Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Connection Between OSR Systems & Classic Era Pulp Resources For Old School Campaign Development

I spent part of my evening speaking with an old friend about OSR games & in particular the Adventurer, Conqueror, King, rpg system along Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Dark Albion, and several other OSR contenders.  I had already told my buddy Rob about this plan of going down the hobby shop and running a one shot. He wanted to see a copy of ACK's and within a day or so had made a bard of Elven lineage with all of the bells and whistles. He picked up on the system fast and described it as B/X D&D with lots of shiny bits and pieces (meaning the system). There was a lot of food for thought here in my phone conversation & puts a ton of options on the table for me to think about.

Because of the nature of the fact that I'm not really sure what's going to fly down at this local hobby shop I've kept the other two OSR settings/systems in reserve. The idea here being that I've got experience with all of them and can vary the flavor depending upon what the owner of the shop feels might be the best choice. Rob was impressed with AS&SH but he's got a preference towards ACK's that being said I can easily make Hyperborea a nearby celestial body within the same star system as Ancient & Accursed Terra. I want to do the same thing with Dark Albion because let's face it I love the setting, the politics, the magick etc. So its on the reserve list if things take off at the hobby shop. There are several factors as to why Dark Albion appeals to me so much. The NPC's are not unkillable in fact they're sometimes PC patrons or murder victims for PC's advancement within the setting, the Rose War is dynamic & keeps pace with the real world historic events, & there's so much flavor that it can add another layer to a campaign. I really want Albion colonies scattered about but more on that later.

Things I'm considering with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea some of the options available in some of the additional adventure settings. There has been a lot of talk about AS&SH lately around the table & how best to approach the game. This one brings tons of ideas, systems, classes, and setting material to the table especially with sword & sorcery style play. Between the early Age of Antiquity vibe of ACK's to the murderous intrigue of Dark Albion, AS&SH would seem like it has little in common with the other two. Nothing could be further from the truth. The focus on all of these OSR systems is the weird fiction of pulp era writers because all these systems can easily handle about 70 percent of the classic pulp era fiction that came out between the late Eighteen hundreds through the sword & sorcery Sixties & Seventies. Yes this includes Dark Albion. Because each of these games has its own implied settings but the underlying systems can be used to great effect to create in house adventures and campaigns.

By drawing from the original pulp material & then twisting that origin source into what's needed for an adventure. Jeff Talianian and the North Wind crew have done this time and again to great effect with their 2015 adventures The Mystery at Port Greely (A reworking of  "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft),Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes (which has several elements of classic Clark Aston Smith stories), Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess (which draws heavily from Robert Howard's pulp era creations, and finally Beneath the Comet (which has several nods to both Howard & Smith within its adventure DNA.
By taking a look back at some of the classic pulp stories of say Robert Howard such as The Solomon Kane Stories a clever DM could with little effort transpose these into his favorite retroclone system such as Dark Albion & easily have an inquisitor campaign ready to go. Given the handy reference of Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos this should make for a ready to go set of adventures in which the PC's parallel the classic Howard's Solomon Kane's adventures themselves. Truly its interesting when they make different choices then the protagonist of the original stories lending a much more dynamic set of old school adventures. 

Given how easily it is to draw from and steal bits & piece from pulp magazine stories is it any wonder that have of the influences of classic D&D often cited these writers for over half of the beginning run of Dragon magazine. So if its good enough for them I might begin dipping my pen into the deep well of pulp material that is available for free if one knows where to look. All in all this seems like another right step in the direction of writing and pulp influences. More as this develops.

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