Tuesday, April 7, 2020

'The Dawn of Man' - A 'What If' Greyhawk Source book & Campaign Setting Set Up For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Or OSRIC

The year is Nineteen Eighty Two & The Dragon magazine issue number sixty eight hits the stands known as 'One of the Greyhawk issues' among collectors. This issue has Greyhawk weather, under water encounters for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Greyhawk Deities, & more. 

The 'Thrills & Chills' article would later become the basis for one of the most controversial & expansive source books for Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Greyhawk. At this time Kim Mohan had taken over as editor & chief but new editorial & writing blood was infused into TSR with the inclusion of Roger E. Moore & Ed Greenwood. All of this lays the ground work for 'The Dawn of Man' source book that would come out in 1998.  Yeah that's right we're gonna do the latest entry into  another 'What if'  what would have happened if the trail blazing orange spines of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition reprint books had continued with those incredible pieces of cover artwork. James Panarella did some incredible Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition orange spine mock up covers of supplement books that we wish existed.  Welcome to another journey to an alternative Earth where classic TSR never disbanded & to this day the company continues. Our action takes place in 1998 when TSR begins to cement their hold on Greyhawk, & we get dream writing & design  team of Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grub, James Ward,Ed Sullivan, Frank Mentzer,  & a bunch of the TSR illumine tackling the creation of the proto prehistoric Greyhawk setting during the age of Dragons, giant mammals, & even the occasional dinosaurs all set against the background of the world of Greyhawk. Welcome to the 'The Dawn of Man' source book!

Roger E. Moore is instrumental bringing this book to market by combining his knowledge of the planes, the proto gods of Greyhawk, & his relationship with Gary Gygax. Frank Mentzer & James Ward work closely on hewing the 
 'The Dawn of Man' into a sustainable setting with lots of module support. There are ties in 
'The Dawn of Man' source book with new human & humanoid races, a boat load of new classes, lots of spells especially shaman,druid, & cleric spells & PC options, along with lots of adventure & a bright spark of a connection to Bill SlavicsekRichard Baker Alternity rpg. One of the latest in a long line of science fiction rpgs in the Ares line by Gary Gygax & James Ward. 

'The Dawn of Man' source book back focused into the adventure of survival itself as the party was a part of a clan or tribe. The tribal structure a key of survival among the wilds of pre historic Greyhawk. This was an old school & very proto Robert E. Howard setting with touches of Clark Ashton Smith's influence infused through out. But this was Gary Gygax's baby. This makes 'The Dawn of Man' source book both a first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & a second edition Gary Gygax Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book. This was a move championed by both Ernie & Luke Gygax head of their respective divisions of the family corporate empire. The corporate holdings had spread out  into the highly successful Dungeons & Dragons film franchise, restaurants, theme parks, etc.
'The Dawn of Man' source book clocked in at one hundred & forty pages tying into 'Journey to The Stars' source book in a fundamental level. What made it controversial was the ties to the proto prehistoric Greyhawk setting. Here there were lots of grumbles among the Greyhawk fans with it being a 'true Greyhawk' setting and consistent with Gary Gygax's vision.

'The Dawn of Man' source book would go on to form the basis for the highly successful collaborations between Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer in the form of the DM series of modules. These included DM1 The Houses of Dread, DM2 The Witch Queen of Oerth, DM3 The Drawing of The Seven, & finally DM4 The Castles of the Unholy.

Ten Ways To Incorporate 'The Dawn of Man' Source book into Your Own Campaigns 

  1. Bring your current adventuring party into the proto prehistoric Greyhawk setting & allow them to experience the deadliness of the world of Greyhawk 
  2. Exploit the connections between the Forgotten Realms & 'The Dawn of Man' tribal magics in 'Sword & Cavern' adventures. 
  3. Explore the dangerous & twisted beginnings of lichdom & the real reason for the sea of dust in Greyhawk. 
  4. Four bring down the hammer of the mysterious proto Greyhawk  godlings into your current campaign. 
  5. Bring home the dangers that some of the 'instruments of the gods' left behind on Greyhawk into your current campaign. 
  6. Strange & mysterious tombs are found all of the time on Greyhawk & some still with their proto lich occupants. These can destroy a campaign or wipe out a party of even experienced adventurers. 
  7. The artifacts of the mysterious lords of the Abyss still exist in the wild corners of Greyhawk & they appear from time to time. Use these to draw player's PC's into 'The Dawn of Man' setting. 
  8. The pre god horrors of 'Dawn of Man' could still be stalking some of the mega dungeons of Greyhawk or even worse the space ways. Use them sparingly but as a menace for higher level parties. 
  9. Time travel enables the DM to exploit major NPC's of the 'Dawn of Man' source book in their own campaigns. 
  10. The portal to 'The Dawn of Man' setting is still on one of the levels of Castle Greyhawk's dungeons. This could be an epic quest for a Greyhawk campaign. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

