working for certain wizards of a diabolical or twisted bent as they often have vast store houses full of their trophies from their favorite victims. Marrow gnomes live within the walls of dungeons or in vast fungal houses in the underworld where they live and dwell.

Marrow Gnomes are often found in communities of 1d200 individuals where a 2nd or 4th level shaman or wizard will be their leader. Often rich wizards or other occultists will keep a Marrow Gnome colony as a disposal squad for troublesome  corpses, remains, and bodies. These colonies often have vaults of Type B or better treasures. They will jealously guard these treasures and the information they have on their victims very rigorously . The Gnomes are often the last rung on the ecological dungeons and ruins.Many times this results in the extermination of certain evil miniature humanoid races in dungeons because of the competition.

Calling Marrow Gnomes via a spell is a risky proposition  at best,they sometimes take offense against the wizard or magic user who calls them and begin the process of stripping off the flesh and marrow from their victims or out rightly cursing them.

 Call Marrow Gnomes
Conjuration- Summoning
Level: one wizard or 2nd level cleric  

Casting time: One full round
Save: none
Duration: permanent
Spell Resistance: No  
 Range: See Text
Effect: Calls and gates in a single marrow gnome who will listen to the proposal for engaging the services of the Gnomes. There is a 40% chance that this little servant of entropy may take offense and curse the wizard who summoned him. Otherwise within 4 rounds the Marrow Gnome will gate in 1d20 more of his colony and within another six rounds gate in another 1d100 gnomes depending upon the job at hand. The range of the spell is line of sight but the little bastards will appear within a twenty foot radius of the caster.

Adventurers and outlaws often encounter Marrow Gnomes deep in the underworld where they move among the various tiers of dungeon Fey with impunity due to their ties with underworld gods and wizards. They have deep and abiding ties with cults of Entropy and decay. Undead loath and hate  them, many ghoul clans have a hatred of marrow  gnomes because they compete for the same dungeon resources and territory areas.
Here then are 1d20 encounters for your old school games for parties to encounter Marrow Gnomes.

1d20 Random Marrow Gnome Encounter Table

  1. A troupe of Marrow Gnomes on their way back to their village with several semi precious rings looted from corpses.They may trade one or two for a particularly entertaining story or song. 
  2. A single Marrow Gnome scout looking for potential victims for his tribe to take down. There will be 1d30 of the little bastards waiting should this guy be attacked. 
  3. A marrow gnome swarm of 1d100 starving and very dangerous gnomes. They have +2 little knives to help carve up their victims. 
  4. 1d6 tribal gnome elders carrying the corpse of a wizard whom they plain too simply call from beyond the gnomes have a wizard for the rite. These bastards have 1d10 minor treasures on them. 
  5. An ancient evil is causing the gnomes to swarm and so 1d100 gnomes are going to come for your party of adventurers. 
  6. There is a curse of Biblical proportions that is  causing the Marrow Gnomes to plan an attack on the local towns. Can your party of professionals help? 
  7. A local wizard is trying to use an ancient device to enslave the local Marrow Gnomes as slaves and heretics. 
  8. A gnome with 1d6 minor treasures and trophies headed back to the colony or nest. 
  9. A shadow demon is on the prowl help clean up several of the master's Gnome mistakes. He needs to start fresh. 
  10. A marrow seller is taking his meat to market and is expecting top dollar for his creations. He is looking for the best secrets on his market supplies.
  11. Many  marrow gnomes run afoul of Carrion  Crawlers, this one is crying for help? Are you ready? He will reward each party member with a minor treasure should they save his life. 
  12. An ancient dooms day device has been found and a marrow gnome has the key taken off a dead wizard.
  13. A Marrow Gnome rot grub seller is on his way to market and is willing to trade a few magical secrets for a particular marrow flavor. This might result in the loss of an adventurer digit or limb. 
  14. A Marrow Gnome is fighting a very nasty violet fungus colony and is looking for some help. He in turn will give your PC's a map to a local dungeon. 
  15. A Marrow Gnome has the secrets of four wizards upon whom he and his clan have faced. He will trade  1d4 secrets for his life.
  16. An amazing sight as a gang of 1d100 gnomes swarming points to a very dangerous situation. Can you avoid the swarm up ahead of  you. 
  17. An ancient spell book has gone missing from your village library and the Marrow Gnomes are looking someone to do the translation of it. They will pay five silver and three gold pieces for the privilege of helping them. 
  18. A distant mutation of the usual Marrow Gnome has manifested in the dungeon and the village elders of the Marrow Gnomes are willing to pay 1d20 silver pieces for a corpse of one of these monsters. 
  19. A Marrow Gnome has the key to awaken a spawn of Cthulhu but a local cult is hunting him. 
  20. The Marrow Gnomes are hunting and tracking your party for rites and to turn them into personal meals. There will be 1d20 gnomes waiting to ambush the party. 

