Friday, December 9, 2016

Commentary On Misty Isles of the Eld By Chris Kutalik & Robert Parker From The Hydra Cooperative For A Dark Albion Campaign Twist

I had a beer with some friends tonight and we were talking OSR settings the Misty Isles of the Eld reared its head. Here's how this happened.

I was rereading The Misty Isles of the Eld From Hydra Cooperative & Dark Albion's The Rose War plus Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos .
When there were several demented thoughts rushing through my head about the cults on the fringes of Dark Albion. What if the cults of Elves were really Eld  & the Misty Isles existed on the fringes of Dark Albion in all of their glory with Vatmen,etc. It got me thinking long & hard about the effects of the occult technologies of the Eld. Perhaps the fact the various dungeons presented in the  Misty Isles might exist on the edges of the Dark Albion setting just out of reach of the borders of reality. This might mean replacing the Elves out of Dark Albion but there are other reasons for this as we shall see. First of all the Eld are complete & utter jerks make no mistake about that. They might have isolated isles of unreality in the form of their misty isles that sometimes drift into the reality of Dark Albion. I know surely there can't be any historical prescient for this? Well not so much historical but mythological that ties directly into the setting of Dark Albion's alternative Earth.

In the Celtic tradition there are the various vanishing islands such as Brasil, which according to Wiki;"Brasil, also known as Hy-Brasil or several other variants,[1] is a phantom island said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean[2] west of Ireland. Irish myths described it as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached." An isle in the mists that can only appear every seven years?

Journeys into the 'other world' were chaotic, dangerous, & often times really weird sounds similar to the Misty Isle to me. But the chaos index of the isles really does it for me, a sense of unreality that causes normality to go out the window just waiting to take over? Yeah that could be very dangerous if you've got cults of vatmen within the structure of Dark Albion society. So why haven't the Eld simply taken over England and Europe? Well besides the usual magick issues, incompatible realities, and legendary guards against this perhaps there hasn't be the needed blood shed?

Well that's where the War of the Roses (15th century) comes blazing in full guns with violence & desparate people willing to cut deals with the Eld for favor, occult technologies, & all of the corruption that the Eld can bring to Dark Albion. But the problem is that the Eld are straight up nasty when it comes to dealing with humanity. If they can get more then a toe hold in Europe and Albion then your going to see lots of chaos ensuing.
Or will you? The fact is that the inquisition of Albion may have had more then its fair share of dealing with the cults of the Eld. Perhaps this isn't the first time they've seen these jokers on Albion soil. The church of the Unconquered Sun has the tools to deal with these upstarts but it will take valuable manpower and time. These are two things that the Rose War is going to eat up in equal measure.

When it comes to the Eld eying Albion there are several reasons why including slave stock, resources, and pure expansionist empire building. They also a perfect fit for the 'Celtic Other World' But the Eld are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that other world there could be many menaces that could potentially cause all kinds of harm to parties of Dark Albion adventurers.

"In Gaelic and Brittonic mythology it is usually described as a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy.[1] The Otherworld is usually elusive, but various mythical heroes visit it either through chance or after being invited by one of its residents. They often reach it by entering ancient burial mounds or caves, or by going under water or across the western sea.[1] Sometimes, the Otherworld is said to exist alongside our own and intrudes into this one; signaled by phenomena such as magic mist, sudden changes in the weather, or the appearance of divine beings or unusual animals.[2] An otherworldly woman may invite the hero into the Otherworld by offering an apple or a silver apple branch, or a ball of thread to follow as it unwinds" Misty Isles of the Eld fits quite nicely into the dreamlike weirdness of the Celtic Otherworld.
But the Eld are not the only menace that is going to trouble adventurers, alright let's suppose that some minor noble has made contact with the Eld & has a chaos cult of these bastards in some hidden swamp, manor glen, or ruined temple in the English countryside.
The Frog men just might have something to say about the incursion of the Eld back into the local time space continuum.

Margaret of Anjou
through human agents and their witch cults would be able to keep an eye on the situation if such an incursion were to occur. The real world ruler had an extensive spy network was extremely well connected & would have her fingers on the pulse of such a situation. All of this leads me to believe that one of the rival houses would most likely be the ones to cut a deal with the Eld. Most likely ending up on a gallows, dead or most unlucky being dragged away into the not so forgiving clutches of the Eld themselves.