'Journey to The Stars' - A 'What If' Science Fantasy Campaign Set Up For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Or OSRIC

The year is Nineteen Eighty Six & 'Journey to The Stars' has  premiered!  'Journey to The Stars' is Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition & Gamma World space & science fantasy campaign book. Hi folks we're gonna do another 'What if'  what would have happened if the trail blazing orange spines of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition reprint books had continued with those incredible pieces of cover artwork. James Panarella did some incredible Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition orange spine mock up covers of supplement books that we wish existed. This time the dream writing & design  team of Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grub, James Ward,Ed Sullivan, Frank Mentzer,  & a bunch of the TSR illumine have gotten together to publish the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book that takes your Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign to the stars! 

James Ward & Gary Gygax have published this book to take on the block buster of Mega Traveler the hot new incarnation of the classic Traveler rpg. Gary Gygax & co. are flush with cash after the surprise Saturday morning  hits of 'The Dungeons & Dragons cartoon & 'Greyhawk Adventures' after school cartoon. They want a cut of the science fiction market now & looking back they see that they've got 'S3 Expedition To the Barrier Peaks' By Gary Gygax  in the TSR  archives. 'Journey to The Stars' takes parts of this classic science fantasy module this book  has Gary Gygax & James Ward telling the tale of the recovery mission & expedition  to Greyhawk.

 The 'Journey to The Stars' source book brings a foul wizard from the depths of Greyhawk's Blackmoor  & this source book bridges the gap into Blackmoor's ancient Greyhawk past with the 'City of the Gods'
The PC's have the chance to cross over into Gamma Terra's multi-module metaplot, which involved rebuilding an ancient 'sky chariot':
  • GW6, Alpha Factor by Kim Eastland
  • GW7, Beta Principle by Bruce Nesmith
  • GW8, Gamma Base by Kim Eastland
  • GW9, Delta Fragment by Kim Eastland
  • GW10, Epsilon Cyborgs by Kim Eastland
All of this culminates in the GW11 Omega Project but this time the PC's have the chance to take their own  Space Faring adventures to the stars!

The real version of GW11 Omega Project can be downloaded from Wayne's Books here. 

The 'Journey to The Stars' source book is considered a classic because it gives new space adventuring classes,new Greyhawk ruins & dungeons, tons of adventure hooks, lots of techno magical items, lots of appendixes for science fantasy, & bridges the gap into Jeff Grubb's Manual of the Planes .

The 'Journey to The Stars' source book would lay all of the foundations for the classic Spelljammer setting & Gary Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition which saw the return of Dave Arneson to TSR in Eighty Nine. This marked Dave Arneson  writing of the 'City of the Gods' adventure source book for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The epic classic adventure source book that bridged Mystara, Blackmoor, & Greyhawk.

This marked one of the turning points of TSR when TSR first purchased Wizards of Coast & then the assets of Hasbro incorporated. They would go on to make James Ward the head of the Ares division their highly successful science fiction, toy, & much later on in house miniatures gaming vision which saw the release of the Battle System, Gamma Marauders & finally the Chainmail system. All of these are still going strong! 

 'Journey to The Stars' would lay the foundation for the highly successful JS series of modules including JS1 The Long Ladder, SJ2 The Greyhawk Gambit, SJ3 Acererak's Evil, & of course JS4 The Battle of The Company of Seven all of which were written by Gary Gygax & co.

Ten Ways to Incorporate 
 'Journey to The Stars' Into Your Home Campaign.
  1.  The adventure hooks from  'Journey to The Stars' easily means that space craft being the center of a Greyhawk campaign can twist player's expectations  leading to even low level adventures becoming science fantasy focused. 
  2. Doug Niles N1 Cult of the Reptile God could easily be moved ad hoc to a Greyhawk colony and none would be the wiser. 
  3. Many of the Journey To The Stars artifacts are easily incorporated into a regular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign to give it that science fantasy flare. 
  4. The hints about  'Journey to The Stars' connections to many of the Fiend Folio's monsters & creatures gives a decidedly British connection with many of the TSR U.K.'s adventures. 
  5. The Cat Lord's palace on Greyhawk's moon is rife for all kinds of intrigues and swashbuckling adventure. 
  6. Greyhawk Adventures by James Ward has several adventure threads that can easily be plugged into a  'Journey to The Stars' campaign or even a mini adventure. 
  7. Kim Eastland's articles in Dragon (Issue 125 - Sep 1987) have several elements easily incorporated into a 'Journey to The Stars' campaign. RIP Kim Eastland. 
  8. The evil lurking on Greyhawk's moons will not wait there for ever PC's are going to be needed to clear out the dungeons there perfectly suited for a 'Journey to The Stars' campaign.
  9. The gods of Greyhawk will not wait forever & clerics are going to be needed for the proto Greyhawk colonies that are beset by ancient evil in a 'Journey to The Stars' campaign. 
  10. The massive influx of evil humanoid races in their star ships is a major sticking point for a 'Journey to The Stars' campaign & will have to be dealt with by the DM. 

