Tuesday, November 21, 2017

B/X Dungeons & Dragaons & OSR D&D Rules Encypclopedia Campaign Commentary

So I'm looking through my Dungeons & Dragons rules cyclopedia again doing a cross comparison between monsters, PC classes, etc. for research purposes for my  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition/Adventurer,Conqueror, King hybrid campaign.
There's an old thread on Dragon's foot about B/X Vs Rules Cyclopedia D&D 

but the truth is that the Rules Cyclopedia isn't really complete in one package. That is all of the demons, underworld, plane jumping stuff that I love so much isn't in there.

So what the heck I'm I going to do? Well its not as much of an issue as one my think with the OSR to the rescue! Blacky the Blackball years back created Dark Dungeons a complete retroclone version of the Rules Cyclopedia with everything I'm looking for. Planes jumping, demons, high level material that I want to incorporate into my 'Old Earth' campaign setting. I consider this a far more 'Weird Tales' setting then a standard fantasy one. Because of this I'm pulling far more from the science fantasy sided but with a more Michael Moorcock Eternal Champions feel. Dark Dungeons has several elements within that fit the bill to a tee but more on those later on. Dark Dungeons is a 'pay what you want' book on Drivethrurpg.

What really started this off is wanting a mid tier Clark Ashton Smith style villain for my world, since I'm using Adventurer, Conqueror, King as the main system & AS&SH second edition as the world resource book so to speak I began to look into the ACK's Player's Companion for NPC options.

The one that caught my eye was the classic & underutilized Anti paladin! These servants of evil gods & the ruin of kingdoms hearken back to my days of reading Dragon magazine & pull at the dark cockles of my black dungeon master's heart! A perfect compliment to a Sword & Sorcery campaign world especially 'Old Earth'. So here's what I came up with off for a mid tier campaign NPC villain.

Ezra Lin fallen Amazon daughter of Thasaidon lord of the seven Hells. Fifth level anti paladin & leader of the Legion of the Wretched. She is working with the raiders outside the lands of Lomar in the service of her dark lich king masters. She carries a sword containing the soul of her former husband & a piece of his demon preserved  flesh as part of the sword's guard. The magical sword's power at this time is unknown. She has the scalps of twelve Hyperborean commands adorning her armor.

More on Ezra Lin as she develops but that's a brief thumb nail sketch of this NPC presence at this time. There's lots more to come.

Monday, November 20, 2017

More Lovecraftian Old School Monster Ecology & OSR Campaign Commentary

I've been doing a lot of research over the weekend between work, calls, etc. on B/X Dungeons & Dragons monster & lair placement. The fact is that many of the traditional monsters certainly fit into the junket of being opportunists of the highest orders. That is that if a ruin or other adventure location is available they'll take it. This is something that Holmes B/X D&D monsters  take full advantage of. Running with this I began to dig a bit deeper.

But then I started looking a bit further of field, into the deep recesses of the Fiend Folio for first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & began to notice this same style of opportunism. Since I'm running an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition/Adventurer,Conqueror, King hybrid campaign I began to delve a bit deeper into the Fiend Folio because of the science fantasy nature of my own home campaign. 'Old Earth' has its roots deeply into H.P. Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith along with numerous classic science fiction era authors.

This means that the wastelands have monsters from the Fiend Folio moving into ruins, dungeons & other adventure locations. The Folio's encounter charts provide the perfect opportunities for where & when adventurers are likely to run into the horrors of the weirder edges of the map. But I'm dealing with very jaded & experienced players of Dungeons & Dragons so how do I spice things up for a science fantasy campaign? The answer of course was right in front of me the whole time! I've got a copy of 'The Teratic Tome' by
Rafael Chandler right in front of me & the monsters nicely dove tail in with several of the ideas already present in the campaign. But there's something about the monsters in the Tome that hearken back to the Fiend Folio & Holmes Dungeons & Dragons. The ecology of these monsters is both pulpy & dire, they all take full advantage of their ecological circumstances even in a science fantasy setting.