The Frog men might make an alliance with the Eld to make full war on Albion
Why not take full advantage of the blood shed & silly wars of the humans? Lesser Boglings II - Wilderness Encounters - Otherworld Miniatures (x3 figs)

What about the Eld themselves could their reality be simply one more in the onion layered madness that surrounds  Dark Albion? Could the Ursine Dunes reality be the actual Russia of Dark Albion? A place blasted beyond the pale of mankind where the story book like reality has subplanted the true reality of Dark Albion's Europe? The mind boggles with the possible implications of this sort of a weird cross politicization of OSR settings.

A variation of the Eld are featured in Dwimmermount  perhaps that great mega dungeon's location might be in Siberia. Its fell siren call beckoning adventurers across the centuries to their doom.

Could one of the factions of the Rose War send off a expedition to the legendary megadungeon in search of some occult advantage during the civil war? A mythological wonder weapon hidden away for centuries?

This sort of a mix lends itself to half violent fairy tale, part pulpy old school adventure, & high weirdness under the alternative light of the history of Dark Albion indeed it is a heady mix folks!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition: Role Aids Dragons By Cory Glaberson For Your Old School Campaigns

Way back in the mists of the Eighties about Eighty Six on a Thursday afternoon right about two o'clock or so I was running my ass off to escape the daily pounding at the hands of a bully trying to make it to the bookshop in downtown Torrington. What was waiting for me was a prize beyond measure for first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from Mayfair games Dragons by Cory Glaberson. Dragonlance was on the horizon but not for me at all, the series never resonated but instead Dragonriders of Pern by American-Irish author Anne McCaffrey had a far greater impact. Mayfair games Dragons takes a number of pieces of inspiration from that classic series which began in Sixty Seven.

The blurb from the back of the book via Wayne's Books pretty much gives the tone & feel of the book;""LIKE TINY DAGGERS, particles of ice cut into your face and hands as you dive through the clouds. You feel the muscles along the back of the massive ruby dragon tighten and bunch as it strains to turn for an attack.

A scream of defiance echoes upward from the rapidly growing form of the riderless black dragon below. In moments, the once distant beast looms to fill the sky. Still breathless from the battering sharp turn, you loose two barbed javelins into the dark leather wing, to little effect. Muttering a prayer to an elder god, you couch your bulky lance, as the two great dragons plunge directly toward each other ...
THIS REFERENCE WORK contains the lives, histories and cultures of the dragon races and introduces a new character class: the DRAGONLORDS. Included are three independent, but related adventures for characters to assist the Dragonlords In a war of epic proportions. The adventures are for six to eight characters from sixth to ninth skill level."

These dragons were the ones from the Monster Manual sort of mixed with a whole plethora of other D&D & independent world mythology to add into your games. This was because dragons were children of the gods and therefore heirs to the linage of the legendary and divine. So way before the Draconomicon for 2nd edition came out this book was dealing slices of dragon culture, lineage, magic, culture and more all build around the character class of the Dragon rid ermm Dragon lords. With really awesome cut away pieces of artwork like this one!

All of the usual suspects are there including age charts, spell usage, variations of standard dragons, mutations, sports, & much more. There's lots of information on several of the established dragon's species, from stats to ecology to their 'aging process and molting' and clan information. All of this was completely independent from any of the 'official' material that was coming out of classic era TSR at the time.  Everything was well laid out and columned from the usual Mayfair specifics when it came to their Eighty six era books.

The material here was centered around the dragons & the dragon lords (riders) where they could build villages, etc. around them completely so that campaigns had a PC anchor to hold all of it together in a cohesive whole. This also made the prospect for domain play practical & in some cases welcome. This was a part of making the dragon vital to the well being of the world setting that they were used in. For fans of this sort of a campaign it was very nicely handled. This made the dragon more then a mere loot point & experience tick but a living fire breathing entity capable of driving adventure & play within a campaign.

The adventures within Dragons centers around the ecology and setting of the dragon as a campaign element. They're very well done for what they do which is to put the dragons center stage & create play around them with additional companions, monsters, and more all central to the dragon a player on the stage of the setting. The PC are going to have to deal with all of the material that surrounds them. The experience is weird for PC's used to simply slaying or running away from these intelligent beasts.

And yes I've actually played in, DMed, & ran several mini campaigns from this book. Well that was until Dragonlance created the official world setting of AD&D! Then the suddenly friends and players no longer were interested in the 'old' dragons. Yeah, but there were diehards who continued to play in & use this volume until Dragonlance had moved on. That's another blog post my friends.
I have nothing against Dragonlance or its books, if their your cup of tea then more power to you!

