Wednesday, November 14, 2018

OSR Commenary -S3 Expediation To the Barrier Peak By Gary Gygax & Echoes of Blackmoor For Your Old School Campaign

'The Grand Duchy of Geoff has recently been plagued by a rash of unusually weird and terrible monsters of an unknown sort. This western area, particularly the mountain fastness which separates the Grand Duchy from the Dry Steppes, has long been renowned for the generation of the most fearsome beasts, and it has been shunned accordingly -- save a handful of hardy souls with exceptional abilities. Within the last few months, however, a walled town not far distant from the area, and four small fortresses as well, have been destroyed by mysterious attacks! '

What happens if the Warden completely destabilized the planes as it passed through on its way to the Grand Duchy of Geoff? I was reading S3 Expedition To the Barrier Peaks & the article Using Blackmoor In Your Mystara campaign by Havard. A really evil thought occurred to me, what if the Egg of Cott was responsible for bringing down the Warden on Greyhawk? Is the Warden interdimensionally stable?! I think it isn't & all that wondrous technology is actually Blackmoor technology that the Egg has been importing onto various planar settings because its trapped & no matter how powerful it gets or what the Egg does. The monster can't leave its various portions of its prisons & so its power is scattered across the multiverse. Its been searching for technologies close to some of Blackmoor's across time & space. There already is a connection between Blackmoor & Greyhawk's S3 Expedition to The Barrier Peaks.  From the Wizards of the Coast Expedition entry on Drivethrurpg;
'A Level of Machines. When Gary Gygax sat down to write "Barrier Peaks" he sought help and inspiration from another source: Greyhawk co-GM Rob Kuntz and his "Machine Level". Kuntz originally created the Machine Level for his own Castle El Raja Key, to challenge Gary Gygax's characters. He later moved it to Castle Greyhawk when he became a co-GM of Gygax's campaign. This allowed players like James Ward to explore the legendary level; Ward wrote about the experience in Dragon #17 (August 1978) when he spoke of the conveyer belts, cellophane machines, die press, slot machines and levers found in the original level.

Besides contributing machinery to "Barrier Peaks", Kuntz also provided content for the garden level of the spaceship.
Origins (III): A City of the Gods. There may have been one other inspiration for "Barrier Peaks". In 1976, Rob Kuntz and Gary Gygax explored Blackmoor's "City of the Gods" when Dave Arneson ran a session for them at TSR's Dungeon Hobby Shop. Gygax's Mordenkainen and Kuntz's Robilar rather famously wreaked havoc on the City, got in way over the heads, and barely escaped with their lives.
As it happens, that City of the Gods was actually a crashed spaceship!'
So there's a Ward, Gygax, Kuntz, & Arneson cross connection but it marks both Expedition & Blackmoor technologies as highly dubious at best.

Blackmoor technologies are very dangerous & deadly. An artifact of Blackmoor caused the events of the Wraith of the Immortals box set but some of the other relics are just as deadly.
'The same goes for the lands of the Shadow Elves which is tied to the very same legacy that Glantri is. Many different items and remnants from Blackmoor keep showing up in modern day Mystara. Historically, the discovery of some unstable artifacts lead to the minor cataclysms of BC 1700 when elves tried to activate the devices.'

In yesterday's blog entry I mentioned Caladar's Vortex & its effects but what if the space craft wreckage of the Warden passed through it on its way to Greyhawk? What if that was only one part of the debris trail that was passing across the planes?! Could there be more debris heading towards Oerth & what are the refications for Blackmoor, Mystara, & Greyhawk? There could be far more happening behind the scenes here? I think that there is the thread 
How many spaceships visited Oerth? from the Canonfire forums goes into some pretty solid details on exactly this. This stuff is about as far from canon as one can get but its great campaign fodder. But why would the Egg of Coot be doing this?! Why not?! Well I think that the Egg is frustrated in its higher dimensional prison & very, very, pissed off.  The Egg of Coot is trapped in  higher five dimensional prison & has been for eons. Its highly influential  as  its power rages across time & space as both artifact & minor god. But its limited in that it can corrupt, create, & even take over but its still trapped in its prison. So it continues to search the various prime material planes hoping to stumble across the one that will free it. Rasgon from the 'How Many Space Ships visited Oerth thread provides the fodder for the Egg & the technologies;
"Aeolius chronicles references to time travel on Oerth in this thread; relevant here is the metal ship with neither mast nor oars found in the Jungle of Lost Ships described in the Glossography. This might be another crashed spaceship.