Review & Commentary on 'The Ruins of the River Gates' By Andrew Hamilton From Footprints (Issue 24 - Jan 2019) Free OSR Fanzine

"This fortification dates back hundreds of years and is nearly a complete ruin. However, river travelers must still pass between the twin towers that overlook the waterway; made difficult by a set of rapids that must either be navigated carefully or portaged around (quickly and cautiously, as the ruins have housed trouble in the past.) The rapids were created when the bridge and gates that once controlled passage up and down the river collapsed long, long ago. Over time, the Ruins of the River Gate have gained a fell reputation."

"Ruins of the River Gates (adventure)"

An OSRIC/1E compatible adventure for 6 to 8 PCs of levels 3 to 6.

So while on Facebook late last night I was talking with a friend about running a dungeon delve but many of the classics are way too well known today. We spoke about  Footprints (Issue 24 - Jan 2019) & its mini module  'The Ruins of the River Gates (adventure)'. Now there's some great content in this issue especially the Lovecraftian monsters & minor deities. But those are another blog entry. Hell I'm saving em. Let's get back to  'The Ruins of the River Gates (adventure)'. This is a mini module unto itself & it has everything that a DM needs to drop his players into a rather nasty adventure location. 
There's a really nice rumor table to start things off &  'The Ruins of the River Gates (adventure)' has a sort of Hammer Horror vibe about it. Author  Andrew Hamilton takes the players on a guided tour of the inner weirdness of the 'Ruins of the River Gates slowly building encounters & destroying PC's as they go. The whole affair feels like a grind house horror adventure translated over to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. 

Striges, giant rats, & a gallery of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons finest  populates this adventure making  'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) a nice change up for players. There are even the occasional Monster Manual II monster in here.  
'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) allows the DM to bring the Gothic horror feel without the 'complete kill off' factor that many mid range adventures have.
All in all I feel that  'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) makes Footprints (Issue 24 - Jan 2019) worth the download.
But what makes 'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) is the fact that it can easily be slipped into the B2 Keep on The Borderlands By Gary Gygax & the  'The Caves of the Unknown Adventure' By R.C. Pinnell OSR triad.  That I spoke about on the blog the other day.
 Now in no way,shape or form I'm I belittling the rest of the content in Footprints (Issue 24 - Jan 2019) Far from it, the articles are solid & very well done but 'Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) is perfect for adding into an existing campaign or OSR system.
  1. 'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) is a perfect Greyhawk campaign adventure that goes without saying. 
  2. 'The Ruins of the River Gates' (adventure) could be dropped into Ravenloft whole cloth & with a bit luck the N1 Cult of the Reptile God module By Douglas Nile could be added in the back end making it a horror option for the DM. 
  3. There is an ancient lich or evil that has been using the 'The Ruins of the River Gates' as battery for its resurrection as a part of its evil schemes. 
  4. There are a number of Lovecraftian evils that have been animating the evils of 'The Ruins of the River Gates'. See Footprints (Issue 24 - Jan 2019) for a number of Lovecraftian options for this very adventure. 
  5. Bandits in the area are using one of the side ruins of  'The Ruins of the River Gates' & they've brought a curse upon themselves & the surrounding villages. The bandits alive now serve the evil.
  6.  'The Ruins of the River Gates' is a part of a network of tunnels that feeds into an evil cult's schemes. 
  7. Parts of the  'The Ruins of the River Gates' could hold the bones of the true rulers of the land & might be a part of an evil curse upon several regions in a campaign ripe for adventure expansion. 
  8. There is something 'otherworldly' about  'The Ruins of the River Gates' & while the adventurers are exploring its mysteries they are transported to Ravenloft. 
  9. 'The Ruins of the River Gates'  is connected to the T1 The village of Hommlet because of the evil cults that one raised the land.
  10. 'The Ruins of the River Gates'  are a part of the keeps & castles  of Greyhawk that  guard the planes against planar  marauders & the like but haven't been used in eons so they've fallen to evil.
But for me the real connect for 'The Ruins of the River Gates'  to be used as a a part of X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)" (1981), by Tom Moldvay. All of the vital clues are there for  'The Ruins of the River Gates'  to become a part of the fog-shrouded Castle Amber's estate. The horrors of the ruins are perfectly suited for Province of Averoigne - a fictional area in Medieval France that was created by "weird fiction" author Clark Ashton Smith! 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

'The Politics of Hell' Books III A 'What If' Infernal & Devilish Campaign Set Up For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Or OSRIC Part II