I'm talking about the fact that these monsters suit the setting in a weirdly twisted way, the gnomes of Mecha Zel from 'The Teractic Tome' are going to be a faction in my 'Old Earth' setting causing all kinds of havoc. They are a hive mind of psychotic steampunk style mutant survivors of Atlantis who have recently come to the surface world. 'Old Earth' already has atomic rockets, whist black powder weapons are very common. The military & certain adventurers have lasers or blasters if their very lucky. But there are far more sinister forces stalking the wastelands as 'Magistrates' stalk the wastelands for any usable & recyclable artifacts they find to take back to the hives.

So as a dungeon master I'm taking full advantage of the fact that these old school & OSR resources work with Adventurer, Conqueror, King. I've been talking with my 'systems' guy over the weekend to take full advantage of the fact that many of these sources are geared for the war gaming aspect of Adventurer,Conqueror, King's Domains at War. I'm planning on a fully realized science fantasy war game campaign down the road.

The priests & monks of Tsathoggua preach about the evils of the raider's alterations as the Hyperborean  own forces field monsters & worse out on the battle fields of Lomar. The campaign setting continues to grow, change, and be dynamic as the monsters & playing pieces come together with Old Earth.

There are still pieces in play from the last time I ran AS&SH's Beneath the Comet, several artifact resources from the adventure have made it to 'Old Earth' causing the goblin races to make a bold move on the Eastern borders of Lomar. The goblins have a very different origin point in 'Old Earth' being an abandoned Lemuria weapon system that has continued to generate & function sans their masters.

Much of the origin point for old Earth comes back to the fact that Ubbo-Sathla ("The Unbegotten Source", "The Demiurge") is stirring & churning the dreams of the various factions of Old Earth causing wars & worse. This means that many of the monsters are acting out the dreams of a mad god with little regard for their own actions. It also means that war is coming! A type of war that the Earth has seen in millions of years!

"The Midnight heaven's burning
Through the ethereal deeps afar
Once I watch'd with restless yearning
An alluring aureate star;
Ev'ry eve aloft returning
Gleaming nigh the Arctic Car.
Mystic waves of beauty blended
With the gorgeous golden rays
Phantasies of bliss descended
In a myrrh'd Elysian haze.
In the lyre-born chords extended
Harmonies of Lydian lays.
And (thought I) lies scenes of pleasure,
Where the free and blessed dwell,
And each moment bears a treasure,
Freighted with the lotos-spell,
And there floats a liquid measure
From the lute of Israfel.
There (I told myself) were shining
Worlds of happiness unknown,
Peace and Innocence entwining
By the Crowned Virtue's throne;
Men of light, their thoughts refining
Purer, fairer, than my own.
Thus I mus'd when o'er the vision
Crept a red delirious change;
Hope dissolving to derision,
Beauty to distortion strange;
Hymnic chords in weird collision,
Spectral sights in endless range....
Crimson burn'd the star of madness
As behind the beams I peer'd;
All was woe that seem'd but gladness
Ere my gaze with Truth was sear'd;
Cacodaemons, mir'd with madness,
Through the fever'd flick'ring leer'd....
Now I know the fiendish fable
Then the golden glitter bore;
Now I shun the spangled sable
That I watch'd and lov'd before;
But the horror, set and stable,
Haunts my soul forevermore!"
Astrophobos  (1917)
by H. P. Lovecraft

Saturday, November 18, 2017

'Smoke & Mirrors of Olathoë' Session Report

In tonight's hybrid game, the party wandered through the streets of Olathoë and made contact with the bard's guild after spending the night in the local temple of Tsathoggua.The monks of the temple were tending & helping to heal the city's soldiers who were having lots of problems with inhuman raiders in  the western wastelands of the land of Lomar. The temple is serving as a hospital for the soldiers in the city who were wounded in the raids the week before.

Olathoë is a war wracked city surrounded by enemies who want to take  the plateau of Sarkis. The city's black powder musketeers are stretched thin by the inhuman forces on all sides forcing the city to bring in human Viking mercenaries. The situation is holding for now but for how long & what secrets do the wastelands outside the city hold? Once the sites for countless battles with the human forces that once occupied the place, its now a hotly contested zone for the city's defenders with death of mercenary troops being both common & expected but the Hyperboreans pay well and offer fishing rights as well as subsidized crops of fungus, wheat, and other high end sundries.