Comments, G+, Reviews, & Social Media On The Swords and Stitchery Blog

I've seen a couple of posts on social media about blogs with comment sections turned off.  Swords and Stitchery was hit by a series of spammers and spammer bots about a year back. Since I work a full time job I don't have lot of time to answer comments on the blog. So what was I going to do? Well, the short answer was to join G+ for my old school gaming communications and conversations especially about this blog. That's where if you want to communicate with me and talk about stuff on the blog you can reach me. So far its worked out great. Part of the reason for all of this is to maintain this blog under my control as both author and gamer. So I'm not going to turn on the comments here. If you want to reach me then do so on G+ or through the email connected with this blog.


 This commentary comes with a warning. I don't suffer fools gladly and can't stand political rants, or other bull. I'm on social media to talk about games, retroclones, and old school Dungeons and Dragons.
So if you've got anything to say and want to talk about games and such you can reach me on G+

G+ has been great for bringing more products to review, new ideas, and plenty of material for old school and retroclone gaming. In point of fact the OSR and some of it can be a bit well overwhelming at times.  I've really enjoyed the experience of using social media and so far this option has worked out quite well. I'll have more original material coming up later on.

Review & Commentary On The S'rulyan Vault From Kort'thalis Publishing For Your Old School Campaigns

So last night I received my copy of  The S'rulyan Vault  From Kort'thalis Publishing from the pen of Venger Satanis. It reminds me of some of the Eighties products that I've seen over the years. This is a third tier OSR product and it hearkens back to some of the dungeon adventure  kits that have come out over the years with better production values, designs, and more. If you've got two or three hours before your players arrive to create your brad new old school dungeon that you've been promising all week, but work, real life, and more have gotten in the way but you want to run a bad ass dungeon then the The S'rulyan Vault is for you. This product works with just about any old school edition so using it with an old D&D edition or retroclone system of your choice would be a snap.


Here's the Kickstarter that kicked off and completed the original product.