There are also the "sheens" introduced in Dragon #258 and Dragon #270, which were explicitly tied to Greyhawk:

"At least two points of origin for machine life cysts are currently known, the Barrier Peaks and the Rael cysts. Many more are suspected to exist, but they are as yet undiscovered." - Dragon #258, page 30. I assume the Rael cyst is a reference to Tale of the Comet.

The S3 ship, which was a modular section of a larger ship afflicted by a plague, ended up in Oerth's universe after falling through a black hole. What this hole in the fabric of time and space looks like on Oerth's side is unknown, but it can't be another black hole, or the ship would have been drawn immediately back into the gravity well. A very strong candidate is the Sisters, a mysterious "constellation" of nine starlike objects in Greyspace (described in the sourcebook of that name) that functions as a gateway to other times and places. Perhaps the Sisters, and the offending black hole, are also the source of the other technological incursions. Possibly the other crashes are other sections of the S3 exploration-colonization vessel.

Fred Weining's article on the Archbarony of Blackmoor in the Oerth Journal #5 suggested that the Egg of Coot was actually the same Egg of Coot from the Mystara/Blackmoor setting, who had fled Mystara to Oerth after the Rain of Fire that destroyed the Blackmoor civilization. Similarities between Mystara's Blackmoor and Oerth's Blackmoor (for example, a City of the Gods in both) are blamed on the Egg of Coot, who has been secretly influencing events for thousands of years in order to make his new home more like his old one."

They are the same Egg because each of the Eggs of Coot upon each world is only a portion of the original seen as a bit of planar cross section. Each & every time an artifact, relic, robot, ray gun or treasure finds its way into some poor adventurer or pawn shop owner's hands the evil spreads just a little. A cult might start in some hidden alley or backroom location perhaps just enough to summon  a sheen cyst down into the world. And why would the Egg bring the Warden to Greyhawk? Because if it can't have technologies then it can have sheer chaos & mayhem instead that way everyone is unhappy. But the Egg of Coot's influence isn't the only one causing mayhem. Next time we dive deep into the under currents of even more evil!

Monday, November 12, 2018

OSR Commentary - Calidar's Vortexs & Dimensional Cancers - Otherthere & Back Again In Your Old School Campaigns

Last week I wrote about cracks in many of the major campaign worlds & what it means for players as well as their dungeon masters. Calidar newest kickstarter has exploded since I first started writing about it. But what does this hold for Greyhawk?! A lot of very weird planar threads & adventure hooks actually.

Skyships are nothing new in the skies of Greyhawk & Mystara but these worlds don't have as high an arcane index as Calidar.  Mystara is still on the trading routes of Calidar as far as the OSR dungeon masters are concerned.
'In 2012 and 2013 Bruce Heard wonderfully detailed in his blog almost all the Alphatian Kingdoms, from Arogansa in the south to Frisland in the far north, including coats of arms, maps and adventure ideas, making them much more detailed and interesting places for adventurers.'