There are the ruins and underground vaults of a great many ancient temples that were destroyed during the various invasions & battles of the past now occupied by all manner of monsters including  the hairy, long-armed, cannibal Gnophkehs & far worse. So naturally the PC's are headed out into the wastelands to find out if the city outpost has been compromised.

There are rumors that the PC's heard in tonight's game of gargoyles, ghouls, and worse stalking the battlefields feeding on the souls & flesh of the dead. Tunnels have been found by certain rangers leading deep into the Earth with the sign of  Mordiggian painted in blood & mud above certain tunnels that were sealed off with the sign of Koth. Representative priests from the temple of Nodens have come to see if they need to send an inquisitor party in but things are strained. So the PC's have been contacted to help investigate the situation and see if the raiders and co are in league with the ghouls. Or worse a necromancer has been stirring the supernatural pot of events.

The assassins guild has been active as of late spying on the movements of certain foreign trading houses for the king of Lomar within 
Olathoë. Are there monstrous forces within the city & how can the party cope with an overwhelming enemy such as a werewolf or worse. They need more support & perhaps more hands to help them combat these dark forces which need aligned against them. Is a necromancer, vampire, or worse on their trail as the temple seer indicated from last week's game? Only time will tell as they make their way to western wastelands to find out if the city outpost has been taken over by the dark raiders forces. Maybe they will stumble on a dungeon or two?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Appendix 'N' Commentary - The Eternal Battles of The Worm Ouroboros By E. R. Eddison For Your Old School Campaigns

Life works in strange & mysterious ways, last night I had wicked migraines, these are something that I've had since I was a kid. I know what causes them & their nothing to be concerned about but my work schedule has been a bit scattered & hectic to say the least. But in my travels up at the wilds of the wild & wholly Litchfield hills of my home I came across not one but two treasures beyond compare. Two flag ship books in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series  The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison (April 1967) & The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H. P. Lovecraft (May 1970) (#01923-7) both in prime to good condition.
So why was/is this book imprint important? Because once upon a time there wasn't an internet & these books were the only way of getting anything right & proper in the Appendix N of the Dungeon Master's Guide from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Here's the back history on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series imprint from Wiki;"The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was an imprint of American publisher Ballantine Books. Launched in 1969 (presumably in response to the growing popularity of Tolkien's works[1]), the series reissued a number of works of fantasy literature which were out of print or dispersed in back issues of pulp magazines (or otherwise not easily available in the United States), in cheap paperback form—including works by authors such as James Branch Cabell, Lord Dunsany, Ernest Bramah, Hope Mirrlees, and William Morris.[2] The series lasted until 1974.
Envisioned by the husband-and-wife team of Ian and Betty Ballantine, and edited by Lin Carter, it featured cover art by illustrators such as Gervasio Gallardo, Robert LoGrippo, David McCall Johnston, and Bob Pepper. The agreement signed between the Ballantines and Carter on November 22, 1968 launched the project. In addition to the reprints comprising the bulk of the series, some new fantasy works were published as well as a number of original collections and anthologies put together by Carter, and Imaginary Worlds, his general history of the modern fantasy genre."

