Sunday, June 17, 2018

Of Space Princess Machinations & Alpha Blue Busts - Venger Satanis's Latest Kickstarter & OSR Space Opera Campaign Stall

So there's seven days to go on Venger Satanis's No One Warps For Free! Kickstarter & I've been quietly making campaign notes. I've been thumbing through  my copy of Machinations of The Space Princess & Alpha Blue. Coming up with ideas, beginning encounters, etc. all as a launch point for this sleazy sci fi campaign. Sounds great right?!

Here's the problem, the real world has caught up with several of my players! Yup the dread specter of work scheduling has prevented me from actually hatching this hybrid of evil & sleaziness on my players.
The heart & soul of this idea was to give the free range ideas of Alpha Blue a bit of an OSR backbone with Machinations of the Space Princess. In the world of the OSR there are two flavors Dungeons & Dragons! So the core of Machinations is the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system done right with a space opera overlay. Not that new Disney Solo flavor but the Eighties 'Space Hunter In The Forbidden Zone' goodness. I had everything aligned with Machinations classes emulating Alpha Blue's space opera bordello vibe.

"Classes cover many of the basics; Experts, Killers, Psions, and Scholars. Each class has their own sub-specialties, HD, Attack Bonus and Skill Points. Psions get Psi Points and Power Points. In what seems reversed to me Psi-Points are your reserve of power to use your psionic powers and Power Points allow you to buy your Psychic Powers."

Many of the ideas that presented in Alpha Blue's Universal Exploits expansion book along with Girls Gone Rogue are already built right into the Machinations of the Space Princess system. So its kinda of a shame that I won't get to run this now. By the by a friend has borrowed my copy of Machinations of the Space Princess & now apparently gone to Florida with my book. I needed a new copy anyway. But seriously much of the Eighties Sci fi action that my players were looking for was covered in spades in Machinations. There is a lot of modifying out of PC elements & sci fi background material for PC's. So its not a big deal for the moment.

Its not as rules heavy as say Stars With Number but it gets the job done in style over space opera substance. Machinations of the Space Princess is closer to Lamentations of the Flame Princess in that regard. But structurally it works on a closer level to the type of O5R system that Alpha Blue thrives on. So my campaign notes, adventure ideas, & some of the conversion notes go up on a shelf for the moment.
So what happens when a campaign stalls out like this due to real world concerns:

  1. As the dungeon master don't get pissed off & frustrated! Seriously this sort of thing happens all of the time. Try to be understanding to your players. 
  2. Shelve it folks! Yeah I know it was a lot of work to get to this point & it sucks that you've got put it on a shelf but that happens. 
  3. Take it on line and look for players. With things like Roll20 & G+ there are a lot of options on line these days. 
  4. Now is the perfect opportunity to look for new players locally. Make a flyer & put it in the local hobby shop or comic book shop window. Be sure to interview players and get a good mix. 
  5. Re look at the campaign, seriously you can find holes you didn't know were there when you get some distance. 
  6. Make sure that the material is going to suit your players!

The  Alpha Blue supplement Alpha Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free Kickstarter! Go Here! 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

1d12 Random Mercenaries Encounters Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Evin crossed the field with purpose & watched the two warriors just emerging from the tree line. They had not seen his position yet. The way they held their spears indicated Jackian spearmen but this meant that they were a long way from home. It could also mean they were desperate & very dangerous individuals.
They didn't see Ajax the half caste warrior until he had circled around them. Asking these men for directions to a city the giant of a man already knew the way too.
Everything seemed to go well with them even though they held their spears in the ready position but Evin had expected this.There wasn't a Jackian wizard nearby or their might have been considerable trouble. The wizards ate their victims especially warriors in order consume their souls & their vitality. But these men were looking for work & asked Ajax for any leads. These were indeed strange times when even the enemies of the Northmen were looking for work through their enemies.
Evin put compound bow down as soon as Ajax began the long trot back to his blood brother's position.

The paths of fortune & glory are littered with adventurers, sell swords, & mercenaries of all stripes. These beings travel along a path shod with violence, gore, & danger. Adventurers are always encountering those in their own trade. These adventurers are often mercenaries given over to the life of adventure, danger, & intrigue. It is the perfect breeding ground for professional contacts in a life style that affords true real friends.