'It’s hard to describe Calidar in just a few sentences as the setting is wonderfully rich with original themes and distinctive features. It’s not just a world, but a whole solar system, the Soltan Ephemeris, where different cultures interact and clash. It has magical flying ships, but the magic power to travel between worlds is not cheap, and the competition to acquire it is fierce. It has a central world, the namesake Calidar, with a few developed nations and a huge expanse of wild lands, where the World Soul of the planet is ready to react with hostility to any exploitation. It has, indeed, living planets with complex ecologies. It has dragons, obviously, and draconic knights serving them and eager to conquer new worlds and lands. It has steampunk dwarves and imperial elves, gnomes with a special connection to the natural world and savage halflings called fellfolk, who in some places have embraced the gifts of civilization. It has humanoids, who come periodically from the alien world of Ghüle to raid and take prisoners for their dark gods. It has heroes, who can literally become immortals and even gods, if they are able to earn a lasting fame.
And, as it seems from the previews of Beyond the Skies, the whole Ephemeris and the gods have to face a terrible menace from another universe.'
From the article
'From Alphatia to Calidar'
by Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 11
Could this menace of evil be the same one that we've seen time & again over the years of reading Blackmoor, Mystara, & Greyhawk products?! I think so but the fact is that Calidar's system has the Vortex.
'the important feature of Calidar which is particularly relevant for the scope of this article is the Vortex. A mysterious and unexplained tear in the fabric of time and space, the Vortex is a strange phenomenon that often brings into the Calidar universe people and flying ships from many other places. Often, the people who experience this passage have their memories altered, and can no longer remember the place from which they came.
In the setting, this is obviously the perfect excuse to bring to Calidar player characters created for other settings, and also a way to explain why some Calidaran cultures, as also happened in Mystara, closely resemble some cultures of our real world.'
This is literally a cancerous planar gateway right under the collective noses of the champions, gods, demons, & heroes of Calidar.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Greyhawk's wizards & kingdoms have been sending sky ships across the dimensional threshold. But it also means that the evils of both Mystara & Greyhawk could come to plague Calidar;
'And besides the above canon Vortex, Bruce recently detailed another one, complete with its wormhole, which also could become a gate to Calidar, in the Kingdom of Floating Ar6 in Alphatia.
It’s up to each DM to decide how Mystaran Immortals, or even the Old Ones, may react to a skyship returning from the Vortex. If left alone, such a vessel could report back to the Mystaran empire from whence it came, and Alphatia (or Thyatis) could decide to fund further explorations of the Calidar universe, at least if they are able to locate a spot where the Vortex occasionally appears.
It’s also worth noting that in the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs by Ann Dupuis an Immortal named Gareth began proselytizing in Sind from the Mystaran Year 1010 AC, saying to his followers he had “returned from the Vortex”. The common interpretation in the community has always been that Gareth should be Benekander, the new Immortal created during the Wrath of the Immortals adventures, but what if he is instead someone who came from Calidar?'

The horrors of The Wraith of the Immortals are bad enough but what of the more dangerous cancers let loose by the events of the Temple of Elemental Evil?! Don't think it could happen? Think again, back about 2013 a thread appeared on
The Piazza forum titled The Elemental Evil in Mystara

This thread provides an entire setting, notes, etc for the players & their dungeon master to bring the cancer of the Elemental Evil cult to Mystara. Last blog entry I wrote about the Froggies cult from DA2 Temple of the Frog becoming one of the primary menaces. But what if they were only the tip of the ice berg. Modules and adventures in Mystara article by Bouv 

the Vaults of Pandius site places many classic AD&D 1st edition modules onto Mystara's campaign world. This style of approach gives the dungeon master even more options with Calidar's campaign setting being system agnostic.

Calidar's system has been receiving visitors for centuries & its possible that a great many different OSR as well as OSR campaign settings could have interacted or left their mark on the system. I talked about using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's setting with Calidar in the past. The dimensional & planar cancers allow the players & DM to send their PC's over to Calidar in ancient Hyperborean sky ships which some nations might be still using. The AS&SH Kickstarter is still on going & I suggest that you check it out & support it if your so inclined.

Hyperborea Players' Manual front cover pencils by Val Semeiks

Now at first this seems like heresy using a high fantasy setting with an OSR Sword & Sorcery world. Think again because both HP Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith used their own dream lands worlds. To AS&SH Calidar is merely another dreamworld. Little do they release the menace lurking right out there in the Outer Darkness. But what exactly is in the Darkness Between Worlds & could it be coming for your own campaign world?! Next time we pop open that can of worms!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

OSR Commentary - The World of Greyhawk's Cracks of Evil Across The Planes In Your Old School Campaigns

I've had my back against the wall with work for some days now & I've been going over the classic  Greyhawk box set again. The Rain of Colorless Fire is one of the defining events in Greyhawk that completely & utterly wiped out the Suel Empire. Utterly & completely the peoples of  Suel are no longer a power upon the face of Greyhawk. Their war against  the Baklunish was the stuff of legend as the Invoked Devastation ravaged the face of Oerth. Were these change of events caused by the use of cross planar  magical rituals  & Elemental weapons?! I believe the answer is yes.

There's been very little trace of the Suel Empire per say except some new in the recent fifth edition Against the Giant events from Wizards of The Coast. 