But does Dragons do what it advertises on the tin? In a word yes! Dragons takes the traditional AD&D dragon species & adds an entirely different dimension to these hazards, horrors, monsters, and dynamic part of the AD&D game. The book is now long forgotten by many players & DM's. It goes for about six dollars to ten dollars on Amazon and other outlets. Its one of those books that let my imagination take flight!

Reconsidering The Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes From North Wind Adventures For The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Rpg System & Your Old School Games

Sometimes there are adventures that I've owned and always wanted to run again, Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is one of those. Its a great adventure that I pulled off of my hard drive & began to take a look at for an upcoming gaming event.

Clocking in at about sixty pages, this adventure follows the new direction of AS&SH was starting to take a few years ago. There is a coastal village with a lycanthrope issue some great rumors tables then a hunt for some radioactive green diamonds all wrapped around a plot that sounds like it came from an Eighties swords and sorcery paperback. "Somewhere in the depths of Diamond Desert lie the skeletal remains of Ymir’s Serpent, a legendary Viking longship. In days of yore, Sigtrygg Forkbeard led his company upriver, piercing the desert’s hostile heart. There the Vikings unearthed a lost mine brimming with green diamonds, but the River Æolus desiccated as the Serpent prepared for launch, and the ship was swallowed by the dunes. Forkbeard and his company were never seen again, but tales of a shimmering Viking ghost ship gliding over the dunes persist to this day."
I hadn't looked at Ghostship for a few months almost close to a year because of my dad getting sick. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the maps of Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design.
I almost had forgotten about the giant radioactive ants & the hyena men who ride giant chameleons all wrapped around the central plot of the long ship! Ghost Ships is one of the those adventures that plays fast and loose with the player's PC's motives for dealing with the reality of the ship. The monsters here are vicious dangerous & highly creative.

 The radioactive berserker zombies are still one of my favorite monster elements of the Ghost Ship. This adventure brings a lot to the table for PC's. There's enough action to make the quest, action, sword & sorcery elements and more all work well together.Expectations of the legend of the Ghost Ship by weaving its own Hyperborean mythology and legends around Ymir’s Serpent all of the while drawing the PC's deeper and deeper into the adventure while revealing more of the mysteries of Hyperborea's glorious past.  In point of fact there is a ton of elements of dungeon crawling, investigation, a bit of plundering, and lots and lots of sword and sorcery action. This adventure adds lot of Hyperborean details and story line to the world of Hyperborea which brings me to the point. This isn't simply another bit of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea but a full blown expansion.

Everything in this adventure fits together like a glove, the adventure elements are not that over the top to be on the stupid or completely gonzo. They work and work well together. The PC's are not going to be coming out of the adventure with all kinds of campaign wrecking treasure. If they survive the experiences of  The Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes there will certainly be a profound respect for the creative effort that the author brings to the table  with this one.

Ghost Ship of The Desert Dunes remains an old favorite of mine and a very dangerous adventure to unleash on a party of unsuspecting adventurers. Its an adventure that has great risks but deep rewards. Ghost Ship is well written and easily available through Drivethrrpg.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition: Role Aids Adventure - War of Darkness By Mark Perry

I cane into possession of War of Darkness way back in early two thousand something after War & Pieces closed. The module was a high level romp by Mark Perry. It has some nice cartography, a high level plot, and more. But I didn't stick with the adventure's plot. 

Way back in Eighty Six Mayfair was doing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures including high level ones which brings us to Mark Perry's War of Darkness with its recycled Conan paperback cover. They often seemed to license fantasy artwork from the Seventies & Eighties for their stuff which was fine with me. War of Darkness was kinda weird, wild, and wolly in how it handled itself. This was a high level adventure, Amazon lists it as, 'Adventure for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for 4-6 characters of skill levels 12-14.' And that's exactly what it is. A high level roiling adventure that pits the PC's straight into the midst of a plane tripping adventure ermm well that's how I played it. Its supposedly an invasion of higher level goblin warriors the creation of Apkieran Lord of the Undead. 
There are a bunch of high level PC's to use in War of Darkness, they became the leading scout force of heroes whom our adventurers would pillage for items, treasures, etc. You were also supposed to take any magic items away from the PC's for the war effort you see. Yeah that was going to happen.