1d12 Random Mercenaries Encounters Table

  1. Uma The Bold - This 3rd level Amazon fighter is on a mission to avenge her family of over 30 years. She is brutal & very dangerous but also determined to have her revenge. She also seeks glory and the head of her sister's murder. 
  2. Tas Rel - This barbarian warrior of the 5th level seeks danger and treasure but will fight for a just cause. He often attaches himself to hopeless causes. 
  3. Rebara The Foolhardy -  This former wizard has turned his attention to the warriors ways but he holds onto the occult as he seeks the demon who drained his family dry. 
  4.  Takus - Warrior who loves his bastard sword & bow with his ancient arrows. He is 4the level but its often that he gets in over his head. 
  5. Hrus -  A sell spell that loves black magick so much that this wizard goes into battle trying to catch a glimpse of certain forbidden Hells that contain the greatest forbidden knowledge. 
  6. Gwir - This viking warrior is on the tract of a sect of demon worshipers who murdered  this man's family to their foul god of death.
  7.  Mary Revus -  A young woman taken from her world & thrust into the heart of this chaotic spider's web of lies and deception. She has become inducted into an Amazon tribe of cultists and warriors. She is now a 5th level warrior on a mission to find & slay her manipulator.
  8.  Randel the Wise -  This wizard of 6th level skill has become the terror of tribes of desert dwellers. He seeks the cup of ages and to slay its assassin owners.
  9.  Ava Rera - This Amazon warrior princess has taken to the life of a sell sword with abandoned as she slays those of a demon cult's army. She seeks the treasures of this order for dangerous occult reasons. 
  10. Dr. Tiss - This vile mercenary assassin seeks the soul of a pure & innocent to protect them from men like himself. He is a ruthless mercenary who seeks redemption on the countless lives he's ruined and family's he's destroyed. 
  11. Cardth Ray -This barbarian chief seeks the black magcians who slayed his entire family. He pays in gold and favors for he's services. 
  12.  Chi Gan - This 5th level mercenary fighter/monk seeks the men who murdered his mother. But he has become disillusioned with his chosen profession but seeks to make amends to those he has wronged!

Labyrinth Lord Free Across The Planes! The One Man Crusade Continues!

So yeah, I've been on this one man crusade for Labyrinth Lord for the past three or four weeks now. Why?! Well because the game doesn't get enough attention damn it! So its been an interesting uphill battle to say the least.
So I've gone back to the source material in this case way back to the Saturday, April 21st, 2012 Black Gate article by Daniel Proctor as to why he created Labyrinth Lord.

Already the kickstarter is half way funded! Seems that LL's on the uptick again! But how does the game stack up against Swords & Wizardry?Well in my research on the game I came across,  How does Swords & Wizardry differ from Labyrinth Lord?
Yes I totally posted this the other day but then I contrasted it with this Dragon foot forum thread; " BECMI, B/X, Dark Dungeons or Labyrinth Lord?"

" LL is derived from Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic/Expert but instead of a level 14 cap it goes up to level 20. LL is nice as it may not take your character up to level 36, but you do get to level 20 (with some classes) instead of level 14."
This was posted by

Dark Dungeons From Gurbintroll Games.

This wonderful little OSR retroclone has a number of  one very interesting wrinkles in it. One of those happens to be cross compatible rules for planejammers in it! They're not called that but that's exactly what they are so have at thee across the planes! Did I mention that Dark Dungeons is also a free PDF? Its one of my all time favorite clones & does an excellent job!

Friday, June 15, 2018

1d12 Random Sacred Totem Artifacts & Treasures Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns


Evin Thornkill watched the herd of one horns pass before him. He had no wish to get the giant animal's way. For his tribe these things were sacred animals but there was a strange skull sticking out of the patch of swamp ground. He'd seen in it last night glowing in the marsh land but he had a limited time before Alas Sure Walker the half caste warrior & his blood brother got back to camp. Alas was checking on the latest payment from their client. They had successfully navigated the low lands following the game trails until they found the ruins of the old fort. They had no wish to meet the hyena devil warriors who made their home there. They'd made camp some two miles East & Evin was on a scouting mission. Last night the first of the visions started in Evin's mind but his mother had taught him the way of such things. Now making his way around the herd he found himself staring into the black morass of the muck & slime. His hands grabbed the the painfully white bone instinctively & instantly he was taken elsewhere across the universe. He was something alien & else, he held the three bones skull in his tendrils & whispered the scared chants in the three tongues of the moon.The skull held the power for his brother's & sister's clutch even as the dreaded shoggoths closed in on the halls of power.
Suddenly he was awoken by the violent shaking of Alas, "Ahh your awake again! It is good to not have you screaming for the whole night. I've had to put this leather hide in your teeth to keep you biting off your own tongue"
"How long?!" the voice was alien & weird but it was own. He remembered bits & pieces of his far journey.
'About three days old friend'
'The skull?'
"That thing? Well I threw it back into the swamp. The dogs hated it & it must of smelt of the 'Ancient Things'.
'Don't worry I threw it very deep into the deepest part of the swamp'
"Why is the camp filled with these strange purple lizards?'
'Oh they started showing up about a day ago & always hover around you my friend' 
'What do they want?!'
"I don't know but '
'I do!', the voice was high pitched, excited & belonged to a lizard shaman covered in the purple silks & skins of the scared lizards.
Something tells me we are in for a long day', Alas shrugged & Evin groaned as he felt his head ache return.