Professor J.R.R. Tolkein today gets all of the press but for me Eric Rücker Eddison, CB, CMG (24 November 1882 – 18 August 1945) was & is the superior writer. His creation the The Worm Ouroboros  stands head & shoulders above his contemporaries but still has resonance with a modern audience. This novel has all of the intricacies,mythology, warfare  of Game of Thrones with out the bull shit narcissism & weirdness to get in the way. Wiki sums the central plot nicely for me;"The book describes the protracted war between the domineering King Gorice of Witchland and the Lords of Demonland in an imaginary world that appears mainly medieval and partly reminiscent of Norse sagas. The work is slightly related to Eddison's later Zimiamvian Trilogy, and collectively they are sometimes referred to as the Zimiamvian series."
The characters of the are operatic in stature and life, beings molded in the turn of the century style. Heroes & villains of depth & status totally indifferent to the struggles of the common men & women around them. People die by the score but so do the heroes.
This doesn't make them any less likable but of a mythic status for the action of the novel doesn't take place on our world but a secondary world referred to as Mercury. These are characters  in the older almost medieval  & mythic mode but they're essentially humans of a completely different cut. Even though we have both the lords & ladies of both Witchland & Demonland they're human beings but drawn from the expansive imagination of
E. R. Eddison. They still die in battle & war.
In fact the world of the The Worm Ouroboros can be considered the inversion of everything that Tolkien does in his fiction. The book was written thirty two years before 'Lord of the Rings' The heroes are made great by the deeds of their continuing war with Witchland. Demonland's warriors adhere to the old Norse war code of glory & loyalty in battle. This doesn't make the sentiments as such. But it does offer the DM plenty of opportunities for exploiting the circumstances for their own campaigns.
So what does The Worm Ouroboros have to do with an old school campaign? Especially my Old Earth style game which draws heavily from the Clark Ashton Smith style school of dark fantasy. At first the high fantasy of the novel clashes with the dark fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith & Lovecraft circle of writers. This brings me to my second find today, 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' by HP Lovecraft. Now I mentioned the larger then life characters, mythology, etc. of  The Worm Ouroboros. What if the events of the Zimiamvian series are taking place in another dreamlands? What if these races of Demonland & Witchland are actually a variant of the Hyperboreans that have somehow slipped past the Boreas winds into the dream lands of Mercury? We know that Zothique has its roots in the far future of Earth in the times to come. But what if the events of
The Worm Ouroboros happened in the distant past & only the PC's can save the world. But is this a world that wants to be saved?Are the answers someplace deep within the Dreamlands of HP Lovecraft or
The Gods of Pegāna's dream worlds?
The Hyperboreans have the same distain for humanity that the characters  of the world of Mercury show for the humans around them. I think that there's more then a passing connection.

I've used the places, ruins, battles of 
The Worm Ouroboros to create a number of dungeons & other adventure locations in the past for B/X Dungeons & Dragons & perhaps its high time I begin to do this again. The larger then life high fantasy fits the operatic Jack Kirby style of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second especially after the glory & heroics has faded to wrack & ruin.
Past the winds the distant sounds of battle can be heard as the clash of swords & warfare winds its way across strange vistas as the forces of Demonland & Witchland forever clash together as it will be forever more.

If  Your Interested In Downloading & Reading "
The Worm Ouroboros"
Its Available For Free Here

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thoughts on Thouls,the Throghrin,& Old School Monster Ecology For Your Campaigns

I've been thumbing through the B/X Dungeons & Dragons rule book today on my lunch break; we've been incredibly busy at work today. Hence the late posting on my blog but whist zipping around the monster section I noticed the Thoul. They've been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.

I love using Thouls because their Sword & Sorcery weird feel I began to want to use them for my next up coming Adventurer,Conqueror, King, & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition hybrid adventure. They weren't listed under their usual monster label in either rule book so I went back to Goblinoid games Labyrinth Lord retro clone rule book which is the basis for ACK & on the web. In Goblinoid Games forums I came across the following;
"LL has something eerily similar in the form of the Throghrin, which you'll find on page 98 of the core rules" I looked in the ACK's core book & sure enough there's the Throghrin in all its glory.

But there was something else about the Thoul & its ACK's Throghrin counterpart I noticed today. These monsters are artificially created, a mix of troll, hobgoblin, & ghoul plus their not undead. These are an elite & specialized monster to say the least. But whose creating these hobgoblin hybrid horrors? Its gotta be a wizard or some NPC class far more specialized in the creation of hybrid or chimera species of monsters.