Our game of 'What if' continues in part two of our Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition 'Politics of Hell' series. Where I begin to outline more of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons orange spine reprints & expansions from an alternative universe;" Let's play a game of 'What If' what would have happened if the trail blazing orange spines of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition reprint books had continued with those incredible pieces of cover artwork. James Panarella did some incredible Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition orange spine mock up covers of supplement books that we wish existed. "
Fans would have to wait more then a year for the dream team of Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grub, James Ward,Ed Sullivan, Frank Mentzer,  & a bunch of the TSR illumine get together & finish 'The Politics of Hell'. Robert Kuntz is brought on board (or has been behind the scenes) & Gary Gygax as well as Ernie & Alex are busy play testing the next round of 'The Politics of Hell book III'. The year is 1990 & TSR has its hands full with the other titles of James Panarella's 'The Ways', 'The Lands',etc.. Why?! Because all of these titles are doing exactly what BECMI's Mystara's Known World Gazetteers did but their doing it for Greyhawk. Greyhawk as well as the Forgotten Realms is getting the full publishing treatment. TSR is a juggernaut in the rpg market taking on companies such as the upstart White Wolf & many others during this the alternative world rpg Golden age. 'The Politics of Hell III' picks up right at the end of the infernal  events of  book II. The upstart & outsider devil war is full swing in Hell. And the planes are shaking from the war as the gods deal with the aftermath of infernal Hell war starting to make the Prime Material shake to its foundations. 'The Politics of Hell III' has new PC classes, military forces, new monsters, adventure hooks, dark connections to some of Hell's dark secrets & hints of the connections to James Ward's Greyhawk Adventure book.

The boiling warfare in Hell has enabled some of the most dangerous entities in the infernal realm to escape into the war. The PC's must delve deep into a high level dungeon ruin complex  on Maladomini  the seventh layer of Hell, 'the Hell of Ruins'. The Gods of Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, etc are getting ready for aremgeddon because the infernal forces are leaking into the mortal realms. The possessors & their infernal ilk detailed in Dragon magazine Issue 42  "Demons, Devils and Spirits" by Tom Moldvay have escaped from the vaults of  Maladomini. The worlds of Imagination are in grave danger & only the PC's can bail them out.

The dream writing & designing team of TSR has been busy connecting the Greyhawk & Forgotten Realm dots to Ward & Kuntz's Legends & Lore. Dragon magazine articles, appendixes,etc are all finding their way into the 'The Politics of Hell III.'  MephistophelesAsmodeusBaalzephon, the other archdevils are very angry because they've literally been pushed with their backs against the planes walls. All of their schemes, lies, etc are exposed!

 Across the planes material paladins,clerics, & holy warriors are called to the front lines of what could be planar Armageddon. 'The Politics of Hell III' has all kinds of new information that sets the stage for 'Gary Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition'. 'The Politics of Hell' books are a sprawling Advanced Dungeons & Dragons mega campaign  that takes full advantage of  Gary Gygax's & Frank Mentzer's T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil II book. This book takes the events of T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil & continues it as the Abyss begins to take advantage of  Belial's warfare. Satan is going to have to take both Astaroth & Belial in hand with the PC's background help doing a lot of the heavy lifting with more dungeon delving. The PC's are going to have to act as a fulcrum between the gods & devils lest all out war on the planes spells absolute doom for both Greyhawk & The Forgotten Realms.  
'The Politics of Hell III' can be used in ten ways: 

  1. The evil infernal cults of Greyhawk may not stand down at the end of the events of the book causing the PC's to mop up. 
  2. The artifacts that the PC's pull from Hell must be put back at the end of the campaign events of 'The Politics of Hell III'. 
  3. The sprawling infernal horrors of Hell are going cause all kinds of havoc enabling campaign play for years to come. 
  4. Political destabilization in Greyhawk means that the PC's may have to root out all kinds of infernal influences.
  5. The PC's are going to have to deal with the gods getting very angry at their interference with the events of  'The Politics of Hell III'
  6. The treasures that the PC's recovered from Hell might cause the PC's more trouble then their worth. 
  7. The threat of Luz is now in full blown horror on Greyhawk after Hell has shown its weakness. 
  8. Asmodeus may fully be aware of the PC's & have his attention. This isn't a good thing as he could recruit them for other missions for Hell to mop up since they did such a good job. 
  9.  'The Politics of Hell III' sets off some of the dark secrets of Hell who knows what other monsters are hidden in the lowest depths of the plane. 
  10. The sprawling horror of this campaign lays bare some of the threats that Hell poses to the planes. The PC's may well be questioned or worse by the kings & queens of Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms. 
And what of Mystara?! What happens if the Immortals get a whiff of the events of  'The Politics of Hell III'? They will slam & lock the door behind them?! This sets up even more dangers for other OSR systems.  'The Politics of Hell ' books for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons would indeed be an epic campaign. Now if they only existed?! 