Down from the hard winds of the Outer Darkness come artifacts & treasures belonging to the Tribes of Men who lost these during the Great Passing. These items are blessed with mysterious occult powers some say come from the Dark Forces. Others insist these artifacts were things lost in the Chaos Conflicts as Old Terra passed away. In addition to the major powers listed on these totem artifacts there is a 20% chance of these items having 1d6 minor spell like abilities. Those who pick up these items are blessed by the totem animal.
They may 30% chance be sought out by a shaman of the appropriate totem animal or spirit. These beings will have some small favor or boon to ask of the totem object's owner.
1d12 Random Sacred Totem Artifacts
& Treasures Table

  1. A bronze coated skull belonging to a small dinosaur that once belonged to a member of the Great Race of Yith. The skull has the ability to banish great undead or flying polyps once every new moon. This skull also speaks in prophetic rhyme each week  and those that hear it may be granted a +2 in battle 
  2. This beautifully carved bone & jade figure is of a bear spirit. The object will put its owner into a very deep meditative trance once per week. During this trance the owner will wander the lower astral realms & gain the wisdom, strength, & power of the bear. The owner will return in 1d4 days from this trance. 
  3. This small round geode has within it millions of crystals of amethyst & is sacred to the butterfly spirit. A being of utter chaos trapped with an amber prison. The owner is a able to obtain the fire of this being once per week. The owner's hand strikes gain +2 to all damage. 
  4. This strange brass & tin object is the essence of the warthog spirit. This spirit can once per day can possess the owner  granting them the power of a berserk. The warthog spirit can also heal 1d8 points of damage. 
  5. This long stick is holy to the three ice women of La Neara. The thing may be broken and instantly freeze everything within a 40 foot radius. This stick enables the owner to speak with the ice women who can grant several small boons to the owner. 
  6. This jade figure of a panther enables those who hold it to commune with the panther god. He is a fickle and difficult god at the best of times. 
  7. This is the foot of the conqueror  & it enables the owner to access the deep memory banks of humanity. This foot enables the owner to journey back 1d30 years 
  8. The spirit magnet of the Little King - This magnet allows the owner to attract themselves along the lines of the spirits. They can cast as if they were one level higher then what they are. The abilities of the magnet enable the caster to use offense spells at their leisure
  9. Twelve needles of the pain goddess enable the owner to determine the best course of her influence on any patient suffering with disease or illness. The needles allow the owner to commune with her once a week. 
  10. This totem doll enables the owner to access one of the twelve high spirits once a week. It also enables the owner to cast a sphere like cone of darkness within a 12 foot radius. The doll gives a strange aura about enabling the owner to cross over into the spirit realm for 1d20 turns 
  11.  Wise Councilor this strange statue enables the owner to speak in any language and to gain access to the totem bird spirit. The owner can rebuke undead and cast a power word stun as strange signs man was never to see appear. 
  12. The horn of the unicorn allows the owner to gain the speed of the unicorn & gain a aura of awe for 1d20 rounds. The  horn will not however perform in any evil act but once per day the horn can be used to cast a cure light wounds as per the spell.

Set Up, Back Stage, & Lovecraftian Maintenance For Dungeons With Adventurer,Conqueror, King, Arduin, OSR, & Classic Old School Flavors

Its about 2:00 A.M., I've been off line most of the day with work & some of the general necessities of life. As it stands at this moment several of Dark Albion's elements have been re introduced again into my general campaign.  The concept of the kilodungeon has shifted its way back into the consciousness of the OSR with Autarch’s eighth Kickstarter project: The Secrets of the Nethercity. The concept of the kilodungeon goes back further then most folks realize & pops up in places that dungeon master's least expect it. All the way back to T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax. Hommlet's moat house is the perfect metaphor or preview of coming attractions for PC's before they get to the main event.

Everything about Hommlet is the perfect PC base that mirrors many of the elements later found in the the rest of the Temple of Elemental Evil. That is once its been cleared of any & all resistance by the player characters. The dive into the moat house is a dive into the evil of the Underworld infecting the rest of the campaign world. That is to say that its a boil on the face of world & its not one to be taken lightly. This is a mini dungeon setting with plenty of 'shoot from the hip encounters'. The second the PC's enter this place is the second that they're taking on Chaos in all of its glory! Chaos in Advanced or Basic Dungeons & Dragons has always been there as soon as the player or dungeon master has read his first monster alignment that says 'Chaotic' or 'Chaotic Evil'.

