Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Actual Session Report Part II - A Sword & Sorcery Hundred Years War, Dark Albion, & More Classic X2 Castle Amber By Tom Moldvay ( sort of)

"A desperate sorceress, a land wracked by war, & a very dangerous war open gateways better left closed. The mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape."

The players in last week's game was a follow up to one of the most dangerous session reports I've dungeon mastered . This is a follow up session report for last week's game session.
 tower of the sorceress Istarelle exists across time  & space leering its shadow into Avalon,  Averoigne during 1940 & 1337 at the start of the Hundred Years War, & even beyond. The PC's have been smuggled in during the occupation of 1940 as consultants & occult trouble shooters to the French resistance.  The players had made their way through the tower after encountered a number of Nazi group #12 soldiers who were running from something? What they encountered was the chaos mutated warriors of  the  Breton Ankou .

"This character is reported by Anatole Le Braz, a 19th-century writer and collector of legends. Here is what he wrote about the Ankou in his best-seller The Legend of Death:
The Ankou is the henchman of Death (oberour ar maro) and he is also known as the grave yard watcher, they said that he protects the graveyard and the souls around it for some unknown reason and he collects the lost souls on his land. The last dead of the year, in each parish, becomes the Ankou of his parish for all of the following year. When there has been, in a year, more deaths than usual, one says about the Ankou:
– War ma fé, heman zo eun Anko drouk. ("On my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou.")
"There are many tales involving Ankou, who appears as a man or skeleton wearing a cloak and wielding a scythe, and in some stories he is described as a shadow, often atop a cart for collecting the dead. He is said to wear a black robe with a large hat which conceals his face.[1] According to some[who?], he was the first child of Adam and Eve. Other versions have it that the Ankou is the first dead person of the year (though he is always depicted as adult, and male), charged with collecting the others' souls before he can go to the afterlife.[citation needed] He is said to drive a large, black coach pulled by four black horses; accompanied by two ghostly figures on foot."

The characters dispatched any warriors they came across. The PC's hid as they heard the sound of tiny tinkling bells & the sound of a creaking old wagon wheels. Two strange death like ghostly figures grabbed two of the soldiers & yanked the soldier's souls from their bodies.
The PC's ran from the tower & straight into the woods surrounding the place right into Averoigne  in Albion. Averoigne is a  'region in France, heavily forested — located somewhere between Tours and Moulins; a "main highway" between those two cities goes through it (The End of the Story, Clark Ashton Smith)

The player's PC's got a chance to interview a few of the Nazi soldiers who had seen 
the  Breton AnkouThe freeing of the  Breton Ankou allows other chaos based horrors to grow bold enough to escape the confines of Fairyland. A band of chaos infected 3rd level human warriors trapped since Roman times is not out of the question. These infected might be the former chaos cult of  the  Breton Ankou. Trapped for all eternity to do the bidding of this demonic monster of death & destruction. Two resources that were key to  this game  are Dark Albion  & Dark Albion Cults of Chaos. The player's PC's sought the lychgates where the  Breton Ankon's tomb was in fairyland. Instead they found themselves facing the Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville).

The PC's began to comb through the manor & there were some really choices to make. Within about 3 hours the PC's ran smack into an Avalon Inquisition crew & there was an exchange of arrows & some small gun fire.  The PC's are trying to reach the secret occult & laboratory of Stephen  d'Amberville. What will happen to them?! In the meantime here's the complete cycle of Clark Ashton Smith's  Averoigne
Will the player's characters survive?! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

OSR Commentary On C2 ""The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980), by Allen Hammack With A Bit of Clark Ashton Smith For Your Old School Campaigns

"A shadow from the past, the Ghost Tower of Inverness has loomed ever larger in the mind of the great Seer of Urnst. Now he has convinced the Duke that an expedition should be organized to go to the ancient keep and recover its greatest treasure - the fabled Soul Gem. This module was originally written for the Official ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Game Tournament at Wintercon VIII, held in Detroit in November of 1979. It is the second in TSR's COMPETITION SERIES - modules that were used in official tournaments. This module contains a challenging setting, a scoring system and characters specially prepared for this adventure. It may thus be used for competition among players (or groups of players) or as a non-scored adventure. Also included within are background information, referee's maps and notes, encounter descriptions for players, and a background scenario linked to the WORLD OF GREYHAWK Fantasy World Setting."

Nineteen Seventy Nine seems to have been  a banner year for modules & one that I love to refer back to is the ultimate in 'fun house dungeons'. Yes I'm talking about the infamous C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness competition module.  "
"The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980), by Allen Hammack, was the second adventure in the competition (C-) series. It was published in 1980." I'm not sure what it is about this module but I've got a very large soft spot for it. 