Friday, April 3, 2020

'The Politics of Hell' Books I & II - A 'What If' Infernal & Devilish Campaign Set Up For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Or OSRIC

Let's play a game of 'What If' what would have happened if the trail blazing orange spines of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition reprint books had continued with those incredible pieces of cover artwork. James Panarella did some incredible Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition orange spine mock up covers of supplement books that we wish existed.  So I reached out through Facebook to James about three mock up book covers that absolutely hooked into my mind tonight & my imagination. Know I actually know James Panarella  writing from a book he wrote called, 'The Roleplayers'. That's a blog review for another time.  Now the Politics of Hell AD&D first edition books never existed but what if they did? What would be in them, how could they be used, & could one set up an infernal campaign with the first two for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition or even OSRIC?
Right now let's get back to Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's 'The Politics of Hell'. The year is 1989  Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grub, James Ward,Ed Sullivan, Frank Mentzer,  & a bunch of the TSR illumine get together & publish 'The Politics of Hell'.  The 'Satanic Panic' folks lose their ever living minds over the book. The fervor over the book propels it up the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons charts as a classic. The book clocks in at one hundred & twenty eight pages, has connections to Jeff Grub's Manual of the Planes, some new PC classes, several new articles on adventuring in Hell, details on the first six layers of Hell & it updates as well as expands upon "The Politics of Hell" by Alexander von Thorn originally appeared in issue number 28 (August 1979) of 'The Dragon'.

'The Politics of Hell' book takes the information found in "The Politics of Hell" by Alexander von Thorn & marries it up with Ed Greenwood's two-part article "The Nine Hells" was in Dragon magazine  issues 75 and 76 (July and August 1983). And "Nine Hells revisited"in Dragon magazine's issue number 91 (November 1984).

How is it married? Through the infernal powers described in 'The Monster Manual II' & "The Politics of Hell" by Alexander von Thorn kick everything off;

"Asmodeus has reorganized Hell to suit his purposes. Satan had originally divided Hell into nine distinct planes, in order to keep track of which damned soul went where (no pun intended). Asmodeus has dispensed with the old structuring and doled out the planes as sort of fiefdoms under his suzerainty. He kept the ninth plane as his personal demesne and granted the sixth and seventh to Baalzebul, out of respect for his previous service, making him the only devil to rule two entire planes personally. Dispater and Geryon were also granted entire planes because they were the first to support Asmodeus, and they have since been his most loyal followers. The other planes are divided among the other six dozen or so arch-devils. Astaroth was offered a plane, but he declined the responsibility. Asmodeus has used his position to increase his personal strength to the point that he is now the most powerful devil to be found on the nine planes of Hell. This is unheard of, but it was barely permissible by the Laws of the Multiverse because the departure of Satan and Belial from Hell and the reduction in strength that Baalzebu1 took left a slight imbalance in the Multiverse which Asmodeus used to increase his own strength. And so, all the planes of Hell are now securely under the dominion of Asmodeus, Lord Of Hell."

Satan & the other outcast devils are launched into an infernal war  by Belial; "In the presence of both Asmodeus and Belial, the armies of Hell will make an attempt to capture Belial, because they do not want the anger of the Lord of Hell upon them. Belial’s other allies are Satan and his followers. His enemies are the same as those of Satan, except for the armies of Hell as stated. However, the other devils have more enmity for Belial than for Satan, because Belial did a lot of Satan’s dirty work when they were in charge, and Belial seemed to enjoy harassing the devils."
Events begin to escalate because of one world setting & that's Greyhawk. Adventurers are responsible for the imbalance of the planes because of the opening of the ruins of  T14 The Temple of Elemental Evil By Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer. This follows swiftly the events of WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982), by Gary Gygax. T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax forms one part of a book end according the Drivethrurpg entry on T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil; "the four modules do form a nice adventuring continuity: T1 is "introductory to novice level"; T1-4 carries that up as high as level 8 (and possiblly higher); S4 runs levels 6-8; and WG4 goes from levels 8-10.
In his "Greyhawk Grognard" blog, Joseph Bloch suggests that Iuz might have been the lynchpin holding the arc together, since he's involved with the Temple of Elemental Evil and is also the son of Iggwilv from "Caverns."" This imbalance on the side of the demonic forces of chaotic evil allows their opposite evil number of law to go out of balance.

Belial takes the opportunity to disrupt the ranks of the armies of Hell recruiting a group of high level adventurers to recover a treasure hidden on the plane of Avernus, the first layer of Hell. TiamatBargrivyekKurtulmakSekolahBelDispaterMammonBelialLevistusGlasya, & Baalzebul are all going to play a part as the PC's race against time to brave the dungeons of Avernus, the first layer of Hell. Should  Asmodeus get wind of this coup then he will take revenge on the families of the PC's for disturbing the balance of Hell. 