There seem to whole cloth artifacts & magic rites associated with the Invoked Devestation & the Rain of Colorless Fire.  But do these events also include the use of incredibly advanced relics & lost technologies as well!?! Well the Greyhawk Grognard blog/site gives some very dedicated insight into this;
"And, to be fair, this doesn’t have to be inconsistent with the “official” version, either. Nothing says that the invocation of the power from the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Ash didn’t take place at Tovag Baragu. Indeed, the fact that it has some connection to other planes is a point in favor of this theory.
Many fans of Greyhawk have come up with their own inventive backstories for the Rain of Colorless Fire and its Baklunish-destroying counterpart, the Invoked Devastation. They range from ancient Baklunish artifacts to nuclear weapons to meteors from Greyspace to the use of the mysterious artifact/ruin Tovag Baragu. I’m sure there are many others."

Could all of these cataclysmic events help to explain the existence of a multiplicity of different versions of Blackmoor & Greyhawk locations scattered across the planes?! I think so & I also think it could help to explain the reach of two or more of Blackmoor's most infamous factions. The Great Migrations across the face of the Flanaess may have also lead to other worlds. Planar seams & shifts in reality of both Greyhawk & Blackmoor allow many peoples to escape. But its allowed the Egg of Coot to slowly blend into the background of Greyhawk over the centuries.
The Egg of Coot as a Relic by Havard. goes into some of the details of the Egg's machinations. The egg doesn't make waves on Greyhawk.. yet but its cult continues to spread here & there on Greyhawk. Greyhawk's Archbarony of Blackmoor is silent & deadly quietly going about its business. There's a solidly done section about Greyhawk's Blackmoor over at the Blackmoor Archives.

The second faction from the classic Blackmoor campaign that's active in the steaming jungles of Greyhawk & beyond is the Froggies.
DA2 Temple Of The Frog Dungeon Module has another location deep in the jungles of Greyhawk slowly biding its time. And you can bet your last gold piece Saint Stephen of the Rock has been very busy across the face of Oerth.

And if all of this is going on Greyhawk then what the Hell is happening in the Mystara & Greyhawk locations way in Mystara's ancient past?! I've talked about the Shared Mystara/Greyhawk elements from the site . before but what if these two adventure & fiction elements co existing are no accident. What if these elements are the uneasy result of two planes of reality co mingling together because of a dimensional cataclysm eons ago?!
What does this mean for Calidar?! Well it means that Calidar could be next in the path of a planar invasion that its sky ship wandering inhabitants might not even be aware of!?

In CC1
Beyond the Skies we get a whole load of Calidar gods, demons, etc. & scattered throughout there are several hints & outright illusions to the weird high fantasy aspect of this venerable Bruce Heard setting. These include several mentions of dimensional or planar instabilities these could well be cracks caused by the Invoked Devastation of old.

But where are these planar cracks & dimensional weirdness leading?! Is any place safe?! Could the world of Arduin be next or your campaign?! Next time we follow the winding path through the spirals of imagination & see where they take us!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Shadows of Saltmarsh Amazing Adventures! Rpg Session Report #2

 Down by the docklands of New York of 2100 the PC's have started to ask lots of questions.The PC's have been hearing disturbing rumors of lizard men attacks on the outskirts of the Saltmarsh neighborhood. They also heard about blood sports going on in certain temporary underground ruins. They've decided to check out some of these blood sports but they've almost run afoul of the thieves guild & the Syndicate several times. This is continued from our last game detailed here

What they don't know about is the Deep One/Nazi assassin on their behind. But they've gained in ally in a royal renegade White Council member whose acting as the party's patron. Saltmarsh seems quiet & in fact a bit to quiet as they have no idea that there every move is being watched from the shadows by alien lizard men!?
Sailing Ships are used by the lower classes of the city to smuggle illegal cargoes right under the council's noses & most folks turn a blind eye because of the money lining folks pockets.
Saltmarsh is corrupt as it comes living in the shadow of the mega urban sprawl. The White Council itself has several Alchemist's spies among its ranks with Nazi sympathies.
The Alchemist is a vile monster who controls all of the vice, sin, smuggling, & slaving down on the water front from the Salt Marsh neighborhood. This includes blood sport events into which one of the PC's brother's disappeared into.
But rumors of people disappearing in the middle of the night off of ships have the populous rattled. Alien lizard men, strange sightings at night, shipments of fish disappearing & more all point to more then mere rumors & the noose seems to be tighten around Saltmarsh itself.