This module has direct & deep connections to the campaign world of Greyhawk; 

"The backstory to C2 has some fairly important implications for the history and development of Greyhawk, due to the age of Castle Inverness:
Know you that in the elder days before the Invoked Devestation and the Rain of Colorless Fire, when the ancient peaks of the Abbor-Alz still thrust skyward sharp and majestic and the Flan tribesmen were but newcomers to the land, there existed between the Bright Desert and the mouth of the river Selintan a great fortress called Inverness . . .  Know you also that here was said to dwell the great wizard Galap-Dreidel at the height of his power and glory, and that he did lift the Castle Inverness from the very foundation of rock upon which it rested. [citation]" 
This information comes straight from the Greyhawk on line page & it has many connections across the board to  the Flanaess. But that's never stopped me from taking full advantage to draw in the ghost tower deeper into whatever campaign world  I'm currently running.  For me the tower is one which has many different aspects across the planes so there's a Ghost Tower on Mystara . The classic Modules and Adventures in Mystara article by Bouv  from the Vaults of Pandius site has some ideas on the towers placement. 
 For me it comes back to Clark Ashton Smith & Jack Vance's wizards. These are beings whose very works can define reality of their respective worlds. Now most folks would think that I'd reference the excellent  Xiccarph cycle of Clark Ashton Smith. No instead I want to focus on CAS's "The Dark Eidolon. The tale of course  chronicles the life and death of the dread sorcerer Namirrha. Namirrha is the complete opposite of the wizard who constructed the ghost tower. But their are striking similarities. Both of these high level wizards are busy rearing edifices that defy their local time & space continuum's technological level & the mere laws of physics. The Nerd Redfined site has a very good overview & break down of Namirrha.
But this begs the question if there are such towers across the multiverse could they lay in wait for unwary heroes? Surely there are no such weird towers in say classic comic books?! Well actually the DC universe has one of its own that has rooms that look like they were designed by M.C. Escher. I'm speaking of course of DC's own sorcerer supreme Dr. Fate & his tower. 

Artwork used without permission but not as a trade mark or copyright challenge.

The tower of Fate appeared in More Fun Comics #58 (August, 1940) & has served as the focal point for some of the most important events in the DC comic book universe. The Ghost tower has  served in some of the most important PC's deaths over the years. Countless parties have ventured into its depths & yet few have survived its tricks & traps. The fact that its a competition module makes this all of the sweeter. Could it be that the real reason that the ghost tower hasn't been brought to heel like so many other dungeons is the fact that it serves another function? Could C2 tower actually be a playing board between the gods & various high level wizards? We know that the tower itself is from another age. But is this because its halls serve as the battle ground for the amusement of the gods & their opponents. If this is a fun house dungeon then for whom is it fun for? 
The  answer lies within its history & connections to some of the greatest disasters of Greyhawk's history.  Now of course the gods & wizards amuse themselves at the perils of mortals within the tower.

William Blake  Jacob's Ladder

I've seen C2 described as a 'killer dungeon' numerous times but I think that its part of its form & function. The adventure is described for PC's of levels five through seven. Confession time I've used it with much higher level PC 's & its just as lethal.
Is there a malevolent intelligence behind the the tower? Well yes in my campaigns the ghost tower has been run by any number of dimensional travelers who have served the tower. The form & function has been the same. The tower moves from place to place & kills off adventurers according to its ancient function that was created so many thousands of years ago. The magicks of the tower are as potent as the day it was created. I've used the ghost tower with lots of OSR retrclone systems especially Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Labyrinth Lord, AD&D first edition & my upcoming Amazing Adventures!/ Demi god campaign.

Because the legends of the ghost tower are so tied in with Greyhawk over the years, I've used this adventure to get PC's to Greyhawk if they've survived. The campaign world is so iconic that its not hard to get players into the Greyhawk mind set. I've also gathered PC's from across a wide range of TSR campaign classic settings such as Mystara, Blackmoor, Greyhawk & points beyond.
This really speaks to the adaptiveness of 
C2 ""The Ghost Tower of Inverness". There are lots of detractors out in the OSR for this module but still love it. Having this location in an old school or OSR campaign setting is guaranteed to spark interest & perhaps a lot of caution. 

Review & Commentary On Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5 Palace of the Dragon’s Princess By Mark Taormino & Dark Wizard Games

"Once upon a time, the lakeside Kingdom of Damoros was suffering from the death of its benevolent King. All hope now lay with the Princess who was set to marry the bravest knight in the land, and their union would restore the realm. However, on the wedding day, the evil Dragon Maelfesto attacked the castle by surprise and took control! The serpent drove everyone out and took the princess captive in the caverns below, wickedly enchanting the palace never to be seen again. Riches, honor and glory will be gained for those who save the fair maiden, defeat the beast and return alive from the Palace of the Dragon’s Princess!"