Events quickly take up steam & hell fire as Nergal whom Belial has been playing too takes the opportunity to try & seize a plane of Hell in 'The Politics of Hell II' By Gary Gygax. This book has the next three layers of Hell, exhaustive details on the armies of Hell,  the second major NPC's, the banished cohorts of Tiamat, the real low down on getting out of Hell, major artifacts of Hell, several dungeons & details on the city state of Dis, & how all of this relates to the  Greyhawk setting including a detailed study of the weaponry of Hell. 

Many of the details of 'The Politics of Hell II' book has extensive information on  the interactions between Satan, Belial, & Astaroth whose ranks are counted among the outcast rabble of Hell. This book does not go into the major conflicts of the 'The Politics of Hell II'. This is saved for the upcoming 'Politics in Hell III' supplement. 

Ten Ways The Politics of Hell Book I & II
Can Make a Campaign Devilishly Better 

  1. The PC's can become embroiled in the affairs of a manic cult of devilish worshipers on Greyhawk. Events escalate quickly as the reigns of power get thrown out of balance. 
  2. The infernal outcasts are watching events on Greyhawk unfold & are looking for a weakness. Recent events lead them to suspect that there's an opportunity
  3. The nine planes politics connects up to the events of some of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules into more subtle context. 
  4. Events on the prime material are pulling the nine Hells into total war. 
  5. Adventurers caused these events & could make things much easier to solve. 
  6. Most of the major NPC's in the Nine Hells are capable of quietly handling  even higher end adventurers with little problem. 
  7. The devils are major sources of treasure & this is a good hook for the PC's. 
  8. Humans are going to be the go to villains for facing down parties of adventurers. 
  9. The Devils of the Nine Hells are infernal gods in their own rights & this imbalance in the planes is going grab the attention of the gods. 
  10. The Hell's are major areas of pychic real estate & any power struggles for the planes are highest stake campaigns unto themselves. Adventurers are going to be wild cards at even the best of times use this.  
The Politics of Hell books I & II could easily be ported over to an OSR game such as OSRIC or Goblinoid Games  Labyrinth Lord with little issue. The stats would be the same & the tone has all of the hallmarks of a great campaign set up.

Review & Commentary On 'The Caves of the Unknown Adventure' By R.C. Pinnell As An Option For B2 Gary Gygax's Keep On The Borderlands

"Beneath the Chaotic Caves that threatened a nearby Keep is a lair more dangerous for adventurers willing to descend and investigate. Designed for 3rd to 6th level characters, this Home Brew extension of the B2 will challenge even experienced players."
So over on Facebook a post came up on last night's B2 Keep On The Borderlands commentary,'What do you do about the Caves of The Unknown?' Well, I didn't know about B2.5 Caves of the Unknown By By Charley Phipps, Thom Wilson, Mike Badolato from ThrowiGames & NTRPGCon a B/X  module Levels 2-4. Brice over at the Ten Foot Pole blog has a pretty solid review of  the adventure. 

Glen Halstrom also has a review of the B2.5 Caves of the Unknown & its a very good overview of the module. But these are only some of the options for a dungeon master wanting to run some classic D&D elements for the Caves of Chaos. 

Instead since last year I was running rc pinnell aka Thorkhammer 's BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of The Unknown. This was after doing some research on the  Dragon's Foot site thread.   BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of the Unknown is a free module on Lulu. Its an easy down load & its not a bad little adventure module. It clocks in at eight pages & it does what the dungeon master expects. 

BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of The Unknown does exactly what it sets out to do & that is provide the players with a clean out module for this location. But this is a deadly little romp. Don't expect a quick two game session run through. There is some actual backstory here & the caves are occupied by a deadly little band of monsters. The author provides monsters with motivation,reason, & really this isn't a bad little adventure as a side quest after B2 Keep on The Borderlands is done. If I start overgeneralizing BEX1 then I could potentially spoil the whole adventure but by all means if you want a good side quest for a B/X Dungeons & Dragons game then this might do. The third option that I've used all of the way back in 2014 is the Caves of The Unknown done by the Breeyark!  site as a part of the Project on the Borderlands . Makes sure to download & use the Cobweb Caverns as a part of the whole affair. This is a deadly little addition to B2 Keep on the Borderlands .