Oh and if you don't think that the occult forces of Law & Chaos are just as important in OSR games such as Adventurer,Conqueror, King? Well let me let you feast your eyes on the Kickstarter for Secrets of The Undercity;
"The adventure takes place in the Auran Empire campaign setting, the default setting for ACKS. The eponymous Nethercity lies below the city of Cyfaraun, just fifty miles northwest of Türos Tem, making it a perfect sequel to our introductory adventure The Sinister Stone of Sakkara. But if you don't play in the Auran Empire, don't worry - a special appendix in the book offers advice on how to adapt the adventure for use with our Kanahu setting or with your own favorite campaign world. The Nethercity can be placed under any long-inhabited urban settlement that's changed hands between law and chaos over the centuries."
The really important bit here is,
"The Nethercity can be placed under any long-inhabited urban settlement that's changed hands between law and chaos over the centuries."
This is exactly what we see in T1 The Temple of Elemental Evil By Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer. The moat house of Village of Hommlet is the set up for the bigger & nastier temple which we got a taste of.

The Auran Empire campaign setting,has had its major bush fires with Chaos before & destroyed it outright time & again. But Chaos is a festering disease that breeds in the hearts & minds of the campaign setting. The results can be & are catastrophic for a world. Don't believe me? Just take a look at Barsoom whose Green Martians consumed the entire world of Mars & whose presence is found all over early Dungeons & Dragons adventures encounter tables. Edgar Rice Burroughs creations are some of the most destructive warriors your party is ever likely to encounter. And they are the symptom of a much larger disease. The death of your campaign world should the forces of Chaos get the upper hand.

For world of Dave A Hargrave's Arduin there's one dungeon that consumes the heart of chaos & comes back for more that's Death Heart. This living & breathing chaos magnet lays at the core of a tractless wilderness. The place is pure evil, simple & quick to understand as an adventure location. Its a horrid place that deals in pure chaos and should not be placed too close to a civilized area. There's no warm up dungeon location for Death Heart merely a lone sentinel of evil & choke point for the forces of chaos in Arduin.

 Now I've talked about Lovecraft's Dream cycle & I'm going to again. The Underworld of the Dreamlands represents what happens after the battles have been lost & one. There was an apocalyptic battle in the Dreamlands, the cost was horrid for the gods of Earth. A deal was struck & the role of the gods of Earth was reduced to a mere shadow. Then you might ask where are the forces that fought in this apocalyptic event? Does the Vale of Pnath contain them? Yes it does but these of Chaos forces are right where they were when they were banished! The ghouls & ghasts are some of the most common inhabitants of HP Lovecraft's Underworld. But its in the Gugs of HP Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926) that we get our answers about this apocalypse.
The Gugs were partially responsible for this apocalyptic event, "The gugs were banished to the underworld by the earth’s gods, the Great Ones, for an unnamed blasphemy. Now they reside in a terrifying, underground city, dwelling in lofty, round, cyclopean towers. Nearby, colossal monoliths mark the cemetery of the gugs."
Whose responsible for what happened during all of these events? Well the answer is writ large all over the events of the background of The Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath & its easily Nyarlathotep.

 He holds the keys & the ruination of mankind. Chaos was given a stale mate  but the cost was terrible to the dreams of mankind. There are more hints about it in the writings of Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith.

 The real question for Secrets of the Nethercity what's the mega dungeon that Secrets is warming the characters up for? After the events of the adventure location for Adventurer, Conqueror, King what comes next. This is only taste of what's to come & we get a similar vein of adventure in T1 Village of Hommlet.
Secrets of the Nethercity's Cyfaraun might be the PC's base of operations for connecting the kilodungeons of the Nethercity with some of the upper levels of ACK's Dwimmmermount
. Many of the hoards described in this product have direct corroborations with Labyrinth Lord's treasure & horde tables.
Chaos never sleeps & sooner or later the PC's are going to be confronting it again. This is where Dark Albion comes in very handy. Cults of Chaos for Dark Albion goes down exactly the same route as Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu . Lovecraft's mythos forces are chaos unbound in all their glory & they're dangerous as Hell itself. 
This is the same treatment that we see of the Mythos from the Arduin books where Lovecraft's creations jump from one civilized world to another destroying wantonly and dangerously again & again.