Its freezing quite literally out here at Casa De Fabiaschi & Mark Taormino from Dark Wizard Games contacted me last night with my review copy of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess. This module funded within one day on Kickstarter & its interesting to see the resulting adventure. Clocking in at forty four pages this module presents a very interesting twist or two on the usual tropes of a"rescue the princess" adventure  module. But be warned that this is a high level module designed for character levels 8-12 and can be played with the OSRIC system or easily adapted to AD&D, D&D 1e to 5e, etc.

The artwork & layout are top notch & easy on the eyes. The adventure plot fits the ins & outs of the quality of what we've seen from other Taormino adventures in the past. The whole thing plays very well with others if your looking to integrate the module into an existing campaign. Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess has the look & feel of an 80's well designed gonzo adventure  fest. Inter locking adventure parts that fit into a colorfully deadly whole of max carnage & OSR adventure weirdness. 

But is Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess good? Yes if you need a high level & deadly adventure with a plot & actual campaign impact with a twist or two. Encounters here are deadly & the module plays for keeps. The action is twisting, dangerous, & weird. This is a module set in a smaller yet important kingdom. Think Greyhawk with a big budget action sequence built into it & I mean this in a good way. Overall I liked what I read. This isn't a module to be taken lightly & the impact of its events will be felt for a long time to come within a campaign.

The encounters move along at a very quick clip & like many of the  Maximum Mayhem Dungeons tongue is firmly in cheek but its not out of alignment with the themes & tone of Palace of the Dragon’s Princess. Make no mistake this is high fantasy taking place within a Dungeons & Dragons world along with all that that implies. The creatures, monsters, races, etc. are all very well done but fit the mode typical of the module's adventure genre. While conventions are broken the ideas here are solidly  Taormino with everything twisting & churning in the world of Palace of the Dragon’s Princess.

The artwork is strong b/w with the cartography being up to the standards that Dark Wizards &  Maximum Mayhem have provided in the past. Could the Maximum Mayhem Dungeons modules that have been released in the past be used as an over arching campaign by the dungeon master? Yes because of two very important factors :
4 Pregenerated PC characters
40 Encounters within Palace of the Dragon’s Princess
All of these can be linked up to other Dark Wizards adventures such as Vault of The Dwarven King adventure  to form a heavily influenced campaign setting.

Artwork from Vault of The Dwarven King

Overall I really liked & was impressed with 
Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess by  Mark Taormino & Dark Wizard Games. There are somethings to keep in mind about  Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess 

This is a campaign style module which means that the results are going to have very wide implications for an old school or OSR campaign. The monsters & encounters actually live up to their implications for PC's. The adventure is high level for reasons & that players should have at least three to five PC's on the back burner. The PC's are going to be a major influence on the campaign that this adventure takes place in. Connecting  Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess with other OSR or old school modules isn't hard but the results after this module is completed are going to test the player's PC's later on. There's lots of interesting nods & Easter eggs within the module that the DM can exploit connect this module with other classics from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition or B/X era.
Is the 
 Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess  module worth getting? Yes I think so because of the overall playablity, repeat adventure utility, quality & ideas contained within 
Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #5  Palace of the Dragon’s Princess

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Snow, Appendix N With Clark Ashton Smith & Castanamir - OSR Commentary - C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir By Ken Rolston

"It is terribly cold. You swam for your life to this mysterious island, losing most of your provisions in the process, only to find it barren of all but grass. A biting wind from the north drives through your wet clothes, chilling you to the bone. Night is falling and promises even colder temperatures; you wish this place had even a bush to burn as firewood. Your stomach has just begun to complain about the lack of dinner, when one of your companions calls, and you rush o his side, hoping he's found a way to turn grass into a sandwich. Instead, he points to the ground in front of him. "Look there." 

Set in a shallow depression in the ground is a stone door. Your friend reaches down and gives a tug, and the door swings slowly open on creaking hinges, revealing a descending stair. The first thought that crosses your mind in whether it would be better to freeze to death up here in the wind or fall into the hands of Castanamir the Mad, the unpredictable. "

C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir is one of the competition modules by Ken Rolston. The module is a solid one that was at the time of its release very well put together. Originally this was one of the C series of competition modules & way ahead of its time.  "The Lost Island of Castanamir was written by Ken Rolston, with art by Jeff Easley, and was published by TSR in 1984 as a 32-page booklet with an outer folder"

What makes it one of the better competition modules? Well a factor is the exclusion of the point system according to its Drivethrurpg entry; "C3 marks a change from the earlier competition adventures. It doesn't have visual handouts, and its scoring is much more subjective - no longer including specific points for specific actions as C1 and C2 did.".  The other thing is the fact that this module plugs into the old school/ OSR gonzo nature of dungeon crawling; ""Lost Island" is a classic tournament dungeon crawl, full of wacky teleporters and other strangeness. It also includes science fantasy elements like robots (iron men) and refrigerators."  But don't think that this is simply a 'fun house' module there's a lot going on here that the DM can plug into his or her own campaign. 