So besides two old school style maps what exactly does  The S'rulyan Vault have to offer? Well, essentially its a dungeon kit built around the maps and offers an adventure setting that highlights the background, history, and D&D elements with a Lovecraftian twist in the  Kort'thalis Publishing style. But is it worth your time for the seven dollar price tag? I think so because of the fact that lots of folks are using tablets and other mobile tech to enhance their old school table top rpg experience. The S'rulyan Vault plugs into that and brings to the experience a bunch of interesting options for the dungeon master to pull from for their own unique take on the adventure. The tables, elements, bits and pieces within the Vault all pull from the adventure's history;"
For as long as anyone living can remember, the world was full of men and the darker, stranger forms of life remained at the farthest edges of it. But the scrolls contained within the many temples of Tyr’Urden tell us that this was not always so.   
Demonic things came in the night to feed upon mortal souls, ripping and tearing at humanity’s soft, exposed belly. Our people lived in fear. Like children, man was afraid of the dark and what lay beyond the walls of his cities.
Then, one day, a champion came. He slayed many of the evil ones, the creatures who looked like walking serpents. Eventually, his mighty deeds became so numerous that thousands followed him into battle against the forces of evil. Man had both the numbers and the will to push back against these malevolent beings until his cities and forests were relatively free of hell-spawn.
Snake-men were the most powerful humanoid creatures, as they knew the secrets of blackest sorcery, having made a pact with the Demon Lord known as S’rul. Under his satanic tutelage, the snake-men became powerful enough to slaughter the armies of mankind. Before long, the entire race of snake-men were known as the Sect of S’rulyan… (S’rulyan meaning the great and terrible wisdom of S’rul).
At the height of their serpentine reign, a subterranean domain was constructed on the outskirts of the human realm. It became an outpost from where the snake-men continually raided – taking weapons, gold, slaves, and sorcerous objects from man’s cities. This vault was the crowning glory of S’rul and his loathsome worshipers.
Just as the Sect of S’rulyan could see the extermination of man in sight, a large band of adventurers retrieved a lost relic - the Helm of Power, an artifact that siphons the magical energy from everything surrounding it… and gives that magic to the wearer. The Helm of Power protected the adventurers as they waded into the darkness of S’rul’s foul dungeon.
Only three heroes emerged from the S’rulyan Vault, victorious over the evil ones with their spiked armor covered in gore and shreds of serpent flesh. Alas, the Helm of Power was destroyed in the final battle against S’rul. Yet, the Demon Lord was also destroyed, and so the people rejoiced!
The three surviving heroes, Artello, Urden, and D’meskus, established themselves as Kings of the central territories. For decades they ruled and now their children’s children are crowned Kings and Queens of Razira.
One such present-day ruler is Queen Zinnia, an alluring but jealous and ill-advised woman. She reigns over the smallest realm with the greatest ambition for power. Queen Zinnia forced her royal wizard to search deep within the magical abyss where hideous horrors frolic and feed. Upon her instructions, the wizard awakened an entity strong enough to shatter her siblings’ kingdoms – the Demon Lord S’rul.
S’rul’s first order of business was to revive his slumbering legion of snake-men far below the S’rulyan Vault. Brought back to life, the walking serpents felt their sorcery invigorated as never before and concocted a spell that would mean sickness and death for thousands of men, women, and children.
Almost three-quarters of a century after S’rul’s original defeat, nary a snake-man has been seen upon the surface of Razira. Today is the 74th anniversary of the assault upon the S’rulyan Vault. The entire realm celebrates the snake-men’s defeat with feasting, dancing, and merriment. Unfortunately, such revelry was not to last.
At mid-day, the celebration ended with black skies, a broken blood-red moon, and some mysterious plague that immediately killed off a fifth of those living in Tyr’Urden, the largest kingdom and closest to the S’rulyan Vault.

King Urdenson’s seers know that S’rul and his snake-men slumber no more. The King decreed this a time of war, and those who return from the S’rulyan Vault with the Demon Lord’s severed head in hand shall share in the reward: one million pieces of gold… a King’s ransom, to be sure!"
The art and cartography by Glynn Seal, James V West, and Bojan Sucevic really does make The S'rulyan Vault as both a resource and a solid entrance onto the rpg market. This is a both a kid friendly and nasty adventure at the same time that will give players a run for their money.

The overall fun of this adventure makes me want to run it and delve into it. The nice part is the fact that you can essentially drop this product whole cloth right into the background of your campaign world and then back hinge it into place for a complete adventure location within your own world making it your own. So the DYI Dungeons and Dragons aspect of The S'rulyan Vault is both intact and magnified. This extends to the twenty four page pdf of tables and more. What's in the booklet? Well according to the drivethrurpg blurb;"

The PDF contains a short history of the region and dungeon, original artwork by Bojan Sucevic, and several random tables for making this dungeoncrawl easier to run and more interesting.  For instance, there's a d100 table describing things found when searching a room.  There's also a multi-table system for generating fortunes.  
Lastly, there's a custom, old school fantasy character sheet created by James V West."

All in all I do think its worth the download and your time to take a look into the The S'rulyan Vault  From Kort'thalis Publishing for both yourself and your players. I think that you will all have a great time and a unique experience with this homage to the old days of gaming. We can only hope that Venger Satanis and Kort'thalis Publishing continue down this path of old school fun and weirdness. Five out of five because for me it has everything I'm looking for in an old school product.

Monday, May 23, 2016

B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module Commentary On The Internal Adventure Structure & Framework For Your Old School Campaigns

Many old school gamers cut their teeth on B2 The Keep On The Borderland adventure. This is one of the most iconic and interesting introduction adventures that came down the pike from the old school period starting with the Holmes 1979 version of it. Let's look at some of the bits and pieces that make B2 so iconic and interesting.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with B2 Keep on The Borderlands for many years now. Last night I was looking into the history, backdrop, and as a jump off point for future campaigns. Keep on the Borderlands has so much history for me as a part of the swath of history of my gaming. This is the module that we as players and dungeon masters returned to again and again. The title of the module suggested something to me that echoed bits of Robert Howard's Conan and other classic pulp titles. Hell, we used this module for everything from Boot Hill, Gamma World first edition, Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition , and even as a location for boot legging for Gang Busters minus the monsters but with cops and NPC's.