Then there's the matter of a Nazi agent that came in on the smuggling ship 'The Sea Witch', the PC's had a socialite spill her guts trying to hustle one of the party. They have lots of rumors, smoke, & mirror in this past weekend's game. Where will it lead?! Quite a few places as the claws of 'The Alchmist' tighten around the throats of our heroes.
So what are the lizardmen of Saltmarsh?  They're a tribe of degenerate alien servants who have escaped to Earth of 2100 smuggled in by the Alchemists several years ago. These lizardmen were originally going to be solid as 'exotic' slaves. But they turned the tables on their captors & escaped en mass. They are degenerate Saurians detailed on page 63 of the Manual of Monsters. They have none of the special abilities of those monsters except for being amphibious
They've adapted to life in New York but have no wish to return to a life of slavery among the stars. But all is not well for the Deep Ones(Fishmen from
the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters)  of New York know who & what they are they are. They have no wish to see their plans of domination of the surface world be wrecked by a tribal nation of interlopers.

The water around Saltmarsh have been teeming with Nazi fishmen hybrid scouts testing the neighborhood & the city's defenses. They refuse to engage in any combat with the PC's who ran into them! What's happening & why did one of the party detect a transmission into deep space over the weekend?!  Stay tuned to this blog for further updates!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Why Greyhawk & Mystara Matter For OSR & Old School Campaigns

Its got me thinking over the weekend how does Mystara, Greyhawk, & a setting like Calidar fit together?! Greyhawk is one of my all time favorite old school campaign settings not simply because of the finger prints of Gary Gygax but The Flanaess has its own world & adventure flavor. Mystara is an awesome campaign setting with some great high level adventures Test of  Warlords, Deaths Ride, &  Sabre River spring to mind. The  B/X rulebooks has the brief Grand Duchy info &  map are in the Expert rulebook  & X1 The Isle of Dread  has the subcontinent map. Both of these can be customized as the dictates of the players & the campaign call for. All of this fits together with the invention of the skyships. These ships may have trade routes between campaign settings.

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos has some excellent information that could dovetail adventure hooks into the back end of  the Calidar setting. Greyhawk and Mystara share a number of weird setting details making me wonder if the planes merge at certain planar fracture points. The Vault of Pandius has a short list of setting elements these worlds have in common.

Using Blackmoor in Your Mystara Campaign by Havard
from the Vaults of Pandius site has a number of adventure elements that could be used to augment adventure & campaign  cross overs. This is especially true of Blackmoor whose dimensional & planar instability at certain places is well known. Air ships from different worlds & planar realms may not be an unknown sight in the sky. They may perhaps be legendary but know unknown to the general populous.

 Campaigns with multiple settings would have to take full advantage of ancient trade routes overlapping several campaign worlds.
FromAlphatia to Calidar byFrancesco Defferrari (Sturm) from Threshold magazine issue 11 takes full advantage of this. The central campaign setting spoke is going to be Blackmoor & Greyhawk in my humble opinion. These settings have so much weight with Dungeons & Dragons players that they are almost instantly recognizable. The unique nature of Calidar makes the setting unique & allows for overlap with Greyhawk;
"Calidar in just a few sentences as the setting is wonderfully rich with original themes and distinctive features. It’s not just a world, but a whole solar system, the Soltan Ephemeris, where different cultures interact and clash. It has magical flying ships, but the magic power to travel between worlds is not cheap, and the competition to acquire it is fierce. It has a central world, the namesake Calidar, with a few developed nations and a huge expanse of wild lands, where the World Soul of the planet is ready to react with hostility to any exploitation. It has, indeed, living planets with complex ecologies. It has dragons, obviously, and draconic knights serving them and eager to conquer new worlds and lands. It has steampunk dwarves and imperial elves, gnomes with a special connection to the natural world and savage halflings called fellfolk, who in some places have embraced the gifts of civilization. It has humanoids, who come periodically from the alien world of Ghüle to raid and take prisoners for their dark gods. It has heroes, who can literally become immortals and even gods, if they are able to earn a lasting fame."

This allows the position of adventuring parties unique because they can literally earn their way across the planes on passage aboard a skyship. These adventurers are going to have a myriad of adventure & employment opportunities.