I sure as hell didn't want some upstart demi god demon lord of the undead unseating Orcus whose cult I had groomed since high school to be a major villain in my world. So our high level heroes were off on a plane jumping adventure to this alternative prime material plane. A quick check of the listing of Mayfair product gives War of Darkness a code of May 740. You can find this and more over on this thread on Dragon's foot.

MAY 701 Beastmaker Mountain
MAY 702 Nanorien Stones
MAY 703 Fez I: Valley Of Trees
n/a Blasted Land
n/a Kobold Hall
MAY 703 Fez I: Wizard's Vale
MAY 704 Dwarves
MAY 705 Question Of Gravity
MAY 706 Tower of Magicks
MAY 707 Dark Folk
MAY 708 Wizards
MAY 709 Dragons Of Weng T'sen
MAY 710 Fez II: The Contract
MAY 711 Elves
MAY 712 Shipwrecker
MAY 713 Evil Ruins
MAY 714 The Keep
MAY 715 Swordthrust
MAY 716 Deadly Power
MAY 717 Shadows Of Evil
MAY 719 Fantastic Treasures
MAY 720 Fez III: Angry Wizard
MAY 721 Dragons
MAY 722 Final Challenge
MAY 723 Throne Of Evil
MAY 724 Monsters Of Myth & Legend
MAY 725 Fez IV: Wizard's Revenge
MAY 726 Lich Lords
MAY 728 Clockwork Mage
MAY 730 Fantastic Treasures II
MAY 732 Elven Banner
MAY 733 Ice Elves
MAY 735 Pinnacle
MAY 737 Undead
MAY 740 War Of Darkness
MAY 741 Crystal Barrier
MAY 742 Beneath Two Suns
MAY 743 Fez V: Wizard's Betrayal
MAY 744 Giants
MAY 745 Fez VI: Wizard's Dilemma
MAY 746 Monsters Of Myth & Legend II
MAY 747 Witches
MAY 748 Lizardmen
MAY 749 Psionics
MAY 750 A Portal To Adventure
MAY 751 Monsters Of Myth & Legend III
MAY 752 Demons
MAY 753 To Hell And Back
MAY 755 Denizens Of Vecheron
MAY 757 Sentinels
MAY 758 Denizens Of Verekna
MAY 759 Demons II
MAY 760 Archmagic
MAY 763 Denizens Of Og
MAY 764 Apocalypse
MAY 765 Blood & Steel
MAY 767 Denizens Of Diannor

Basically War of Darkness is one of those adventures that your going to have to tailor to your home campaign games. Its got a bit of high level tournament adventure feel to it. It is for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition and I've run it with that system. The PC's went through it like 'Grant Through the South' even with some nasty turns in the crawling aspect of it.
I've also used it with the Stormbringer rpg to run PC's through another plane of the Million Spheres where an upstart demon lord has designs on upsetting the cosmic balance.
The watch word with Mayfair games adventures is adaptability. The ability of the dungeon master to think creatively with these adventures. I've also used War of Darkness with the classic era TSR Marvel Super Heroes campaign adventures Cosmos Cubed as a bridge gap into the cosmic level campaigns.

War of Darkness has all of the hallmarks of a TPK if the dungeon master isn't careful to balance as well as pace things with this adventure. There are some really nasty NPC's here along with total tournament style encounters similar to the 'G' series of TSR adventures such as 'Against The Giants' or the Queen of the Demon Web pits. War of Darkness goes for between eight and eleven dollars on Amazon, its a high level adventure with lots of potential for the DM that wants to invest into it as a campaign bridge gap into domain level play which we'll be getting into next time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review Of The Trinity of Awesome +1 From Kort'thalis Publishing For Your Old School Campaigns

Alright so I wanted to take a mini break from Mayfair games reviews to talk about The Trinity of Awesome +1 From Kort'thalis Publishing. Which is a collection of adventures from the madman of O5R role playing  Venger Satanis. Rather then wait for him to send me I comp copy of the book, I thought I'd just dive right in with a bit of brief commentary on the whole package since I was a part of this book since the beginning. Well not behind the scenes but I was part of its birth pangs. This book is a collection of adventures including; Slaves of Tsathoggua, A Green Jewel They Must Possess, Slippery When Wet, and Death Race: Fury Road (all available as individual PDFs). Even though this is an adventure anthology for separate Kort'thalis Publishing rpg's  I've got some  ideas about combining all of them into one mega campaign because that's the way I roll.