This sort of a chimera monster makes me think of the wizards of both Jack Vance & Clark Ashton Smith. CAS's  all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb is exactly the sort of wizard who could & would have created  the Throghrin species most likely from Atlantean Pict survivors mixed with a generous helping of troll virus & ghoul DNA. There's probably a demonic pact in the mix someplace but these things breed true with hobgoblins. I started thinking again about the post apocalyptic fantasy wastelands of B/X Dungeons & Dragons when we mixed B/X Dungeons & Dragons with a generous helping of Gamma World back in middle school. Over the last couple of years I've thrown in the Fiend Folio into the mix of Gamma World to pad out some of the edges of the adventure map.

So I'm thinking about many of the humanoid species in the Fiend Folio as being possible chimera or slave race prototypes of humanoids on many of the worlds of the solar system. I can see the Elder Things from HP Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains of Madness' creating five pointed artificial  bio-environments or deep space bio ships with a wide variety of these species on board. Possibly these ships might be guarded by shoggoths or worse.

Elder Thing artwork created by Віщун -

So what does this mean? Perhaps the Elder Things who were masters of biology, magick, and bio technologies far beyond our own created hobgoblins from a mix of an unknown demonic humanoid species plus, Atlantean or Lemurian survivors after the shoggoth rebellion.
This was a disposable race of humanoid servants & perhaps food species with a finite life span & a built in willingness to serve.
These shock troops might have been very susceptible to the Elder Thing telepathic commands. A race with a built in passion for violence & military like tribal structure that might have filled the gap in while the Elder Things fled the surface world. Could they have followed their masters into the inner world of the Earth? With slow wars of creatures such as the Yithians, the spawn of Cthulhu, and others the Elder Things are a race that counts in eons not centuries. Hobgoblins would be a fast breeding, pliable, & yet hardy race in some ways ideally suited for their environment. Thouls would be a subspecies created by latter day wizards or others.

Could the hobgoblins then be one of the species that exits the inner Earth World when the Hyperboreans returned to the surface world of Old Earth sometime in the future? They might have become servants or shock troops for the Hyperboreans longing for another powerful race to serve. There is some evidence that Clark Ashton Smith implied such a race might exist within his Zothique cycle. Unfortunately evidence for this conclusion is scant at best. Hobgoblins within my 'Old Earth' campaign definitely have an Elder Thing origin point. For Dungeons & Dragons & its various retroclones there is very little explanation on the origin or even event for many of the various humanoid races. This suit an innovative & creative dungeon master just fine; old school monster books didn't do all of the heavy lifting for you. You & your players created the world, shaped it through play, and harvested the result as another product of your imagination.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

OSR Commentary - Episodic Adventures & Quick Old School Campaign Design

"There is much to worry about in the mutated world of the future, but Baron Jemmas, Warder of Horn, has more on his mind than most. In recent weeks several of the outlying towns of his Barony have been wiped out by a band of mysterious golden marauders."

I've been mediating on Gamma World's Legion of Gold module & wishing that B/X Dungeons & Dragons had followed this adventure's example. Legion of Gold was written in 1981 by Gary Gygax with his son Luke and Paul Reiche III.
"This is the first GAMMA WORLD module to be produced by the Game Wizards at TSR Hobbies, Inc. This module includes the main Legion of Gold adventure, several mini-adventures which lead up to it, background information, suggestions for the referee, a special players' map and numerous referee's maps."
This module does exactly what it says on the post apocalyptic tin. But today we're going to be talking about
the anthology location adventure approach of a Legion of Gold formula campaign set up. 

The sand box anthology approach allows the DM & the players for that matter to determine the tone & direction of their own home campaign. Legion of Gold has been my go to Gamma World module because of its short anthology adventure style. It gives the Dungeon Master just enough with a minimalist approach to the post apocalyptic material to get the DM started.
When we start talking about B/X Dungeons & Dragons these mini sessions allow the dungeon master to take a series of miniature adventures & string them together to form an over arching campaign. This approach has been something I've liked & used as old style television episodes in the past. Isolated adventures that form the back bone of an episodic campaign played quickly and with little fuss.

This brings me to the point here of Holmes Dungeons & Dragons with its dungeon of the skull mountain example in the classic rule book. I mentioned this dungeon to a younger friend of mine whose in his twenties & he had no idea that such a dungeon existed. Each room & location within the skull mountain dungeon could be played like a separate television episode forming an over aching epic campaign.