To me Greyhawk & Blackmoor matter because both of these locations are going to be benchmark & foundation settings for the generation of adventurers for these other unique campaign location settings. The dangers are also going to quite high with a lethality rate of adventurers is almost going to be of Biblical proportions. The real issue is going to be how the dungeon master balances the world setting elements so that the campaign flows together easily & the players don't get hung up on the old school vs OSR details. Several of the NPC factions of Greyhawk & Blackmoor can be quite nasty & have the ability to plane jump or journey making the player's PCs not quite as safe as they think. Dragons, liches, & even the gods or immortals may take a direct hand in the adventuring lives of PCs. All of this comes from the strength of Calidar, Greyhawk, & Mystara as viable campaign settings. Merging & overlapping them is a natural progression for a dungeon master.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

OSR Commentary On The Ice Kingdoms: The Fires of Mount Surtur Kickstarter & The Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting

Deep in the heart of Mount Surtur an ancient evil long thought vanquished is stirring. Can your heroes protect the Ice Kingdoms from the legacy of the fire giants?

Continuing the Swords & Sorcery theme with a twist with the new  Mad Martian games Kickstarter. In less then twenty four hours I've watched Mad Martian's latest Ice Kingdom's adventure Fires of Surtur Kickstarter  fulfill & now its stretch goal time.

This adventure is built around the idea of the Thanelands a full on fantasy version of Norse & full throttle Viking mythology with an old school setting twist. The Thanelands is a solid setting that could be added into an existing campaign as another Northern alternative plane or as another Norse style across the world country. There are new PC classes, spells, monsters, etc that are specifically adjusted to the the setting. The Ice Kingdoms is specifically designed for OSR games;

"The Ice Kingdoms is a fantasy setting inspired by and designed for old school RPGs. We love the ‘feel’ of old school games (such as pre-3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons) and their rules, so we are creating game material that is compatible with several modern game systems that use the Open Game License to ‘retro-clone’ those classic games. The Ice Kingdoms is compatible with OSRIC and For Gold & Glory, and our books can also be used with Swords & Wizardry, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, and Labyrinth Lord with only very minimal conversion, as well as the original editions upon which these games are based. We are currently working to convert our earlier projects to other game systems such as Pathfinder, 3rd Edition and 5th edition."

The Thanelands has its own distinctive feel & style to the setting. Fires of Surtur takes it & amps it up to eleven, given that the Thanelands is specifically designed with its own distinct take on Norse mythology, it stands to reason that this is going to be very distinctive take of an adventure. I'm also interested to see where they take the Thanelandsversion of Kobolds in this The Fires of Mount Surtur.

The artwork looks very interesting to me & since there's an extensive catalog of adventures & supplements I'm intrigued by the direction of this Mad Martian games latest efforts. If your interested in getting a feel for the Thanelands, '
The Temple of Drawoh Rock' 1st level adventure is available for 'pay what you want'. It will give a solid overview for the adventure locations of the Thanelands;
The Temple of Drawoh Rock is an adventure module for 1st level characters exploring the Ice Kingdoms. As warriors of Thane Ornulf the characters will sail the Atalac Sea, explore the Gate Isles, and raid the Monastery of Jove. But what starts out as a simple plan to rob some peaceful monks turns into a harrowing adventure as the adventurers cross paths with the machinations of a deadly sorcerer. The Temple of Drawoh Rock is the fourth adventure for the Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting. For more adventures in the Ice Kingdoms see Into the Mournwood, The Lair of the White Wyvern, The Girl With the Demon Tattoos, and The Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting all from Mad Martian Games'

Is this kickstarter worth your dime?! Seriously I think so. The Thanelands setting is flexible enough to be used with a large variety of OSR games. We're finally getting the bestiary we need & the Thanelands has expanded considerably since the their very first kickstarter. Since this is the case I'd use the Thanelands as an old school  background setting for running the '81 Gygax classic Against The Giants. The Thanelands has everything a dungeon master could want to run this classic along with the appropriate background & PC classes.

I think that the Fires of Surtur adventure could be used to enhance G1,2,3, & as a possible side quest for the adventure path. Do I think that the Fires of Surtur is worth your money?! In a word yes!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

OSR Review & Campaign Commentary On The Castles & Crusades Codex Germania By Brian Young

"The Codex Germania unearths the mythological realms of the ancient Germans. From the murky forests of their beginnings rise the myths, the magic, gods, goddesses, monsters, heroes and legends of the ancient Germans, all brought to life for your Castles & Crusades game."