Most folks don't know that the Arduin books don't have this take in the main rule books but in the adventures themselves as a part of the monsters & NPC forces of the dungeons of Dave A. Hargrave. These forces though are left overs from apocalyptic events of Arduin's campaign setting.
Here are six rules for bringing the pain of the Mythos to your favorite science fantasy game setting: 
  1. Its not always about Cthulhu, there are literally legions of Great Old Ones & Outer Gods to use in adventure settings. 
  2. Alien artifacts & treasure can convey far more then miles of exposition during an adventure leading to rolls to help figure out the item 
  3. Make up stuff on your own, got a Lovecraft scholar among your ranks than create your own Old One or Outer god for fun & profit during adventures. 
  4. Don't get bound by the scale & BS of the Mythos. If you need a god or other thing to be certain way for an adventure then change it. There are so many contradictions in the Weird Tales literature. 
  5. Make the Mythos your own & let it work to enrich & not hinder your campaign world. 
  6. Earn treasure & items as needed during adventures especially with a cult or mythos flavor.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Arduin,The Underworld, Lovecraft, 'Kilodungeons', & More Science Fantasy & OSR Dungeon Commentary

Sewing machine repair work  pretty much defines my life & its been taking up most of my day today. I've had the thought bubbles about 'Kilodungeons' which seem to clock in at about 200 or more rooms. These dungeons have been brought back to attention by Adventurer, Conqueror, King's latest kickstarter for Secrets of the Nethercity;
"An epic "kilodungeon" with 240 location entries spread across 20 different dungeon sub-regions that can be explored in a nonlinear fashion over the course of your campaign."
The concept is much older then that however & it goes all the way back to Judge's Guild product lines. No scratch that, the concept belonged to Gary Gygax's Keep On The Borderlands .

The idea of the adventurer base campaign location being  right off the adventure location dungeon is a homage callback to B2 .
"A home base (the city of Cyfaraun) for use by your adventurers in between dungeon delves. The city is presented in summary format in the adventure itself, and the city and the sewers below it are presented in more detail in a supplement called Capital of the Borderlands (available at $20 and above pledge level). With every bonus goal, we'll expand the city and sewer levels!"

But its more then just a simple homage, when the PC's enter the lower levels of a dungeon such as the Caves of Chaos or even your home campaign they're treading on the entrances to the Underworld.
That wasn't by accident folks. The fact is that many early old school dungeons had levels or rooms that I've played in connected with the Underworld. In Dave Hargraves three Arduin books you've got the twenty two Hells & they're ripe with fallen cities, ancient ruins of alien civilizations, etc.

The Lovecraft circle of writers including Clark Ashton Smith all cite to varying degrees different aspects of the Underworld.  H.P. Lovecraft has his own version of the Underworld & in Lovecraft's novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926) we get a glimpse of it.But there were hints of the alien nature of the Underworld going all the way back to Edgar Allen Poe & even older writers of weird fiction.
But all of these hint at the Fall of ancient & alien civilizations predating mankind but whose survivals live on in our dreams. Could it be that dungeons are actually sinks of evil which connect to these alien places attracting greater evil. A sort of ecology of madness & depravity which must be cleaned out from time to time lest the surrounding countryside & urban areas be destroyed?!
We get hints of this in Labyrinth Lord's Realms of Crawling Chaos but elsewhere in the Labyrinth Lord rules set. This actually goes back to original Dungeons & Dragons even the Basic/Expert rules have it with.

Make no mistake the mythos of H.P Lovecraft is chaos, horror, & insanity unbound, its the evil outside the door & its scratching to come in. Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion setting & Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos are perfect for rooting out & destroying the mythos in an inquisitor style game. All of this ties in perfectly with the dream worlds of Lord Dunsany where the Underworld is used to extremely good effect and he's essential reading for anyone looking to create solid dungeon worlds. 
When it comes to tying all of this in with science fantasy here's where it counts:
  1. There are always hints of an ancient & forgotten civilization which is often alien & corrupt but don't give out too much detail during adventures let the players fill in the details. 
  2. The hint of chaos is in the monsters & dungeon surroundings, again the adventure location is everything. 
  3. Let the players do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting the most out of the science fantasy or the fantastic 
  4. The adventure play is everything & the players have a good time but let them earn it in sweat, blood, and mud 
  5. The Lovecraft circle of writers isn't the end all. Be sure to expand your scope into other writers to provide you the DM with everything.
  6. Spare the treasure in favor of the mundane as well was the fantastic. Don't over indudge the players in this setting.

Next time more OSR material, the dangers of the other Apocalyptic Events of Mythology & the dungeons

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Arduin, The Labyrinth Lord retroclone system, Science Fantasy & The OSR Dungeon Commentary

One of the things I've learned to do is to keep dungeon mastering tastes on a short leash. This means basically keeping my 'flip book animated attention' span in check when it comes to dungeon mastering. I own a good chunk of the Dave A. Hargrave rpg books & last night I 'ohhed' & 'ahhed' over certain science fantasy aspects of the books. But its not about me at all its about the players & their PC's struggles ascending up the long level ladder. The play is the thing thanks to Gary Gygax & David Lance "Dave" Arneson. Some days it feels like I'm the only one in my little corner of Connecticut doing my OSR thing. But I'm not! More on that another time!