With the  demi god/ super hero game campaign I've been asked to include this module's location  because its extra planar nature;

"In this scenario, the adventurers pass through magical portals into a series of interlinked chambers.[2]
The characters are encouraged by a young scholarly mage to voyage into the Sea of Pastures, to explore a mysterious island connected with a number of recent shipwrecks and disappearances. The island is grassy and windblasted, but eventually the characters discover a stone door leading into a subterranean complex. There, they discover 18 rooms linked by secret passages and magical portals. Most of these rooms have been ransacked by a variety of other survivors, human and monstrous. These survivors are likewise trapped within the labyrinth and are either eking out a miserable existence there or else desperately searching for a means of escape.
Also within the building are a number of extraplanar creatures, collectively known as gingwatzim, who can shift between various forms: an energy form (glowing ball of light), an inanimate form (usually a magical weapon), and an animate form (an animal or monster). Eventually the characters may find the exit, and are once again deposited on the dreary islands to await rescue."

Wizards are always a risky factor for a campaign. One of the adventure campaign factors of both fantasy fiction & Dungeons & Dragons is the insanity of wizards. This is especially true of the high level ones! C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir by Ken Rolston bares this out. The fact is that the past of the island bares this out. In fact many elements here bare a striking resemblance to the "The Maze of Maal Dweb" by  Clark Ashton Smith. CAS's  Xiccarph cycle had a definite effect on Robert Kuntz's campaign & adventure work as well. 

So what does this have to do with C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir By Ken Rolston & high level campaigns? After all this is only a first level module for characters levels one through four? The key here is the review by Chris Hunter;
"Chris Hunter reviewed the module in Imagine magazine, giving it a mixed review.[1] He wrote that, as a competition module, it is "so tough that not everyone survives" and thus when used with regular characters Hunter suggested the use of higher level characters.[1] He described the module as disjointed and difficult to DM, as many encounters were not fully thought through by the designers. As this module introduces an "interesting class of creatures", it could also have major long-term consequences for a campaign.[1] According to Hunter, C3 is "good buy" for those looking for a competition module.[1] However, he did not recommend it for an ongoing campaign" 

So C3 could have long term consequences on a campaign hmm? I'm a sucker for competition modules & if we look a wee bit deeper into
  the all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb's works then we see that he's gone up against a wide variety of heroes, pulp heroes, etc.  This is especially true in CAS's Maze of the Enchanter;
" At length he came to a lampless, column-crowded portico; and, gliding silently as a jungle snake, he entered the mysterious house of Maal Dweb. A door stood open behind the dark pillars; and beyond the door he discerned the dim reaches of an empty hall.
Tiglari went in with redoubled caution, and began to follow the arrased wall. The place was full of unknown perfumes, languorous and somnolent: a subtle reek as of censers in hidden alcoves of love. He did not like the perfumes; and the silence troubled him more and more. It seemed to him that the darkness was thick with unheard breathings, was alive with invisible movements.
Slowly, like the opening of great yellow eyes, yellow, flames arose in lamps of copper along the hall. Tiglari hid himself behind an arras; and peering forth presently, he saw that the hall was still deserted. Finally he dared to resume his progress. All around him the rich hangings, broidered with purple men and blue women on a field of blood, appeared to stir with uneasy life in a wind he could not feel. But there was no sign of the presence of Maal Dweb or his metal servitors and human odalisques.
The doors on either side of the hall, with cunningly mated valves of ebony and ivory, were all closed. At the far end Tiglari saw a thin rift of light in a somber double arras. Parting the arras very slowly, he peered through into a huge brilliantly lit chamber that seemed to be the harem of Maal Dweb, peopled with all the girls that the enchanter had summoned to his dwelling. It seemed, in fact, that there were hundreds, leaning or lying on ornate couches, or standing in attitudes of languor or terror. Tiglari discerned in the throng the women of Ommu-Zain, whose flesh is whiter than desert salt; the slim girls of Uthmai, who are molded from breathing, palpitating jet; the queenly topaz girls of equatorial Xala; and the small women of Ilap, who have the tones of newly greening bronze. But among them all he could not find the lotus-like beauty of Athlé.
Much he marveled at the number of the women and the perfect stillness with which they maintained their various postures. They were like goddesses that slept in some enchanted hall of eternity. Tiglari, the intrepid hunter, was awed and frightened. These women — if indeed they were women and not mere statues — were surely the thralls of a death-like spell. Here, indeed, was proof of the sorcery of Maal Dweb."

So here we have an isolated location belonging to a former wizard or other worldly power just waiting outside of the campaign setting's location waiting to trap & perhaps destroy any character who comes into contact with its form & function. 

The lost island waiting for a group of intrepid adventurers is a long held tradition in the various Celtic mythologies & super hero comics from the Golden age to the modern era. 