Let me go on record as saying that 'The Codex Germania'  is a big book for Castles & Crusades weighing in at 112 pages! That 112 is packed in wall to wall Germanic mythological goodness & its perfect for Halloween! With new PC classes such as the witch & variations on the slayer class not to mention the variety of horrid monsters waiting to chew on your PC?! But there's more here then simply that. Brian Young goes into the book's contents in the intro & it sets the tone for the entire book;

"This book allows both the Castle Keeps and the players to explore the breadth of early Germanic  mythologies and culture.For the sake of history and religion, the pre-Christian Germans are covered because their imagination and colorful beliefs hadnot yet submitted to a European commonality. By the time of Christianization, the Germanic world largely lost it imaginative heritage of wondrous sagas about divine heroes, other worlds,supernatural creatures, and magic. This codex attempts to capture some of that essence and places it into the hands of gamers"

But does the
'The Codex Germania' deliver on its promise of mythological Germany rife with new monsters, PC classes, spells, & more?! Well the mythological &  historical background is right on point with the beginning chapters;
'This chapter serves a twofold purpose in telling history. First, it will give a brief overview of early Germanic history in Europe, giving beginners in this field of study a basic understanding.
Secondly, it gives the creation mythos from the early Germanic  pagan religions as best as possible. Note, that due to the variations among the many tribes, those disparate but similar strands
of myth among Germanic peoples do have a commonality and a link to the Nordic sources that came later.' The book here is really on point & gives the dungeon master an actual usable thumbnail view of ancient Germany's history & mythology. The second chapter in we get even more background focusing on the peoples &  land itself after the first chapter with a an inter spacing of some mythological elements ;
The many descendants of Tuisto dwell in many lands throughout Europa, from east to west and have large tribes often numbering a 100,000 or more members. The three groups of peoples have covered a wide territory over time, from the boundaries of
the furthest south (Roman Empire and Spain) to Britannia to the west, Scandza to the North and the Black Sea to the east.
In this section, the many tribal confederations and regions across Europe, from east to west, will be given a detail that joins both the mythical and historical into a unified perspective for
game play. Germania, on the far side of the Rhine, was seen in Roman eyes as Germani Liberia (Free Germania) where the many tribes there were not under imperial control.
Mythical places in the Germanic Otherworld will also be describedas best as information can be gathered from the limited sources. Key locations in Germania and other settled (and invaded) regions by Germanic tribes are detailed here for places that CKs can use in their games. The mythical locations in the Codex Nordica can be used to enhance those listed here by the CK."
This sets everything up to come just as we've seen in  The Codex Celtarum because we  get a detailed history on the two ancient Germany's. Germania Inferior & Superior are brought to the forefront by Caesar Augustus;
'Caesar Augustus sought to have total control over all of Germania early in his reign before letting this wild and untamed part of Europe deluge the Empire. His designation was Germania
Magna or ‘Great Germania’, but this was cut short after the fatal Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 C.E.
It was deemed unrealistic that Germania would ever be completely in the Empire’s possession and so other strategies were employed to find means in which to incorporate this untamed land. The method of divide and conquer, which had been working well against the Greeks and Celts, was not so simple in the
face of this newly encountered people.'
You get a really nicely detailed semi mythological setting with lots of historical details & then the book jumps feet first into the mythological realms of Germanic mythology after detailing  swaths of history on kings, tribes, & gobs of history.  This material parells many of the Teutonic & Norse mythologies that I've seen over the years but its got a slightly different take here. Take for example 'ÆLFHÁM – Home of the Elves
This magical world exists outside of the reach of Middangeard normally and is bound tightly to the tree of Irminsul, as it is filled with its constant magical energies. The elves that live here are whimsical and frivolous acting among each other, but they turn sinister and devious towards strangers (specifically humans) if they are interrupted.
Fair beings, standing both short and tall, the ælf-kind are purely composed of magic. Their world is a large, wild forest-land filled with other magical beings and creatures that can be called faery.
These ælves can glow with a white light from within in a heavenly manner if needed to banish away evil or dark beings keepingthis world untainted by the presence of darkness.
 Wēland the smith (or deor) is their king (Ylfcynig), who dwells in a simple forest smithy away from the hustle and bustle of the court and palace. In his stead, he has many stewards and chiefs that function for him while he creates wondrous items at his
forge. Wēland’s crafts have been sought after by many across the worlds, and they have attempted many deceptive plots to do so.
To outsiders, the myriad rulers of Ælfhám will appear lofty and arrogant in manner, but this is due to the immortals’ difference from mortals, and the possession of their great magic. The land is largely untamed and filled with wondrous sights and beings beyond all comparison (CK can refer to the Codex Celtarum for faery abilities and extra beings not in this particular codex).
The inhabitants of this world choose to intrude on Middangeard often, becoming involved in the affairs of mortals and altering events to suit their own purposes. They do not, however,
allow mortals to meddle in their business. Mortals are looked down upon by the ælf-kind for their crudeness, vulgarity, and lack of refinement.
The goddess Frigge dwells here and is often seen riding in her chariot in the forests, surrounded by her faery entourage. It is wisest by mortals and invited strangers to never interrupt her ride. This world has never known the scourge of the giants or other invaders in its history because of the powerful enchantments possessed by its natives.'
These are the Elves I grew up hearing & reading about with my German neighbors in my home town. Yes they have some of the qualities of the Tolkein Elves but these are the origins & their every bit as alien & weird. The realms of Fairy & the Germanic gods are not to be treated upon by mankind.  The monster section folds neatly within the mythological places & realms of the gods starting with alp is a type of elf vampire & then finally ending with the Germanic dragons which we get solid guide line rules ala Beowulf.
The Germanic dragons are nasty pieces of work & this might happen to your PC's.