You may not have noticed this but over the last week or so I've been on a one man quiet crusade for the Labyrinth Lord retroclone system. I've dialed it back down to a dull roar but Labyrinth Lord is the backbone the system for Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg system. And I've taken it on the chin because of advancing the hobby cause of both Alexander Marcus & Rpg Pundit. But this is nothing new. This blog has gone from two thousand views to eight hundred to four hundred to two hundred. I'm not trying to reach everyone. I'm trying to reach those advancing the table top hobby of old school & OSR games. We need new blood in this hobby & taught in both the new techniques & to preserve the old ways of gaming. Do you want to make this hobby inclusive? Here's a character sheet, some dice, roll up a character, & let's get playing. Did your PC die? Roll up another one!

There are large differences between the values of Labyrinth Lord & say Swords & Wizardry. Don't believe me? Check this comparison out here.
Swords & Wizardry has a dedicated fan base & community, this is fine. But for me LL is the choice especially for doing science fantasy style games.
I've said restraint is the really the watch word here & you can see that in Alexander Marcus's latest Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg kick starter. The PC's advance in regular adventure path pattern even though the adventure campaign is far from ordinary;
"Secrets of the Nethercity is designed for a party of experienced mid-level adventurers and is stocked with sufficient monsters and treasure to advance them by four to six levels. As such it serves as a mid-level environment in which the adventurers can acquire the wealth and power they need to advance into high-level play. "

High level play is often fun but only when its achieved by slugging through PC levels. Dungeon masters have to realize that patience is a virtue for a DM & its about the play as much as the players enjoyment. This is where the meet point is for both old school & OSR game systems.
Lately for me I've been drooling over the old Planet Stories covers from the Forties & Fifties. These covers were great inspiration for my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition game campaign I've got coming up. The players seem excited by the prospect but its background is drawn more from Clark Ashton Smith then it is from Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Note that the heroines of Planet Stories always had some really well fleshed out backgrounds. I'm reminded of several of the charts in Arduin that I'd seen for PC backgrounds as the PC's levels go up with their experience.

Yes I posted this on G+ but doesn't that gun look like something straight out of AS&SH's radium pistol section. The fact is that science fantasy elements can be mixed in with traditional Dungeons & Dragons for more then mere window dressing. There are six ways that I observed that the Arduin rpg books did it successfully in my opinion;

  1. Historical technologies & odd artifacts were mixed in liberally not over the top within dungeons & these were often artifact level treasures with whole adventure concepts built around them. They gave kingdoms a step up and advantage in warfare & battle. 
  2. The mundane were often used as both window dressing & to give a more traditional veneer to the fantasy adventure but the science fantasy bubbled under the surface of the Arduin material.
  3. Adventurers suffer for anything their taking out of the dungeon & suffer hard for any material that gets taken from a dungeon have a techno or scientist hireling to take care of treasures.
  4. Science fantasy  adventure elements of the fantastic were often it seems mini adventure settings themselves isolated from main campaign locations in Arduin 
  5. Arduin seems to owe more to Lord Dunsany in its fantasy as much as to Tolkien & Robert Howard. The conceits are very Seventies Sword & Sorcery here with the science fantasy taking a back seat when needed. 
  6. PC's earn everything from the dungeons in blood, sweat, tears, & PC's. Arduin is harsh on the players as an old school game adventure should be.

    Next time Dark Albion & The Lovecraft underworld plus much more so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

1d10 Random Dungeon Finds Dropped By The Crows Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Three Crows against the Rising Sun,
from the series Three Sheets (Mihira no uchi)

Evin watched the birds with the intensity of a starving man. They picked their way across the hard packed ground flying only when necessary.
'Are you going to watch those damn birds all day?' 'The duke is paying us to find the dungeon  & we don't have time to watch crows Evin'
All that came from Evin was a low sshhhhing sound. His jerkin moved little as he watched the birds from under lidded eyes.
"What in the cold Hells are we waiting for?" Just then a quick glimmer of light flashed off of some weird bauble one of the birds picked up and then it was dropped as two female crows fought over the thing.
"That's what we're waiting for", said Evin as they raced breathlessly to site where the bird had dropped a small silver wrought piece of  jewelry with a red garnet & bright green  jade combination mount. It was very old but still gleamed in the sunlight
The thing smelled of damp algae & dungeon funk. "And now Alas we know where the dungeon is & where the entrance is to the dungeon is."
"Its in the well!" "You've been watching the birds scavenging in the run off creek of the ancient aqueduct"
"Very smart Evin, I'll get the horses & our stuff", Alas the half caste warrior quickly made his way to the shrine's stables.