C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir By Ken Rolston has a definitive place at my table coming up! We've got more adventure campaign commentary & classic adventure entries coming up. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Fire & Lightning - Using May Fair Games Role Aids - Wizards by Bill Fawcett (Editor) For Campaign Construction

"For sheer power, originality, & cunning, no other group approaches Wizards. Collected here are original articles written by the creators of some of the most famous magicians in history."
Quite the tagline from the back of the Mayfair Games Role Aids Wizard's book. And yet I went into this book back in '83 thinking that this was going to be a PC class book. Boy was I wrong!? Well, yes & no. The book isn't an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons character class book but it doesn't make it any less useful nor exciting. 

I don't particularly agree with the Amazon four star review from Jay Epps who said; "Due to the copyright limitations of the time, Mayfair Games was intentionally vague on the stats to skirt around TSR's lawyers. Though it's easy enough to figure everything out if you are familiar with First or Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Translating for those more familiar with Fifth Edition D&D or Pathfinder might be a bit more effort than you might want to spend. It's really an artifact of interest and use to old school gamers more than anything else."

Well what is in fact is an adventure anthology featuring write ups for ; Gilgamish in an adventure for eighth through tenth level, a version of Merlin, another adventure for Morgan Le Fay for third level through sixth level , Lythande of the Thieves world Trilogy by Marion Bradley for fourth through seventh, Shadow Jack 
from Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows" for fifth through eighth levels, Circe for characters from sixth through ninth level. And then a massive write up on S.Carlonius  by Gordon R. Dickson's  "The Dragon and the George" and "The Dragon Knight" along with a bestiary . Then there's a great bit of Ahaz & Skeeve from Robert Aspirin's comedy "Myth" series get write-ups and an adventure "Mythified" which will work with most levels.

What's here is very useful especially for adventuring in the world or campaign settings based on the fiction of the Wizards featured in the anthology. But this is only part of what can be done here. Instead these NPC write ups could be used for as a jump off point for a party of adventurers NPC patrons! Imagine having a party of adventurers recruited by 
Shadow Jack from Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows" for an adventure on a post apocalyptic land scape ala Gamma World second edition.  Or locking horns with Merlin & the knights of the round table for an artifact or magic item.
Everything in this book is keyed with more then enough information to act as a jump off point for an old school or OSR  campaign. The adventurers could have these wizards as patrons for their parties. This is a great book to act as perfect set up for Troll Lord Games Castles & Crusades campaign.

Want a straight up Sword & Sorcery campaign with a twist or two use Gilgamesh's write up & set the PC's on to the path of greater glory & perhaps godhood. What about a super hero game ala Amazing Adventures! rpg?! Surely there can't be anything here for that game? Actually if we reach back into the mists of time to  
Whiz comics #47 then we have echoes of Captain Marvel's the wizard Shazam. He's a perfect profile for using a wizard as the origin key point for a pulp or super hero! Thanks to the World's Mightiest Mortal blog we get a complete outline of this classic character's origin. 

This same style of hero or even demi god origin could be used with Circe, Merlin, or even gasp Morgan Le Fay for that matter. The limits here on the dungeon master's imagination. I've been toying with using the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide listing & generation rules for artifacts for this upcoming demi god game.

This leads me back to an idea that I had within my B/X & AD&D hybrid campaign notes on artifacts transcending time & space. Wizards might have the ability to use said artifacts like the gods to bend the very laws of physics & history to pervert reality. This would make gods such as Greyhawk's Luz very dangerous indeed. It also means that wizards such as Circe could indeed have very different agendas then what PC's might expect. This is another way of using Mayfair's Role Aids Wizards book in an even more unexpected & dangerous light. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tainted Words, Wounds, & Mayfair Games Demons II Box Set By Kevin Hassall - Campaign Commentary

"In Demons, you met the lords of the Infernus. now learn the dark secrets of these evil fiends, their methods most foul and how they taint the world of mortals. Learn too, how they might be sought out and destroyed. The world has faced no greater threat than the palpable evil that is... Demons! ~ The Demons II source pack includes: * An 80 page game master's book detailing how demons act and how they taint the world around them; * A 48 page book of demonic adventures; * The 32 page "Razor of Righteousness", a tome which discusses how demons may be recognized, hunted and eradicated; * The "History of the Endeavor", a book of notes describing the Cabal, a brotherhood of ambitious thaumaturgists; * A new character class, the Inquisitor,his habits and techniques; * Expanded information on Slayers, Thaumaturgists and half-demons; * Descriptions of the Gates, the demons' pathways to the plane prime; * Information on the ways of the demon-worshiping cults; * Dozens of demon-wrought magic items and adventure inspirations!"