You can see an interesting video with the details on the background, history, and some of the details of B2 Keep On The Borderland module as well as the variations between the editions. There are so many echoes of cross popculture experiences with B2 that seem to happen to those of us who had the OD&D,Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer D&D editions. There are some subtle and not so subtle differences between the editions of B2.Artwork, cover images, and more colour the flavors and details of this adventure.

B2 has a smattering of a wide range of old school monsters that appear in The Keep on The Borderlands adventure setting; along with a nasty and very dangerous cult of evil which is starting to brew in the Caves of Chaos. There are a number of humanoid factions that can cause even an Expert level  party of adventurers more then a bit of pain. There is a great thread on B2The Keep on the Borderlands, Caves of Chaos with some wonderful resources including maps and some solid advice. There's also a Caves of Chaos Reimagined by Weem
which gives a really nice overview from the Caves themselves and the really weird structure and breakdown of the caves. These are the fountainhead of the corruption of the area. This gives a DM a perfect excuse  to expand the area with ruins and other opportunities for adventure encounters. This is especially true of the area around the mad hermit's lair.

There plenty of scope  to expand and detail the locations of B2 as your own, in the past I've placed the Keep and its environs on the edge of a country that has fallen into decay and decadence after fracturing into many minor baronies with swaths of wilderness between civilized lands. This gives plenty of room to place tribes of gnolls, orcs, kobolds,and more dangerous monsters where the DM wants and needs them. This also means changing the character of B2 to suit the DM's wants and needs for their campaign settings.  By using this option I was able to take a solo module in this case the Maze of the Riddling Minotaur and use it as a ruin just over the border in order to have it as a side quest for a party of mid and lower level adventurers to challenge the adventure and brave the maze of the minotaur. They had prior experience with this species of monster from B2.
Minotaurs are a monster that has been a part of D&D  since the beginning of the game;"The minotaur was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as a bull-headed man, and a man-eater" In 1977 the minotaur as a monster came into AD&D with all of its viciousness preserved; "The minotaur appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a cruel man-eater, typically found in labyrinth the places in the wilderness and underground."

 The Eighty Three adventure "Maze of the Riddling Minotaur" came out and I ran it as a complete side quest for my players by expanding the adventure with a few additional adventure elements from Dragon magazine. These included a NPC political plot as part of the adventure background and a few unique monster NPC's from the Creature Catalog I & II for some add flavor. The adventure is a perfect side jaunt;"Maze of the Riddling Minotaur is an adventure module published by TSR in 1983 for the Expert Set of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It is a solo adventure for one player character of level 1-10"
Vacros had a full blown background back tied into the Caves of Chaos and the minotaur in B2 was actually from the island of evil. This tied the two adventures quite neatly together.

The ancient & evil Vacros was  a part of a decaying kingdom  now rife with horror,evil, and cults. This module has lots of bits and pieces that can be back imported into B2 to make an elaborate campaign setup and stepping stone.

Minotaurs have always been one of my favorite servants of evil, I never understood the Minotaur race variation in Dragonlance ( I  personally have never been a fan of that setting and know nothing of it. If you enjoy Dragonlance more power too you). I quit AD&D at about the time when that campaign setting came out and I know nothing of it. For me the Minotaurs of  AD&D 1st edition are servants of chaos and evil. They  were and are my preferred monsters to place in both Blackmoor and Grayhawk as well as my own home game's settings.

B2 Keep on The Borderland remains one of my all time favorite adventure modules to DM and run. It has lots of potential to take a campaign in the direction that the players and the dungeon master wants it too. With all of the the options that Keep on the Borderlands brings to the table it remains one of my all time favorites.

Commentary On The Driftwood Verses Kickstarter For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rpg From By Clint and Cassie Krause

There are certain Kickstarters who have delivered quality product to the OSR market again and again. Clint and Cassie Krause  along with their crew have continually delivered some of the best quality and evocative setting material for the Lamentations of Flame Princess rpg system. Now they've got a brand new nautical setting up for the game with some really strange connotations and weird material called Driftwood Verses.