Let's take this approach to the next logical step with the Legion of Gold model then we could have a series of small wilderness adventure encounters which take the PC's from first through fourth levels. A mix of ruins, a mini dungeon, & perhaps an underwater adventures. Then bring in something like Faster Monkey Games Skull Mountain adventure which is based on the classic dungeon for Labyrinth Lord. Faster Monkey Games Skull Mountain was six dollars but all of their adventures & supplements have been free for a year or so.
Then your cooking up an epic campaign with minimalist fuss & you get to have a convention style game with an episodic set up.

Skull Mountain is a perfect stand alone location based adventure that can stand quietly off in a campaign world. Its ideally suited for a Sword & Sorcery campaign world such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Because of the very nature of 'Skull Mountain' it lends itself to the anthology location adventure approach of a Legion of Gold adventure formula campaign. In point of fact Skull Mountain could be used as both the final goal & big evil of such a campaign.
You as the DM don't have to write an over blown  or aching script for such a campaign, the players will fill in the gaps, corners, colour in all of the blank spots so fast it will make your head spin. In the down time between playing sessions the action & pulp adventure style will have their imaginations working overtime. The products of their imaginations will become your old school campaign quickly & with very little effort on your part but keep a note book handy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New OSR Monster & Spell - Ashes of Sunset

Who fares to find the sunset ere it fly,
Turning to light and fire the further west,
Shall have the veils of twilight for his guest,
And all the falling of an ashen sky.

On lands he shall not know, the splendor lies—
A pharos on some alienated shore,
In foam and purple lost forevermore,
Where dreams are kindled in remoter eyes.

Ashes of Sunset  (1922)  by Clark Ashton Smith

Down from Saturn these things have come, shapeshifter life forms that bonded with the ashes & leaves of the ghoul plagues that swept the Earth of old. These things roam about carried on the invisible astral winds that blow across the 'Old Earth'. Desperate, dangerous, & weird pieces of living abnatural tissues they blend into the once golden leaves of Fall. The blow like miniature tornadoes tearing apart living beings with with death by a million cuts for touching them does 1d4 points of damage as blood is sucked dry into the desiccated tissues of these horrors.  These things take on a golden color of an Autumn sun set after a feeding but there is something disturbing & off about them in their appearance. Because of the Saturian nature they are shape shifters after a limited fashion. They can take on the appearance of dead native plant life.

Adventurers encountering the Ashes of Sunset for the first time will hear the rushing of wind from no particularly location & a sense of dread followed by the taste of burnt matches on their tongue. By then it far too late, the Ashes of Sun set have set hundreds of spores capable of paralyzing their victims. The victim must save vs wands or be frozen to the spot. Looking like the leaves some alien tree the Ashes of Sunset  open up with millions of cilia containing a dark pustulent acid capable of doing 1d6 points of damage to the tissues  of anyone unfortunate enough to encounter them. These things are an emphatic hive mind & drawn to living beings within a twenty mile.  When they have not fed these things resemble the ashes of a recently burned piece of paper or rag carried on the winds. These things travel from place to place on a combination of very limited telekinesis flight & astral winds. They move in a  deceptively relaxed manner. Attracted by emotions of conflict & violence. Often wars, combat, or violence will attract a colony of Ashes at Sunset. They will wait for any dying or wounded victims to fall to the ground so they can move in silently  then begin to drain blood, life force, & reproduce.  Those that survive an encounter with these things must make a save vs disease or have their  sprout with strange weirdly living unnatural sporelike finger sized growths. Only a bless spell or remove curse can halt the process.