Crows are both cagey & canny, they are drawn to the occult & supernatural as a starving man is drawn to food. They're intelligence is keen & yet utterly alien to mankind making them perfect conduits for the strange radiations & energies of dungeons & ruin locations. These place of dark forces & weird alien ecologies draw these birds as no other.
Many times crows will pick up baubles, trinkets, & small items only to become infected with the strange energies & occult radiations that infect these items. They become changed somehow by these elemental & dangerous occult forces. These crows gain a strange & almost demonic intelligence about them. Again & again they are drawn to the evil of the dungeon. These birds are sought & summoned by necromancers & other black wizards for their intellects & the strangeness of them.
Each of these 'changed' crows will have a human style intelligence score of three or better.

1d10 Random Dungeon Finds Dropped By The Crows Table
  1. The mummified pinky finger of a dwarf with a 20 caret signet ring containing a hidden compartment containing a fabric map. 
  2. A small silver holy symbol belonging to a priest of Lemuria a thousand years old. Worth 50 gold pieces because of the acid etched damage on one side. 
  3. A silver medallion containing the soul of wizard that once belonged to a notorious lich king. His dungeon is said to be nearby and the crows his eyes . The medallion is curiosity worth 100 gold pieces to the right collector. 
  4. A flawed diamond containing a deadly teleporation spell to a dead treasure world of the Eld. This item is cursed with a strange destiny about it.
  5. A shiny golden key belonging to the minister of treasure vaults long dead two hundred years. A ghost follows this key throughout eternity. 
  6. A small one inch high onyx cat that will animate in the hands of a pig farmer. The cat will lead the party to great dungeon location for a saucer of milk which it will demand telepathically. 
  7. A fake wooden eye ball with a map of a nearby area drawn on its surface & circumference.
  8. A small dime sized piece of white jade with twenty two sacred characters on it. These are said to be names of the twenty two most powerful fallen ghost kings of the damned. Their cemetery is supposedly nearby or within the region depending upon the rumors that the party listens to. 
  9. A small amulet that once belonged to a priestess of Freya. The amulet will magically point to a true heir of a fallen kingdom. This fool can open the door to underground kingdom of the dead. 
  10. The artificial nose of a priest of Odin; this item can literally smell gold within a thirty foot radius. It can also smell the blood of terrible warfare up to four miles away. The owner will be drawn into any intrigues of battle and power by this item. This nose can & will lead the owner to trouble every new moon unless a prayer to Odin is uttered. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Blood Spattered Cults - Dark Albion, HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands, & More Dark Old School Settings

Dark Albion's setting centers around its politics but the cracks of Chaos around Europe are nasty & very dangerous by virtue of its cults. The shadow of the Elves of Avalon is dark, dank,& deeply rooted in the creation of the Welsh. But when one begins to blend in H.P. Lovecraft's Dream cycle things get very dangerous & weird. And sure most would mention Clark Ashton Smith because I have with his Averoigne  cycle.
The CAS cycle is iconic & heavily influential especially given the fictional Averoigne's history 
as well as the connection to 81's  X2 Castle Amber By Tom Moldvay. To look at this cycle is too look at the history, culture, & snap shot of the region of Averoigne. 

Beast of Averoigne, The (1933)
Colossus of Ylourgne, The (1933)
Disinterment of Venus, The (1934)
Enchantress of Sylaire, The (1941)
End of the Story, The (1930)
Holiness of Azédarc, The (1933)
Maker of Gargoyles, The (1932)
Mandrakes, The (1933)
Mother of Toads (1934)
Rendezvous in Averoigne, A (1931)
Satyr, The (1931) [Variant Conclusion to "The Satyr"]

But the real appendix 'N' connections in Albion happen when we look at an alternative dream worlds mainly those of Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (/dʌnˈsni/; 24 July 1878 – 25 October 1957), an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist; his work, mostly in the fantasy genre, was published under the name Lord Dunsany.
The King of Elfland's Daughter published in 1924 has everything that we need for Albion & reflects the state of affairs between a mortal & his  huldra ("hidden being") queen. As I've stated the huldra ("hidden being") are the slaves & servants of the Elves of Albion. None of this is in the Dark Albion setting books  or Lion & Dragon Retroclone system.The King of Elfland's Daughter's plot is central to understanding why it works as pseudo Lovecraftian Dreamland setting for Dark Albion;
"The lord of Erl is told by the parliament of his people that they want to be ruled by a magic lord. Obeying the immemorial custom, the lord sends his son Alveric to fetch the King of Elfland's daughter, Lirazel, to be his bride. He makes his way to Elfland, where time passes at a rate far slower than the real world, and wins her. They return to Erl and have a son, but in the manner of fairy brides of folklore, she fits uneasily with his people. She returns to the waiting arms of her father in Elfland, and her lovesick husband goes searching for her, abandoning the kingdom of Erl and wandering in a now-hopeless quest. However, Lirazel becomes lonesome for her mortal husband and son. Seeing that she is unhappy, the King of Elfland uses a powerful magic to engulf the land of Erl. Erl is transformed into a part of Elfland, and Lirazel and her loved ones are reunited forever in an eternal, enchanted world.
During the course of the novel, the King of Elfland uses up all of the three powerful magic spells he had been reserving for the defense of his realm."