So I've been getting it in the neck for posting a lot about Mayfair Games Demons box set. Well its time to start pissing off some more folks with the Demons II follow up. 1993 was a banner year for the Demons line with this box set setting the standard for Infernus fueled horrors at the table top! 
 Kevin Hassall really knocked it out of the park with this one. For a B/X Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition game campaign this was a killer add on. The foundation that was laid out in the first Demons box set is built upon here. Factions, cults, & more is used to great effect within the setting. The player hand outs set the stage for bringing down the home grown aspect of some of these cults. The demonic  taint here spreads out like ripples on the fetid water of a campaign. This makes this set a good choice for a retroclone system such as Labyrinth Lord or Troll Lord Games Castles & Crusades. 

The e
xpanded information on Slayers, Thaumaturgists and half-demons ports very easily over into the system of Castles & Crusades. By reversing it we can see how this information ports over into a super hero or pulp setting ala Amazing Adventures! rpg. Time & again we see this happening in various Troll Lord products something that Mayfair toyed with all the way back in the 90's. 
Campaign cohesion is something that a dungeon master has to work at & with elements from Demons II the job is easier. The contents of this box set are excellent & well worth tracking down. The Infernus is detailed but not enough to cause a DM headaches when it comes to adding or subtracting elements from their campaigns.

Heroes & PC's need to be heroic these are foes that come off as dangerous, deranged, damaged, & diabolic without the players wanting to play them. Make no mistake about this. These are forces that Luz is subcontracting & already the players are waiting to kick ass.
I've already been asked by several players how is Luz commanding these forces? What is the connection to Greyhawk?! What are the links to the classic campaign?!  Sorry folks your just going to have to arrange your schedules and play!

We already know that Luz's maternal grandmother through adoption is Baba Yaga & already an an army of evil men, terrible wizards and savage orcs has been seen in Russia & parts of the United States. This ties in with the Demons II box set & especially The Codex Slavorum from Troll Lords. 

This ties in with several of Luz's other relatives & some of his enemies as well! I'm having a glorious time with all of this! Do I think that you should pick up the Demons II box set? Yes if you can find it cheaply? Certainly! 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dungeons & Demons - Mayfair Games Demons Box Set One - OSR Campaign Commentary

So today was a flurry of phone calls & emails. I got a chance to grill DM Steve on what exactly he's gotten me into. I spoke with him about using Mayfair games Demons box set one to create our demon hit squad. Already in the works is another player's paladin to head off said squad of demons from prematurely ending the player's PC's. What is Demons?!

 "Demons is an supplement source book for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition role playing game. The work was written and published by Mayfair Games. The work appeared in 1992 and was the first of many books to add more detail on demons in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition which, at that point in time, had removed Demons from the game."Most of my campaign notes were/are a B/X & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hybrid so Demons way back in the mists of the 1992 era are perfectly suited for this setting. 
"FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH AD&D 2ND EDITION. Eons ago...they were imprisoned in a vast inferno for fomenting a conflict amidst the gods themselves. Now, they're loose and free to prey upon the will of man. Run out of challenges? Try matching wits with the embodiment of all evil. The Demons sourcepack includes: * 48 pages of hole-punched monster descriptions, covering the demons and the inhabitants of their inferno lairs, for your players to add to other game materials; * An 80-page game master's booklet; * The 64-page Infernicum Mallemancia, an ancient book of demon lore that provides your players with all the clues they need to tackle and defeat their diabolical adversaries; * New character classes, including the demon-summoning Thaumaturgist and the demon-hunting Slayer; * Rules for half-demon player characters; * Dozens of new spells and new magic items; * A Full color, 22 "x 34" map; * A complete adventure; and the most powerful spells in fantasy role-playing!"

So I've been reviewing the box set & going over how to really flesh out the beasts that are going to take down my player's PC demi gods. I've also been rereading the Godbound rpg as well. Godbound brings a Hell of a lot to the table pardon the pun. Some of the factions & adversaries are very much at home in the background that I'm planning. The setting material does fit what I've got planned but the cult faction rules are going to be a selling point. Working all of these moving parts & pieces will test my skill but I'm having a great time with it. Godbound is well written &  designed skillfully better then to a certain extent Stars Without Numbers because of the way it handles divinities.  Does it fit Mayfairs Demon line? In a back handed manner, yes. 

Everything from the Apocalypse to the Angel erm Sentinels is in there. Demons are highly dangerous  yet completely motivated for chaos & murder. My players seem absolutely worried! I couldn't be happier but as a dungeon master. The players seem genuinely motivated to move forward with game play as soon as possible. 
I spoke about the rise of the Primorial dragons the other day on this blog but one of my players mentioned the possibility of a species of Spectral dragon appearing? A Spectral Dragon is one of those monsters that I've only seen on the in passing from the Mayfair Dragons Role Aids book. But I came across a spectral dragon conversion on the Vaults of Pandius website. 
Is it possible that one of these monsters might be seen within the game? I believe it is. 
The demons are acting as mercenary forces in Luz's invasion force. They revel in chaos, violence, & destruction so Earth is perfect breeding ground for them. You can see the set up already!