Ashes of Sunset
Frequency: Uncommon 

No appearing: 1d4 
Armor Class: 4 
Move: 12" 
Hit Dice:4
% in Lair:Nil
Treasure Type: See Below
No of Attacks: 4
Damage/Attacks: 1d4, 1d4, 1d4, 1d6
Special Attacks: Paralysis
Special Defenses: Undead immunities
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average but very alien
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: S - M
Psionic Abilities: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
Level/XP Value:
II, 65+4 per hit points

These growths being the alien & painful process of leeching life force & soul stuff to form the basis for the next generation of Ashes of Sunset. The victim is paralysized & conscious while the process happens. Gold dust particles are attracted from the air & form the protective shell of the undead alien life form as the corpse of the victim decays at an accelerated rate. There will be three or four pounds of pure gold. Within 1d8 days a new colony collective of 1d4 Ashes of Sunset will burst forth from the corpse. Because of their undead nature these horrors can be turned like a ghast by a priest or cleric.
Those Ashes of Sunset that have recently fed take a person take
on a golden color of an Autumn sun set whisking themselves along on the astral winds to their next victims. There is some evidence that suggests that the Ashes of Sunset may work for one or more gods of Saturn but the evidence is scant at best.

Rumors say that there strange Roman like designed temples of marble & basalt that the Ashes of Sunset protect. The overgrown  grounds scattered with the corpses of hundreds of their victims. Adventurers looking for quick riches only to get caught by the alien monsters. There are those alien or insane spell casters & Druids of Old Earth who summon these things from the depths of the alien wastelands of the new world where they wander. 

Call forth Ashes of Sun Set
Level: Druid 4, wizard 5, witch 4, shaman 4 Range 20 feet, Duration: 6 turns (1 hour)

The caster cuts themselves with a specially prepared dagger of Narn wood & blood Quartz. The droplets of blood become charged with the power of the magick & the strange looping astral winds that blow between dimensions carry the power of the spell across the land. The Ashes of Sunset appear within 1d4 rounds drawn by the essence & blood. They will emphatically contact the caster & if in a favorable mood they may serve the fool on some simple errant. There is a 30 % chance they are hungry & may turn on the caster if a suitable victim isn't available. The Ashes of Sunset are fickle & dangerous at best, unless the caster has a very well written poem ready for being recited once they have appeared  these monsters may take the victim & turn on the caster anyway.
Casters call the Ashes of Sunset to create their strange gold as a sacrifice for demons & other alien entities for summoning. The Ashes often can create 1d10 pounds of gold for such endeavors from one victim within an hour under the influence of the spell.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Character Workshop & Loose On The Streets Of Olathoe Session Report

So last night I got together with friends to have a character workshop using Adventurer,Conqueror, King & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. Character workshops enable me to make sure the players are all on the same page with their PC's.

All of the players are extensively experienced Dungeons & Dragons players who have played a number of editions over their time in the hobby of table top gaming. So the ACKS Player's Companion From  Autarch  & the Guns of War supplement wasn't unfamiliar to them. PC's were set up rather quickly & equipment was bought. The PC's were off to the lands of Lomar amid the dire & dark streets of many-templed Olathoe.

Methought the world was bound with final frost:
The sun, made hueless as with fear and awe,
Illumined still the lands it could not thaw.
Then on my road, with instant evening crost,
Death stood, and in its dusky veils enwound,
Mine eyes forgot the light, until I came
Where poured the inseparate, unshadowed flame
Of phantom suns in self-irradiance drowned.

Death lay revealed in all its haggardness:
Immitigable wastes horizonless;
Profundities that held nor bar nor veil;
All hues wherewith the suns and worlds were dyed
In light invariable nullified;
All darkness rendered shelterless and pale.
White Death  (1912)  by Clark Ashton Smith

Many-templed Olathoe has returned along with the long mystery shrouded glens of the lands of  Lomar under the bloated sun of a far future world of 'Old Earth. The planet has moved on but the stars are not quite right for the Old Ones return. Mankind's city states  has uneasy truce with the Hyperboreans & subterranean empire of the realm of K'n-yan. For they ruled the Earth for a while but human kind proves to be far more resilient to these peoples then they thought. Mankind's works have been cast down but old ways of technology & super science persist in the human city states. Barbarianism is the rule & the sway of the sword along with magick sways the day.

Many-templed Olathoe is a city of 30,000 Hyperboreans at the height of their magical & occult technological progress. Mankind reached for the stars & fumbled whist he has the solar system along with some far flung colonies these are tedious holds at best. The coming of Hyperborea in the night sky & Saturn visible at night looming above the Earth has caused much destruction.