So I've been waiting months for Driftwood Verses to make its appearance in the wilds of Kickstarter. The authors let bits and pieces out to wet the appetite of the rpg public but the details of the setting make it stand out in spades;"
The Driftwood Verses is a gloomy, nautical fantasy campaign setting for old-school tabletop role-playing games. It's directly compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and more broadly compatible with a large selection of traditional systems. The contents can be used as a stand alone setting or slotted into your existing kitchen sink fantasy campaign as a distinct region in a larger world.
The setting was conceived as a Dark Sun-esque re-skinning of standard D&D tropes, starting with the conceit that "whales are dragons." It has since developed into something well beyond that original idea. The major inspirations include stuff like Moby Dick, Dishonored, Sunless Sea, Dune, The Scar, and the Monster Blood Tattoo series.
The book focuses on a blighted maritime region called Walfismeer. It's an impressionistic fantasy setting, a collection of symbols and metaphors come to life. Anachronisms abound. Grizzled mariners pilot haunted, tentacle-powered iron ships across a sludge-poisoned sea. Sinister roachmen quad-wield black powder pistols in hungry cities ruled by vice and bloodsport. Secretly trained navigators employ esoteric disciplines to guide vessels across a mysterious psychic barrier called The Reef. Desperate meerfolk raise sonorous hymns to Leviathan in deep-sea, whale-corpse cathedrals."

This setting reminds me both of underground comics meets  weird fiction with a vicious nautical streak a mile wide. The concepts are original and very nasty built around some deeply disturbing ideas which fit the ideals of Lamentations quite nicely.

As I said I've been following this whole project for months now and the author has a whole background, cloud of play, and a very expansive vision for Driftwood Verses;"The whole time I've been writing this book, I've been talking about it over on Google Plus. You can catch up and find tons of excerpts, concept art, play reports, and more by checking out the #driftwoodverses tag over there. Feel free to circle me while you're at it. "

So what's actually going to be in the book and what opportunities are there for DM's to bring something completely different to the table? Well according to the Kickstarter:
  • Introductory comic: Final Pursuit follows a crew of beleaguered smugglers as they attempt to escape from a Chancery gunboat.
  • Introduction to Walfismeer: An illustrated overview of the setting and its factions.
  • Three new character classes for LotFP: The psychic Navigator who uses sigil foci to unleash mental powers, the quad-wielding Blattarian roachman, and the pitiable Vassal, a vat-grown albino slave species bred to take pleasure in servitude.
  • Optional rules for character creation: including quickstart equipment packages and the Toll of the Past table to saddle your character with some emotional baggage, special abilities, and stat modifications before the game begins.
  • New equipment and vehicles: Such as the Pavnik Boarding Saber and the Wrecker shipwreck salvage mech.
  • Oak and iron: Quick and easy rules for building and fitting ships. 15+ illustrated ship profiles ready for quick reference during encounters.
  • Monsters and mariners: An illustrated bestiary containing over 40 creatures and NPCs.
  • Campaign hex map: A campaign map of Walfismeer with over 60 detailed hex descriptions including numerous fully mapped and stocked dungeons, adventure sites, and settlements. Enough material to keep a campaign running for months with very little prep.
  • D100 Rumor Table: That ties your characters directly into the mysteries and adventures contained in the campaign map.
  • An appendix full of useful tables: Random encounters, setting-appropriate character names, ship names, and more.
  • Optional rules: Ship-to-ship combat, maritime trade, Chancery justice, fishing, campaign achievements, sludgeblight, and more. Tons of ideas and mechanics that you can use as is or port to your system of choice.
So what makes this different then other underwater rpg pieces I've seen well besides the fact that its going to tie PC's into the deeper background of Driftwood Verses. There's a sense of the deeper watery doom that lurks just below the surface of the book.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Meditations On The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module & Some Free OSR Resourcs For Old School Campaigns

Earlier today I got a chance to reach deep into my bag of old school gaming tricks and look into B2 The Keep on The Borderland for Basic Dungeons and Dragons. I started looking into the structure and ideas behind this classic Basic Dungeons and Dragons adventure. The module is a micro cosm of everything that makes D&D incredibly nasty and fun to play by turns. It has bits and pieces of lots of elements that go into making a successful D&D game. So tonight I came across a nice solid set of resources that can add that little extra dimension to your old school campaigns.