Myths and legends of all nations; famous stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources by Marshall, Logan, tr Publication date 1914
Not artwork from the book but these are the type of monsters in 'The Codex Germania' .

Chapter four In Wizardry & Enchantments goes into the magic PC classes, magicks, spells, & enchanted items of 'The Codex Germania';
'There are many new character classes included that are different from the normal wizard and illusionist classes in that their approach to spell-casting and enchantments are
not typical, the Erilaz or (rune master), and Wælcyrig/Halirúna
or (witch).
The many aspects of rune magic are detailed here and how they can be used in normal gaming. Runes in gaming have always been somewhat close to the ancient Migration Period attestation of runic magic and their later Viking parallels. This chapter
will outline a system that is closer to those mentioned previously." Yes I'm skipping over the ring oaths because there's a ton of background with these which are for adventures & I'll go into this later. This chapter is very well done in my opinion & really sets  'The Codex Germania' apart in its approach to handling the whole of Germanic mythological magick in Castles & Crusades. And this brings me to Serve the Gods which really dives deeply into the Germanic Pagan & Druidic traditions. It dives deeply into the Germanic mythological pantheon from the creator gods to the gods of warfare to hearth & home. Sacred groves & funeral practices actually get a solid style of use for Pagan cleric PC classes here.
Chapter six 'Skilled in Battlecraft' gives the PC martial classes something to use in the Germanic mythological world. We get more pseudo historical information on the Germanic warrior, further details of the ring oaths of a warrior, & more useful information on the martial affairs of Germanic warriors, soldiers, etc. Including historical information on women warriors of Germany. Deadly rules for ancient artillery & arrows along with the shield wall. Property, land, blood money, and more all used in ancient warfare in Germany. Then finally two new PC classes The Dragonslayer & the Wod or Germanic 'Fury' which is similar to Norse beserker but they have some of their own mythic or divine wrinkles. Both classes are very well done. The slayer & witch classes from the magic section are excellent foils for both of these classes & I can see using all of this to put together an adventuring party for ancient Germany.
Finally we get to the Castle Keeper's information about ancient Germany, its rulers, & society. This is a very well laid out chapter & has critical information about the whole of running a campaign. Again its very well put together.
'The Codex Germania' is a solid & well put together product. I like how accessible it is & how well put together all of the information is in this book. I think that the 'The Codex Germania' is a solid five out of five.

Now for the Amazing Adventures! rpg dungeon master this is another in my mind essential book. Why?! Because of the fact that there is so much to pillage & use. The Wod, the Dragon slayer, the slayer class,the witch, & more make excellent foils for the Pulp adventuring of AA!

But once again this is a solid case of using the Amazing Adventures companion & the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters especially because of the Dragon Slayer class.  The dragons & NPC witches of
'The Codex Germania' are solid evil & make excellent vile villains. They have motives, personalities, & out and out agendas that should they find their way to civilization would wreck havoc. The Monsterous Manual has a wide array of minor dragonic monsters that could also wreck havoc with the world of ancient Germany. The Wod could be used as the basis for a nasty PC class of fighter or adventurer. The use of 'The Codex Germania' for a World War two game is both intriguing & beyond the scope of one blog review & yes I will go into this more as my Amazing Adventures campaign continues!