So what's in the Trinity of Awesome +1? Well I'll let the creator of the adventure collection explain & show you exactly what's happening in his book. Note that there's some pretty solid ideas happening in the video and the book looks pretty nice.

With that being said let me dive right into the back end of 'Slaves of Tsathoggua' which is part dungeon crawl with a wrap around of a healthy dose of Crimson Dragon Slayer, edition 1.11.but it can be played with the original Crimson Dragon Slayer rpg.  But it can be handled with any old school rpg including that one that uses products of your imagination. "There's something in that cave... the cave all those villagers are afraid of. What's inside? Will the adventurers be able to leave once they enter? What does this have to do with Tsathoggua?" This adventure clocks in at fifteen pages and is filled with memorable NPC's, lots of weird situations, and a ton of strangeness that connects in deep with the world of Thule. It's a solid little show that can take characters from simple farmers to straight up adventurers in one shot. This means that you can take a simple PC from the original Crimson Dragon Slayer with their Eighties alternative world background and 'Wham' they're in full adventurer mode if they survive the adventure.
Next we skip over to 'A Green Jewel They Must Possess' this is an investigative horror adventure that uses the Outer Presence rpg system & its one of my favorite adventures from the Trinity of Awesome Kickstarter. This is because for years now both Venger & myself share a passion for the original Heavy Metal movie with its bridging artifact the Loc-Nar which strings together a bunch of animated anthology vignettes. This adventure features a green jewel & the weird sleazoids who are trying to deal with it's dark evil. Part investigative horror, part neo Noir adventure, and it's perfectly capable of tying into the first adventure to create another angle inside one of the far flung city states of Thule even though it takes place in the modern Eighties.

Slippery When Wet is an Alpha Blue adventure that pits the armies of order against the forces of a renegade intergalactic gang of cut throats who happen to be the PC's. They're on a mission to save the galaxy in this sleazy sci fi romp. Slippy When Wet has a bit of everything from space battles to dungeon crawling. Here's the thing about Alpha Blue despite the silly/sleazy names in the adventure this is one that's tightly designed & well written. Now imagine your PC's getting picked up right after the events of 'A Green Jewel They Must Possess' ala Heavy Metal's heroes and you'll see how all of this begins to connect together. This could be played with Alpha Blue or even something like Traveler with a bit of modification.

All of this can wrap around into Death Race: Fury Road which can easily take place on some alien world where a wizard is holding the Death Race event once again. The PC's are now racers & adventurers in one of the foremost interstellar races the galaxy has seen. The Alpha Blue & Crimson Dragon Slayer connection can be re enforced to give a much heavier Thundarr The Barbarian style feel to the Death Race Mini adventure. All in all this is one of my favorite Venger Satanis efforts because its got so much potential for some seriously twisted fun!

You Can Purchase The Trinity of Awesome +1 From HERE

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition: Role Aids Fantastic Treasures: Hundreds of Enchanted Weapons and Items From Myth & Folklore By Allen Hammack For Your Old School Campaigns

The train of Mayfair games material continues with Fantastic Treasures: Hundreds of Enchanted Weapons and Items From Myth & Folklore because of an email request from someone who has very fond memories of their older brother who was their dungeon master owning this book. Apparently he pulled out Fantastic Treasures set his players on an epic quest with this title plus the AD&D Deities and Demi Gods book from AD&D first edition.Be advised that it has items from A to L. You'll want to pick up the next book if you're looking for items M to Z , Fantastic Treasures II. 

This book got me into the school library more times then I can to remember back in  Eighty Eight, I was checking out literally a stack of books on mythology and comparative religion when these came out. So why is Fantastic Treasures important? Well besides being mostly forgotten today this book features some amazing relics from mythology and world legends from around the globe.  There are numerous items described in this volume that are associated in name if not actual legend and such to mythical gods, heroes,& monsters. These are not your typical treasures, no these are objects that are adventures unto themselves. From Aladdin's Ring, Siegfried's Sword, Athena's Shield, Enchanted Carpets, Devious Cloaks, Devilish Crowns & Damned Swords, they're all here in this volume.Every item in this volume has its own entry & accompanying piece of artwork to go with it. The focus here is on the mythological background & with powers and abilities built right into each entry. What makes this series special is that every entry is ready to go out of the box.
There are a few reasons to use Fantastic Treasures: Hundreds of Enchanted Weapons and Items From Myth & Folklore:

  • They can provide fodder for OSR games where the focus is on the gods & the players are actually movers & upcoming adventurers on the stage of the gods, heroes, & monsters. These items aren't simply throw away treasures for XP, they're adventure plot points with stats
  • Power attracts power, & myth attracts legend, fate, and a host of problems for heroes. A good solid example from the Nineties is the Disney kids show Gargoyles. In that show   the legendary creatures of the past along with the relics of legend often intersected. Its of this type often transcend time & place twisting the lives of those they touch for decades this gives a DM plenty of campaign fodder. An example of this type of campaign for AD&D 1st edition is 'the Keep' where players take on the role of ancient adventurers & then their descendants as the events of the adventure come down through history.
  •  There is the potential for long spanning game campaigns where the role of a relic can become one of the corner stones of a campaign setting ala Game of Thrones. The relic or item becomes one more piece of set dressing of a player character or important NPC. 
These types of items should never be used lightly they can wrench a campaign in one direction or another.

When a DM chooses to use these items as the focus or adventure background item, it moves the campaign into the realm of the legendary & makes it a part of mythology. The PC's level doesn't so much matter as the play characters are now a different adventure term & level because of the very forces they dally with. They're messing in the realm of the gods as well as playing with some fundamental items of legend. This means the kid gloves are off, many times these items are unique & can play a vital role in the lives, nations, & fate  of others. This volume along with its sister play a vital role with many items of legend following the whole cloth of the mythology very closely. This means that DM's can use this fact to their advantage to get players motivated in the field. Things can get pretty hairy when items of legends attract the attention of monsters, gods, or worse.

This makes adventure construction a snap when you've got items that follow in the wake of the gods. There is also the fact that the gods might be looking for many of the objects listed for their own hidden agendas. This makes the field open for some very dangerous encounters as the gods employ mercenaries. The skies are the limits as some of the monsters featured in Deities and Demi gods come to reclaim these treasures. It could be open season as Native American items are featured & weirdness in adventures could ensue.Of course Fantastic Treasures follows the usual Mayfair conceits. For its stats here's a handy conversion chart I found on Dragon's foot: 
Conversions of Mayfair stats to 1E (just in case):

STR (Strength) -> same
INT (Intellect) -> Intelligence
INS (Insight) -> Wisdom
DEX (Dexterity) -> same
STA (Stamina) -> Constitution
APL (Appeal) -> Charisma

HTK -> Hit points
AT -> Attacks
DM -> Damage

All of the entries in Fantastic Treasures have style and personality, the book is quite smart in the depth and breath of the items allowing the DM to cherry pick the best items they want in their own campaign. So all of the items plug and play taking everything down a dangerous road for PC's.

Is Role Aids Fantastic Treasures: Hundreds of Enchanted Weapons and Items From Myth & Folklore a classic? Well taken on its own merits and the fact that the two volume set of books is nearly forgotten these books sell used for around eight dollars for each volume. This makes the set a very attractive prospect for a DM whose looking for that one unusual item as the center piece as well as focus for their old school campaign.

So if you get a chance then grab this one folks and don't let it pass you bye at all.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition: Role Aids Undead Source Book by Laurel Nicholson , & John Keefe For Your Old School Campaigns

I got an email request for Undead this source book/adventure from Mayfair Games came out about 1986 & its another one that I've got an infamous history with! Weirdly, I acquired the Mayfair Undead source book around December of Eighty Six on a Saturday & poured over it all weekend. The plot was like something out of a horror film;"THE LICHLORDS ROSE TO POWER AS THE LAND FELL TO THEIR ARMIES. As molten fire spewed forth from the fissures in the earth, the Lichlords leader Nightbay sent hordes of his skeletal, legions over the blasted lands. He would claim this place and the dwarves that inhabit it for his own evil rule. Travel through these vast lands and battle Nightbay's armies! Undead is a reference work that includes an adventure for 4-6 Player Characters of Skill levels 6-9."

The book includes a campaign setting of Verdaise (a volcanic land populated largely by various undead creatures) & several other rather useful tidbits like undead combat tactics, several variant species, as well as the deeper details on the Lichlords leader Nightbay. This book was on the top end of the Mayfair games product line & its undead content got me suspended from middle school during the height of the 'Satanic Panic'. Years later this cover would get me into trouble again in the Evangelical Christian high school I was attending in '88 resulting in another suspension.
This book is also one of the first sources for the stats of a dracolich leap frogging Dragon magazine by a month or two. Undead comes with a colorful back story, a variety of encounters, and some seriously challenging creatures. It also features a nice pullout map, & great artwork.