I'm fascinated by the structure, composition, and uses that dungeon masters and players have put B2 Keep On The Borderland. After doing some research on the Zenopus Archives  I came across several resources that are particularly useful for an upcoming game of Holmes D&D. Here's what I came up with.

  • There are several distinct differences between the Moldvay and Holmes Basic Sets of Dungeons And Dragons Keep On The Borderland. Many of these are here -  List of changes between Holmes and Moldvay versions (compiled by Acaeum member brute).
  •  B2 also has the distinction of being the only stand-alone module published by TSR which included Dexterity (DX) scores in the monster stats in accord with the rules for initiative in the Holmes Basic rulebook. The Holmes Basic rulebook does not include monster dexterity scores, but instructs that if the DM "does not know the dexterity of an attacking monster he rolls it on the spot" (pg 20). By including DX scores in the monster stats, B2 can speed up the flow of the game. These can also be used to extrapolate typical monster dexterity scores. The only other TSR scenario with DX scores is the Chapel of Silence published in Dragon.
  • An interesting series of posts related to The Borderlands on the Wizard in a bottle blog (snorri of OD&D74):
    Hexmap - Geography - Bugbears & Catnip - Agriculture - Archaeology - Burials - Congregations - Eight Variants of Caves of Chaos
There are a number of reasons why B2 Keep on the Borderland is one of the most recognized and beloved adventures ever. Many of the reasons why are because of not only the nostalgia attached to the adventure but because of the flexibility that B2 brings to the table. Its easy to see the DYI aspect of B2 for example here are two remixes of the maps to Keep on The Borderland 

B2 Wilderness Map re-imagined in hexes - by isomage.

Thoughts on adding the 1E DMG Sample Dungeon to B2 with an annotated Map showing a possible location for the "seldom used road" leading to the ruined monastery.

This trip down memory lane is all for campaign preparation and B2 is great for dropping right into the back end of an existing campaign setting. This means that the adventure came be used as a spring board for all kinds of adventures in, around, and even in the underworld surrounding the keep and its environs. This is because the Keep is meant as a base for PC's to use.

Here are ten reasons why the Keep on The Borderland is an incredibly useful and even relevant today in gaming:
  1. This is one of the most common adventures that gamers the world over have started with and played. It has both iconic and instantly recognizable elements that still appeal to both gamers and DM. There's a design aesthetic that works so well in B2. 
  2. There are a few twists and turns that make B2 useful for a wide variety of campaign and old school styles.
  3. B2 is hackable, its structure makes customization easily and reskining a snap for the experienced DM. 
  4.  The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure has a flexible plot, and a well written backstory that can be dropped into any campaign world. This means that a DM could with little effort expand adventure elements of B2 whole cloth into far great campaign nuggets. 
  5. There is something very classically pulp about the module that harkens back to the Appendix N elements of sword and sorcery literature 
  6. Evil sleeps nearby in this adventure its very close to the keep and its environs;many of the classic D&D monsters are in evidence including many of the iconic humanoid races and deep monsters. 
  7. Everything here is geared as a campaign jump off point and the keep is meant as the central adventure location. This makes using B2 a snap. 
  8. There is something very Saturday mantinee about B2. The rise of evil, cults of dark forces, evil magicks and more monsters make The Keep on The Borderland  on of the easiest adventures to adapt to retroclone systems. I've used it for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and others such Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea both events quite successfully. 
  9. There are lots and lots of resources on the net for B2 and the options for expansion, adaption, and DM DYI mean lots and lots of module utility
  10.  The B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module  is a classic of the old school adventure modules with a ton of uses and is a great introduction to the hobby. 

Ten Questions In Gaming With Venger Satanis & The New Alpha Blue Rpg Adventure Kickstarter

Good Evening, tonight I wanted to take a bit of time to get into the mind of Venger Santanis with his latest Kickstarter for the Alpha Blue rpg Pussy Chasers The Legend of Oral.


Ten Questions In Gaming With Eric Fabiaschi
 From The Swords and Stitchery  Blog
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us tonight and we’ve got ten questions for one of gaming’s guiding lights. So let’s get right to it shall we. 