The kingdom of Elfland's gateway places it near Elveden ("elves' hill") in  Suffolk England. The kingdom of Erl might well be a Welsh or minor borderland affair left over from the time of the Roman Occupation. The king of Elfland's spells are actually powerful occult weapons. They were prepared to repel the returning Elven powers as the rightful owners of Elfland. But circumstances insist that these spells  be used to alter reality on a grand scale. The themes of chaos ala Dark Albion are present in Lord Dunsany's  The King of Elfland's Daughter. Many of the themes of this novel also mirror feelings that lurked in the background of modern folks.
The war between Law & Chaos are in Lord Dusany in the background but the setting presented in this book seems very much like the worlds presented in Three Hearts & Three Lions by Poul Anderson.

"Holger Carlsen is an American-trained Danish engineer who joins the Danish Resistance to the Nazis in World War II. At the shore near Elsinore, he is among the group of resistance fighters trying to cover the escape to Sweden of an important scientist (evidently the nuclear physicist Niels Bohr). With a German force closing in, Carlsen is shot – and suddenly finds himself transported to a parallel universe, a world where northern European legend concerning Charlemagne ("The Matter of France") is real. This world is divided between the forces of Chaos, inhabiting the "Middle World" (which includes Faerie), and the forces of Law based in the human world, which is in turn divided between the Holy Roman Empire and the Saracens. He finds the equipment and horse of a medieval knight waiting for him. The shield is emblazoned with three hearts and three lions. He finds the clothes and armor fit him perfectly, and he knows how to use the weapons and ride the horse as well as speak fluently the local language, a very archaic form of French"
These dream worlds are the last remains of the minor planes of dream left after the sinking of Atlantis during the last Ice Age. The fall of the classic gods of mythology left the servants of the Elven races on full retreat into HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands & other minor cosmological realms of imagination. Many forgotten gods of classic mythology are now under the thumb & protection of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos gods.
Many of the demonic dark Powers & forces of Albion have their basis in the chaos because of the fall from the status of gods to demonic forces that the events of history have wrought. This parallels the changing role of the mystery cults of the Romans to the secretive & destructive  cults outlined in Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos. 
Cults of Chaos is a perfect setting book to add to Labyrinth Lord because it fits into the mold of other Goblinoid Games products such as the Realms of Crawling Chaos.

Nest time the Underworld, Dungeons, Adventure Locations, Lovecraftian Dreamlands, & the Mythos all coupled with Dark Albion

Blood, Guts, Gore, & More - OSR Gonzo & Pulp Commentary

For most people my blog has been a non stop thrill ride of giant robots, science fantasy,etc. The truth is far stranger & a bit more backhanded in some respects.Way back in 2011 & 12 I was running a Carcosa campaign that had real world bits & pieces, Iron Age influences, patterns from Appendix N authors, & more. Basically I borrowed a good deal  from William  Hope Hodgeson, Arthur Machen, & some of the more basic themes of Algernon Blackwood.

M.R. James took many of these basic assumptions & used them with great abandon in his ghostly tales but it was his use of atmosphere that really brings home the Weird Tales aspect of his writings.
The theme of lost realities overlapping into our own world & taking bits, & pieces of our home reality into the alien Godless realms of the Outer Darkness's  makes players wet the bed for their PC's. All of these of authors became central to the campaign idea of a former lost island continent that drifted along the borders of reality occasionally claiming some lost vessel or another wreck from other worlds  This method was central to me to running classic TSR adventures like David Cook, & Tom Moldvay's X1 Isle of Dread. If you as the dungeon master want to add in crazy or gonzo elements then twist them.The key seems to be dungeon mastering all  of this with a straight face & tamping the gonzo down into the realm of Pulp adventure instead.

Dave A. Hargrave's three Arduin books take the Pulp themes writ high in Anerson's & Gygax's original Dungeons & Dragons books offering the dungeon master even more ideas & guidelines  to the fantastic. Its up to the dungeon master to temper these when running their own campaign adventures. All of the above is going to depend upon player's reactions & play styles.The older I'm getting the more I'm coming to appreciate the more common sense approach to running classic games.

This isn't to say that 'blood & thunder pulp elements or science fantasy adventure ' doesn't have its place at the table. But the course of the campaign's play is going determine this as the player's PC's explore & move through the game. Once again original Dungeons & Dragon's common sense  design & adventure philosophy shows us the light.

The idea of blood & thunder adventurers going against the forces of darkness makes the central hub of a campaign work on so many levels. "Classic games are classic" for a reason & as time goes on the more I'm really coming to appreciate these ideals as a dungeon master the longer time goes on.