 Like many of the Mayfair games adventure source books Undead has its own weird aberrations  for its stats here's a handy conversion chart I found on Dragon's foot: 
Conversions of Mayfair stats to 1E (just in case):

STR (Strength) -> same
INT (Intellect) -> Intelligence
INS (Insight) -> Wisdom
DEX (Dexterity) -> same
STA (Stamina) -> Constitution
APL (Appeal) -> Charisma

HTK -> Hit points
AT -> Attacks
DM -> Damage

Is the Undead book really any good? Well in a word yes, even though its a relic from another time, the book takes its own view point on the Undead exploits on this for its adventure which actually lives up to its promise of  for 4-6 Player Characters of Skill levels 6-9. There are some serious challenges & some dangerous foes in this adventure that draw heavily from the dark sword & sorcery Appendix N fiction of the time. The material isn't over the top some of the encounters can catch players off guard if their not careful.
There is even more controversy that goes with this title because of the lawsuit that happened between classic era TSR & Mayfair games.
According to Wiki;"Gary Gygax had advocated arranging a licensing agreement between TSR, Inc. and Mayfair Games for their Role Aids line of game supplements, but was outvoted in the board meeting considering the question. In 1993, Mayfair was sued by TSR, who argued that Role Aids,advertised as compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,violated their 1984 trademark agreement. While the court found that some of the line violated their trademark, the line as a whole did not violate the agreement, and Mayfair continued publishing the line until the rights were bought by TSR."

This one introduces such things as lichlords, a complete undead army, undead war mammoths, and a boat load of other creatures to kick the hell out of a party of adventurers. The adventure locations are well done, the descriptions are spot on & the authors keep things moving without bogging down in too much detail. This is a source book/ adventure that does everything it says on the tin while offering a bunch of adventure settings that can be dragged and dropped right into your own 'home' campaign. Today this adventure sells for less then six dollars and change for not that well now among its own circle of old schoolers.

So is the Undead book worth getting for your own campaigns? In a word yes, not only is this a great reference but because its not known outside certain circles there's plenty between the pages that can be mined for your own home games. Players hardly even know that book exists let alone some of the old school content that few know about. So grab this one and let the forces of Nightbay was over the landscape of your own home town. There is so much potential to keep the players guessing and avoid some of the more passionate mistakes that occur with old school undead.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dark Folk Role Aids By by Paul Karczag , Steve Morrison, & Robert Lynn Asprin From Mayfair Games For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & Your Old School Campaigns

Sunday was always a weird day when it came to table top rpg's, first of all it was a double weekend dose of Hanna Barabara with Space Ghost reruns out of New York Channel Eleven here in Connecticut. But it was also a time to catch up on weekly reading because in the afternoon kids would get together to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. Because in the afternoon all bets were off, & the tribes of the evil humanoid races -- orcs, trolls, goblins, gnolls, and kobolds all came out to play.

Mayfair really pulled out the stops for Dark Races book; "Meet the dark races, the foul races, the evil races; the Orcs, Kobolds, Goblins, Gnolls and Trolls. Learn how they live, hate, and terrorize. Each dark race is described in detail with complete towns, villages, fortresses, dungeons and featuring Orcish Culture a special article written by Robert Lynn Aspirin. Also included are adventures involving each of the dark folk that are suitable for use with all popular role playing systems including Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Bring depth to the villains in your world."
There were important reasons why the The Dark Folk worked as a supplement to the world's most popular fantasy role playing game;each race was got its own chapter, complete with overviews of history, culture, physiology, religion, magic items, & more. What Dark Folk did was to flesh out the background parts & pieces of each monster race & do it in such a way to add substance & style so that each adventure at the end of the chapter could be dragged & dropped into the dungeon master's campaign world. 

Basically one of the things that Role- Aids Dark Folk does is allow the DM to drag and drop the various monsters into their campaign world where and when they want them in the hex crawl or a wilderness style adventure. But there are ways to insert them in a campaign setting to A. Deal with the entry on each humanoid race on its own terms as the DM sees fit and to B. take the machinery as well as adventure mechanism as a whole or use it as piece meal as they need it. This is very important because you can use slices of Dark  Races for what you need in your campaigns its very modular in this regard.