1. How did you get your start in the rpg hobby and how has it changed since then?

I started as a curiously enthusiastic yet ignorant boy, fumbling about, not really knowing the rules or how to play.  Eventually, I was shown how D&D actually worked.  Fast forward about 31 years and here I am, still Game Mastering (mostly), playing (a little), and writing books whenever I have a flash of inspiration and free moment.

2. Is table top role playing still one of your favorite past times? How often do you get together with players?

Yes, it is.  There's the creation part of it, seeing things unfold, discovering what happens next with the roll of a die, interacting with players and their characters, the tension, drama, laughter, and fun.  These days, I try to run at least 2 games every month... in person.  That's not always possible with wife, kids, etc., but I try.  Every once in awhile, I'll sneak 60 or 90 minutes of a game on Roll20 during my "lunch hour".

3. I see that you’ve got a new adventure module Kickstarter happening. How is your Kickstarter different from those that players have seen in the past?

Yes, I'm back to writing for my sleazy 70's sci-fi RPG Alpha Blue.  The new book is going to be called Pussy Chasers: The Legend of Oral.  It's a chance to come up with a sci-fi setting away from the space station brothel.  Though it will still be raunchy and silly in places, I'll be exploring a darker future where space travel and working for oneself is pretty much the only way out of the universal sewer.  So, planet-hopping dystopia and boobs.

4. What systems are this adventure going to be for and what can players and dungeon masters expect from it?

I'm going to keep making those random tables cause I love writing them and the audience loves reading them.  Expect Pussy Chasers to go deeper.  Anything you'd want at your fingertips whilst running Alpha Blue, this new book will deliver (in conjunction with Girls Gone Rogue, of course).

5. How is this adventure going to stand out in today’s dynamic and changing table top rpg market?

Well, the explicit sexual angle hasn't been done to death, so it's got that going for it.  The title alone should set it apart.  I'm also going to find/commission top-notch artwork and lots of it.  I think that's an important part of any RPG book.  

6. What kinds of perks and levels are we going to see in your adventure and is there going to be continuing support for it after the Kickstarter ends?

Some high-resolution maps of starships and things.  A new character sheet for Alpha Blue, stuff like that.  It's nice to have goals, but I don't want to go crazy with extras that might take away from the main event - the book itself.  After this one, I'm going back to The Outer Presence and Crimson Dragon Slayer, so Pussy Chasers will have to suffice for at least a year and a half.

7. Do you feel that as a writer and designer that Kickstarter has helped or hindered the table top rpg hobby in 2016?

For some, it has hindered, but many (including myself) have been helped, so I'm grateful for Kickstarter.  It's strange to see stuff I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole going for thousands and thousands of dollars, maybe even a hundred thousand dollars or more.  I can only hope that in 20 years, gamers are going to embrace a new Venger Satanis project for half a million or whatever.  You never know...

8. Where do as a designer fall in the spectrum of table top gaming? Are you an old school, new school, or some other facet of the hobby as a designer or writer of table top adventures?

I'm about a third old school as far as game mechanics, but two thirds old school as far as feel, aesthetics, passion, and creativity.  The new school has probably taught me what not to do just as much as it's taught me how to approach something.  My particular niche is sexy, darkness, gonzo, Lovecraftian... with a sense of humor.

9. If this Kickstarter funds what other projects can we expect to see from you in the coming year? How does this define your expectations for this project?

The success of both Alpha Blue and Girls Gone Rogue kind of drove me to Pussy Chasers, plus I felt a bit more inspired towards that avenue.  If things go well, my wife and I will be having another baby this fall.  So, this current Kickstarter project is the last one for awhile - at least a year.  However, along the way, I plan to release little 5 to 10 page PDFs when I can.  

10. Where in 2017 would you like to see yourself and your place in the table top hobby? 

In 2017, it would be nice to rest on my slimy green laurels for awhile.  Take a vacation from publishing.  Just sit back and GM, play, and see what people do with my works.  Maybe one day a book of mine will win some kind of award or I'll get invited to be the guest of honor at a gaming convention.  Or perhaps a roleplaying game company will ask me to contribute (for a large sum of money, of course) to their empire.  2017 is probably too early for that stuff, but stranger things have happened.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today on Swords & Stitchery, this has been your host Eric Fabiachi.