Another resource that I love to refer back to is the Zenopus Archives article on B2 Keep On The Borderlands. There is a ton of stuff here to pick & choose for the dungeon master to add spice to their version of the Keep.
Here are ten ideas for running B2 The Keep on the Borderlands By Gary Gygax:
  1. The keep was a military point for the struggle against the bandits who were backed by the slave lords & now the network is making headway into the borderlands once again. This is due to the elemental evil cults also helping to stir the pot. 
  2. The keep is part of a net work of fortresses that were used by ancient armies and now the evil around them is brewing once again can the PC's help to turn the tide. 
  3. There are a number of Lovecraftian evils that have been drawing the humanoids to the area. This option I used with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 
  4. The caves of chaos are part of ancient machinery for the generation of humanoids & they must be shut down at all costs. 
  5. Humanoid tribes are drawn to the caves by the ancient caves as a apart of a military rite and this will last for thirty days seeing the massive war against the human population. The rite must be disrupted. 
  6. The lands around the keep are the breeding grounds to the ancient lizard men & this connects in with the N1 Cult of the Reptile God module By Douglas Nile 
  7. There is an ancient lich or evil that has been trying to reassemble itself in one of the dungeons around the keep and its called back its army of humanoids to it. It must be stopped. 
  8. The order of knights who once owned the keep are trying to raise the funds to try & buy the keep from the king. They hire the party to search the dungeons for their treasures! 
  9. The keep is connected to the T1 The village of Hommlet because of the evil cults that one raised the land. The cults secretly have agents that watch over these places lest any good adventurers or knights begin to take back these places. These cults are funded by the slave lords.
  10. These keeps & castles  of Greyhawk guard the planes against planar  marauders & the like but haven't been used in eons so they've fallen to evil.
A Free Version of 'The Caves of the Unknown Adventure' By R.C. Pinnell Here


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Notes - The Thirteen Realms & S1-4 Realms of Horror by Gary Gygax, & Lawrence Schick.

So over the last two days I've been refining campaign notes, writing up NPC's, & going over the timeline events of my Cha'alt/Godbound campaign. Fleshing out bits & pieces of the world plus cannibalizing several years of other OSR campaign notes. Several monster species are being pulled out of the AD&D  Monster Manual, the Creature Catalog,etc.

The PC's were god bound heroes summoned to this Earth & things have been getting steadily nastier as time goes on. The war rages on but the Lovcraftian gods of Cha'alt are starting to stir & grow restless. The lamia queens of Cha'alt have begun to move across the desert landscape with their caravans bringing with them the corruption & horror of their influence.

If your still looking to grab the hardback contact Venger Satanis right here.

The Cha'alt wave rages across the world & the thirteen realms are starting to replace their normal dimensional Earth counter parts. The thirteen  realms are starting to move into their place shifting Earth normality away. These thirteen  realms are as follows : 

  1. Europe - Wasteland ruins ruled over by barbarian warlords and the occasional Nazi wizard. Some pockets of weird technology created by said wizards. OD&D monsters and mutants roam through through this landscape. 
  2. Greenland and Iceland  - Realm of Dark Elven warriors/wizards among the volcanoes and green rolling hills. Drawn from Scandinavian mythology and cheesy fantasy movies. Greenland is the seat of the Hyperborean empire on Earth. 
  3. The UK - Gothic Sunset a world of Gothic horror & violence. Monsters of classic horror stalk the landscape. 
  4. USSR - The Shattered  Realms - Barbarian warlords,wizards, green skin humanoid tribes all drawn from Grind House Fantasy 80's movies. 
  5. Canada - "The Inner Earth Invades" Realm - Paleo terror tears through the ruins of Canadian cities while Sasquatch mutants roam the wilderness. Some pockets of high inner Earth tech! 
  6. United States -  A. East Coast - This Is Lovecraft country  - This is the pulp realm of New England. B. The West Coast -  A "Road Nomads style world" think 80's television like Airwolf, The Highway man, etc. with lots of Post Apocalyptic goodness! Here Cha'alt's desert nature has taken dire hold. 
  7. Mexico and South America - Lovecraftian Technological Nightmare realms - Forbidden gods, weird cults, and mythological nightmares 
  8. China and India - Zombie Realms - Filled with Dark Magic, forbidden rites, and ancient wizards! This realm of zombie horror is one of the most dangerous. 
  9. Australia - Dinoverse - A world where the dinosaurs evolved into humanoid forms. 80's and 90's technology with humanoid dinosaurs and awesomeness 
  10. Japan and Indonesia - The Ancient Space Gods Return Realm - Where the ancient gods of space and time have returned to terrorize mankind! The rule of the saucer has begun 
  11. Africa- The Realms of Interzone - The Realms of Naked Lunch and Pulp Africa 
  12. Antarctica  - The "At The Mountains of Madness" Realms - Lovecraftian masters return to claim what is rightfully theirs. 
  13. Glanauaethan - The Fallen Utopia - A realm of shattered high technology and decadence, this reality of survivors, mutant tribes, androids, and former space travelers  are strangers in a strange land. Drawn from countless PD science fictional movies . This group of rag tag survivors has come from an alternative Earth where a cosmic plague has ravaged most of humanity. This group of time traveling refugees uses its know of a possible future to recruit adventurers from across the realms to advance its own mysterious and some would say twisted agenda.
So basically the realms are going to connect up with various night roads that lead into some of these realms. Amid  this dimensional shifting I was thinking of running S1-4 Realms of Horror by  Gary Gygax, &  Lawrence Schick S1-4 Realms of Horror  is a super module collection that came out way back in Eight Seven. S1-4 Realms of Horror collects & connects  Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth as one gigantic campaign

We are talking literal years of game play here to even get this loose campaign off the ground. Cha'alt keeps on using its influence on my brain as a sort of weird quisi Gamma World/Rifts rpg influence.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Eight Appendix N Free Public Domain Authors & Some Thoughts on Expert Dungeons & Dragons Adventures

Here is a quick updated Appendix N style list perfect for a Sword & Sorcery style OSR or old school campaign. These would be perfect for setting up a Dungeons & Dragons Expert game campaign.