This book fleshes out the evil humanoids of the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual  in such a way as to give them depth & over arching motives for their actions, attitudes, & monstrous characteristics. Dark Folk was a great read pulling from both original ideas & mythology. The chapter on trolls is gold. No longer were these merely an a monstrous aberration these were fleshed out NPC creatures with motives, drives, & hidden cultures. They were all of the more dangerous for their backgrounds. Each race had an adventure to go with the monsters presented and there were some infamous 'in house' jokes sewn into the background of Dark Folk. I loved this book and my own copy is very well worn from constant thumbing through for adventure design.  Dark Folk is another reasonable priced May Fair Role - Aids products that sells for a around eight dollars for a used copy on Amazon.
There are some solid reasons for using this book including an article featuring Orcish Culture many consider a classic written by Robert Lynn Aspirin of Thieves world fame. I don't think that there was any real prejudice or racial labeling using the title Dark Folk, this is a reference to the pseudo Tolkein background of the product.  All in all Dark Folk is an excellent product & worth getting for any DM whose interested setting up underworld adventures with a source other then the usual Under Dark material .These monsters have opportunity, motives, & solidly done adventures which is why Dark Folk is on so many people's lips as a by word in quality when Mayfair games was doing some very bold & daring product ideas. All in all I think that Dark Folk is a solid addition to the library  of any OSR dungeon master! Four out of five on this great blast from the past!

Retro Review Dwarves (1982 Mayfair Games edition) For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

So turn back the clock to about Eighty Two in my small home town of Connecticut. Its a Saturday, I've finished watching the slot of cartoons coming out of New York on cable & wrestling is long over. The trip down to the book shop takes less then ten minutes but its another day of out running bullies, dogs, & neighbors to get to my prize. A brand new copy of Mayfair games Dwarves with its great Dwarven miners cover. There wasn't a whole lot of background on Dwarves in the the Monster Manual or the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons canon. Sure there was plenty within Tolkein & mythology a source that I would later tap into. There were even some other other outside sources other then classic era  TSR products.

But this one cropped up in the pages of Dragon magazine & even back then I had players who were Dwarven fanatics. Yes even back then the players were often demanding more material & many in the war gaming & D&D community here considered Role Aids an upstart company. Mayfair games was an upstart community & their material was never given the official nod of TSR or Gygax. What's in Dwarves? Well according to the Rpgnet breakdown;"Dwarves is part of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons-compatible Role Aids product line, and includes a complete kingdom, two cities and three towns, new magic, and an adventure. From the back cover of the revised printing (with eccentric punctuation intact):

Dwarves: the stoutest warriors in the Age of Legend. Herein is recorded their history, gods, cultures, artifacts, wars, magics, mines, traps, and enemies. Includes a guide to the ancient cities of Ostohar and Amor, the village of Fin and featuring, Dwarven Rite, an epic adventure for 4 to 8 Dwarven characters of Skill Levels 5 to 10."
 It was written by Paul Karczag who would later on go to write the Dark Folk book. Dwarves has a funny flavor about it midway between Tolkien & some weird mythology. The Dwarves here feature female Dwarves with  beards. The line artwork & layout are primary Eight Two Mayfair. They lay everything out from society, magic, religion, gods, traditions, artifacts, new skills, factions, and a complete city called Oatohar which has a good solid dash of Wagner thrown into the mix of it.  My own original copy of Dwarves was lost to an apartment fire back in Ninety something in Boston. It was replaced by the second edition which has been with me ever since. 

 Dwarves clocks in at around ninety six pages half of which is taken up by an adventure Dwarven Rite, an epic adventure for 4 to 8 Dwarven characters of Skill Levels 5 to 10. Its a nasty little romp featuring some very weird encounters, solid adventure locations, & several dangling adventure plot hooks that can be exploited for enterprising dungeon masters. Its nothing to set the world on fire but its a good challenge for a band of Dwarven adventurers who are looking for a bit of a romp after dealing with the challenges of the 'D' series. This was the case with me with players who were looking for a domestic Dwarven challenge for the holidays.
The book seems to crop up all of the time on ebay and Amazon; Amazon has it cheap for around ten dollars. It fills a need for those DM's who want a quick drag & drop kingdom of Dwarves in their campaign world. Its not a bad little book at all & fills in the stop gaps for a solid little Dwarven kingdom. That being said, make sure that you check and modify the cultural mores, magic, & brick- a - brack to fit your own campaign world.