Already demonic scouts are prowling through the city streets looking for the PC's. But there are other forces at play looking to stave off the growing threat. But what of the artifact of Luz itself? Rumors are that its established a base of operation with anyone of the growing number of cults within the city.  The demons seem to be attracted to several dungeons that the PC's have cleared out over the last couple of months when DM Steve ran the player's PC's through them.
Then there's the suspicion that I'm going to pull several monsters out of the B/X Dungeons & Dragons Expert set? Since several of my players actually read this blog I will not confirm nor deny this.

What I will say is that I can confirm that several of the dungeons have doorways that lead straight into the Infernicum. Players should be very afraid & indeed because there are a lot of fronts in this war. Many of the entities that are mentioned in the Demons box set remind me of the demonic monsters that we've seen the classic Marvel  Dr. Strange comic book. Creatures motivated by more then simple needs & wants that human beings can understand but truly alien horror lurking just under the surface. Zom is a great example of the type of unique & utterly dangerous forces that we find in the Demons Box set.

These forces are utterly unique but fit in the divine quasi ecology of fiction that we find running as a thread throughout the Mayfair Role Aids line. 

Matters of Cosmic Power! Monsters, Minions, Pawns, Or The Management of Evil On The Table Top

I'm a bit late to the table with this blog entry but the last twenty four hours have been interesting to say the least. The fall out from Steve's phone call is still echoing across the table here. I've been on the phone with two of my players who may be co opted into becoming co dungeon masters for this new campaign. The problem remains with the scheduling on my end. Work has had me on the ropes.
That being said I've taken advantage of my time both on line & within my stacks to take a deeper look into demi gods.
Sometimes as much play happens off the table as on. The players get into & excited about a campaign. They begin talking about what's happening within the game at home, on the phone, etc. As a dungeon master that gets the creative juices flowing! So I've been working with the Primal Order rpg cap system  & reading through an old interview of  Peter Adkison by  Christopher Helton.
The idea here is that Primal equals cosmic or god power & within the mathematics of the Primal Order system it makes gods.

 Sounds simple & to a certain degree it is. The Adkinson interview really breaks down the ins & outs of a very simple summery of the set up of the Primal Order; "Where The Primal Order really sings is in how it makes clerical characters stand out as something interesting and unique, rather than being a magic-user with a different set of special effects. At the core of this is what the book calls Primal Energy. If you have ever read a Jim Starlin comic where Adam Warlock and/or Thanos monologued about using their cosmic powers, you have an idea of what Primal Energy is supposed to be. It is a fundamental energy in the universe that makes gods into gods. It gives gods their immortality, their godlike powers and it is what allows them to do things like cast mortal magic. It is also the Primal Energy of the gods that empowers clerics, letting them heal and do things like cast spells."Primal energy is used by deities as a "wrath of god" style of energy attack that no mortal protection can stop. Primal energy can also create shields that no mortal magics can penetrate. The idea behind primal energy is to come up with a mechanic that can make fantasy game gods into something more than just high powered characters. No matter how much they try, mortals can never take on primal energy to use as their own. The very nature of primal energy is what defines the divine in The Primal Order. Sort of like how Doctor Doom always failed in the end when he would steal the power of The Silver Surfer or Galactus or The Beyonder. There are energies that are just not meant to be contained by a mortal body. The primal energy mechanic is point-based, new gods start with a base primal energy of 100 points with which to empower their abilities, and to imbue their followers with powers and abilities. Primal energy is regenerated by deities, but it can also be replenished by worship of the deity or sacrifices to them. As gods become more "powerful" and do their equivalent of leveling up, they also can access more primal energy."

This same princples can also be applied to monsters, tomb guardians, etc. This brings me to Monsters of Myth & Legend which came out in 1984. According to the Wiki entry; "Monsters of Myth & Legend was written by Greg Gorden and Neil Randall, with a cover by Boris Vallejo, and was published by Mayfair Games in 1984 as a 96-page book". Add in primal characteristics & your ready to rock & roll for a Troll Lords Castles & Crusades game!

So just add in some primal energy to your favorite menace or monster & your ready to run! Well not exactly. The Monsters of Myth series had a really nice range of cultures that it drew from; "
Monsters of Myth & Legend is a sourcebook play aid containing encyclopedic listings of dozens of creatures and deities to add to an existing fantasy campaign or to help designers in coming up with their own adventures. Norse and Greek mythologies are covered, along with the legends of Ireland, China, the Australian Aborigines, and the American Indians. Each entry includes physical descriptions, backgrounds, game statistics and hints on play. Also included as a thorough index, four pages of GM tables, and a bibliography of sources." And in '84 it was & to a certain extent is the bee's knees but old school gamers can rattle off stats & numbers of monsters right before a DM's eyes. The good ones know their mythologies & some even have copies of Chaosium's All of the World's Monsters series

Don't worry I've got a cure for this! The fact is that its easy to handle those knowledgable players! Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures! Rpg has the Book of Powers  now take your favorite old school monster book & individualize the dungeon guardian monster with your own special characteristics.  No god in their right mind is going to use an off the shelf monster & neither should you.