All of these are available for download from various sources. 
They represent a nice cross section of only a few of the many tales of sword and sorcery but the reason is that many of these stories take place in the wilderness & dungeon works  of their settings. 
  1. Quest of the Star Stone - CL Moore 
  2. A Siege of Cranes - Benjerman Rosenbaum
  3. The Spawn of Dagon -Henry Kuttner
  4. Beyond the Black River (First Published in Weird Tales, May and June 1935)- Robert Howard 
  5. The Stories of James Branch Cabell 
  6. The Black God's Kiss - C.L. Moore
This gives the works a nice touch stone for what the dungeon master can bring to table without dropping into the usual tropes of the 'wilderness experience' for table top gaming. Another good example of what I'm talking about is Robert E.Howard's Queen of the Black Coast. The action shifts to the pirate infested waters around Kush. The implication here is that there is far more to Dungeons & Dragons then the usual monster infested ruins & dungeons.

Taking adventure elements gives the dungeon master all of the control with the player's dealing with the realities of life in the adventurer's campaign by adding a  bit of everything, drawing on ancient history, medieval history, various real-world myth cycles, Tolkien's Middle-earth, Leiber's Lankhmar, Vance's Dying Earth, and Howard's Hyborian Age. This allows the dungeon master to keep things fresh & the campaign moving along.

Expert Dungeons & Dragons was all about picking up & moving the game into other unexplored & expanded upon levels. It wasn't just about adding in more levels & experience but to grab that sense of expanding adventure for your old school campaigns. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Review & Commentary On “Ynys Bach”: A Celtic-flavoured one-page island adventure for OSR & Old School Campaigns

"Amid the rolling swells of a great ocean – possibly the Sea of Os'r – stands a craggy isle. PCs might find Ynys Bach by chance while “wavecrawling” or they might be led here by a treasure map. The surf pounds against a rocky shoreline, but two beaches of pale sand make viable landing sites for seafarers. "
“Ynys Bach” is a Celtic mythological themed one page adventure  for mid level play for old school games. This is a very nasty little piece of business packed into a one page package from 2013 let me tell ya. “Ynys Bach”  works on three levels. One it works as an adventure location especially for Celtic Otherworld island adventure location encounters. Alan Brodie does an excellent job of ramping up the action with his Formorians being absolutely nasty.
I can absolutely see using 
“Ynys Bach”  as a mid tier to upper level adventure mini module in Celtic themed Original Dungeons & Dragons or in a Swords & Wizardry campaign. But this is not a module to take lightly.

 A  Fomorian from the Advanced
Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II

Where could 
“Ynys Bach”  dropped into in  OSR or old school gaming systems?! “Ynys Bach” could be dropped whole cloth into an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea campaign whole cloth. The island can easily be dropped into the edge of the world of Hyperborea & it wouldn't be out of the Sword & Sorcery weird tales theme of the game. 
“Ynys Bach”  would also fit as a last out post of the Formorian royals or as single former fortress to a degenerate kingdom lurking under the waves. 

The Fomorians, as depicted by John Duncan (1912)
 Claw Carver does an excellent job of setting up “Ynys Bach”  as a greater part of an island hopping campaign something that we see quite a bit of in Celtic mythology. I've used this gambit several times in campaigns to bring home the dangerous & nasty business of 'wave crawling'. Overall I think that  “Ynys Bach” succeeds on a number of levels & especially as a solid mid level one off OSR adventure location. 
I could easily see this one page adventure being used for Castles & Crusades's 
The Codex Celtarum with some very minor adjustments. The PC's are exploring & exploiting the former realms of the gods. Their holdings are now in the hands of the ancient twisted giants of legend. 

 On the flip side of the coin “Ynys Bach”  could be used as the basis for a complete rework of a Celtic mythological Adventurer, Conqeuror,King rpg adventure in which the PC's are challenging & taking over the ancient holdings of the gods. This island is one more chess piece on the board. 
Given this I can also see using  “Ynys Bach” as a part of an old school high level D&D Expert campaign with a Celtic mythological bent. This adventure location could be dropped whole cloth into a full on Expert D&D  Sword & Sorcery campaign as well. For Mentzer Dungeons & Dragons we're talking easily The 
D&D Companion Rules Set (1984). 

Ynys Bach"  Is Available Right Here.