Primal Order's Pawns The Opening Move contains some solidly done guidelines for creating up divine monsters! Combined the two books & good luck to even god level heroes & heroines!

Now I spoke yesterday about the 'mess' that DM Steve has left me in. Well, we've already got an artifact of Luz in play. Its going to be gathering minions for its 'god' from the Earth  that its been brought to & beyond. Already a demon hit squad is gathering to take out this world's heroes! Will they be up to the challenge or will this Earth fall to the clutches of Luz?!

Stay tuned we've got more coming up including when, what,  & where the invasions begin! Who will save this Earth from the clutches of evil! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Darkest Magic Play Session Report - The Use & Abuse of Mayfair Games Role Aids Arch Magic Box Set

We've gone from doing campaign notes to a quick update on Steve's AD&D/BX/OSR game latest play session report! So I've been getting it right in the neck. Steve's game ended with Apocalypse right now because of yesterday's blog entry.

Mostly  because I've been using a variety of old school sources & combining them with OSR resources to create the type of super hero & pulp campaign that my players have wanted.   Now my original campaign notes are a B/X & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hybrid which had its roots in deep mythology with some classic modules as backdrop. I've been using Mayfair games Role Aids to help with some of the heavy DM lifting & lets continue to look at the Archmagic box set which delves into some of the blackest of magics.Going all the way back into Ninety Three the Archmagic box by

Daniel Gelon, Julian Jackson, Mike Nystul, & Doug Tabb
set didn't seem like it was going to set the AD&D world on fire & it wasn't supposed to. The box set was supposed to fill in a very specialized niche of the fantasy gaming hobby. And it did; "Adds high-powered spells and items to any fantasy campaign, but is "presented for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS".
Rules for Archmages, Artifacts, Grimoires and Archmagics are presented.
Includes an adventure utilizing the rules within. Also includes maps of various mystic places and props depicting various powerful items.
64 page rulebook
32 page adventure
48 page map book
12 loose single-sided sheets of props"
Now the thing about this box set is that it ports right into the Demons line of Mayfair products in a reverse screw sort of campaign adventure way. Now I've already heard the teeth gnashing from Steve my friend about there being no conversions for Archmagic into the Original Dungeons & Dragons rules set. The Vaults of Pandius site came through an Archmagic to  OD&D  conversion by Scott Moore

This means that about 90 percent of the box set of materials will work with the Godbound rpg by Kevin Crawford. For Troll Lord Games Castles & Crusades or Amazing Adventures! Rpg we'll be using the system straight on!
One of the reasons is for their to be Arch magicians guarding reality & dealing with the problem of necromancers & black wizards from beyond. Another is that arch mages are often the fulcrum in comics between the 'gods' & various super heroes as well as adventurers. They recruit local talent & parties of adventurers  to take on Herculean tasks. This is the whole cloth premise of Marvel's Seventies comic book group  the Defenders! Who often seem to act more like adventurers at the table top then some of the polished fantasy novels I've read.

Now I've already talked about the rise of the Primordial dragons yesterday but one of the things that Arch magic box set brought to the table was the ability of very high level magicians to create planes themselves. As my buddy Steve said this is a show of  'local talent' on the part of the arch mages & directly under the purview of the gods. This is sort of like  when Marvel's High Evolutionary went mad; after the Beyonders looked at his version of  Earth  & put it on display in one of their museums.  This was an example of local talent for Marvel's 616 universe.
This brings me to Chessboards By Dave Howell for the Primal Order cap system which is their book on planes. That's a bit simplified. The Planes book covers ;"covers such topics as the various types of planes and their relationships, planar growth cycles, ways to planes, and several varieties of interplanar travel.For those using The Primal Order, it also includes expanded guidelines on planar use primal energy, planar artifacts, and advanced interactions between planes and deities. Five samples metaplanes provide inspiration and illustrate important concepts. Usable with any roleplaying system, this reference work will give GMs the tools they need to create exciting new planes, run multiple settings in one campaign, or link several campaigns into one logically organized multiverse."

Much of what's in Planes bares a striking resemblance to some of the material in the Godbound rpg fannon & rpg resources. So its very interesting seeing the parallel design work across the table on this material. 
This all ties into me inheriting my co dungeon master Steve's game where the PC's have just taken an artifact of Luz back to their Earth! Things are quickly going to Hell quite literally. The dragons have awoken. The party has now got a major succubus from the Amazing Adventures! rpg Manual of Monsters on their behinds! Steve read yesterdays notes & played out the ideas there as an actual game.
Now I've got to pull two of my best friends in to help me co dungeon master my way outta this! So stay tuned! 

Its all pretty glorious! Thanks for reading & we've got more coming up!