'Old Earth' is on the mend but there is a growing feeling that other more dangerous alien gods are returning as well. The land of Lomar is an agricultural & sea based society with human Viking second class citizens making up 20,000 mercenary troops, fishermen, tradesmen, & more. Olathoe uses fungal based food stuffs, geothermal power, & other high technological tactics to feed its citizens. In the shadow of  the mountains  Noton & Kadiphonek many temples dedicated to Tsathoggua, Nodens, & a host of other gods stand among the marbled streets.
""Lomar was home to the city of Olathoë, described in the story "Polaris"by HP Lovecraft:
Still and somnolent did it lie, on a strange plateau in a hollow between strange peaks. Of ghastly marble were its walls and its towers, its columns, domes, and pavements. In the marble streets were marble pillars, the upper parts of which were carven into the images of grave bearded men.[9]
Later in the story the plateau is identified as Sarkis, and the mountains as Noton and Kadiphonek."

This is a world where the atomic rocket jockeys of the human city states bring cargo & much needed medicines from the human colonies. But also take the rare & exotic 'Old Earth' wares to the Outer Worlds, these delicate relationships are in peril with the awakening of the powers of far older & alien things then the Earth governments can imagine.

But right now
Olathoë is greater danger from the tribes of inhuman raiders perched right outside their doors. The city has survived a raiding attack of incredible destruction as the PC's have just arrived.
The PC's are given a mission to carry a letter in code to the city watch by a mysterious set of travelers. A strange barbarian warrior accompanied them & seemed to guard the adventurers on this strange quest.
They were suddenly attacked by three gargoyles of leer continence & horrid violence. They managed to lay arrows into the monsters & destroy them but their barbarian chaperone was laid low by horrid wounds. The party's bard managed to heal the poor bastard & gained a reward in gold.

What happens next?! Tune in next week folks!

Friday, November 10, 2017

New OSR Spell - Summon Gremlins of Nightmare

Sleep is a pathless labyrinth,
Dark to the gaze of moons and suns,
Through which the exile clue of dreams,
A gossamer thread, obscurely runs.
The Maze of Sleep  (1912)
by Clark Ashton Smith

Summon Gremlins of Nightmare
Level: illusionist 2, wizard 3, witch 2, shaman 1 Range 120 feet, Duration 6 turns (1 hour)

The wizard, shaman, witch or illusionist reaches deep into the realms of dreams & phantasms opening a portal for the least demonic spirits of dreams. 1d12 of them will pour fourth temporarily into the waking world to cause havoc & chaos. They will have 1d3 temporary hit points & be able to attack a target that the caster designates for 1d4 points of damage. These creatures will pull hair, trip anyone they can, & cause as much havoc & mayhem that they can.
Shamans have a natural affinity for these spirits of spite & imagination, they often deal with them when bargaining for passage into the dream worlds to act as guides for the shaman. This spell causes these spirits to have passage and free reign in the waking world something relish to cause as much weirdness & chaos as possible.
There is a 30% chance of a PC tripping over an object or obstacle that has been left behind by the activities of these spirits. There is a 4% chance that a gremlin spirit may take special interest in one of the PC's and single them out for torment. Rumors of Hyperborean children using a variation  this spell to summon wicked play mates may only be nasty rumor. This spell is often used to summon distractions & nuances of the highest caliber. 

Brui Enru The Boy Wizard of Oralatha
who created The Summon Gremlins of Nightmare spell & was later consumed by a demon of Nightmare of the sixth circle.

There is a 70% chance that the entropic energies of the Gremlins of Nightmare will infect any complex machinery within the area of effect even after the gremlins disappear in puffs of doubt & reality. Further there is a 5% chance that a demon of nightmare from 'the Greater Depths of Nightmare' may come forth the portal that this spell creates. Such entities must be controlled or cowed into submission with Charisma & Wisdom contests with such entities. If ten or more Gremlins are present they may try to possess someone within the area of the spells effects.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

OSR Commentary On The Orc Raids Of B11 King's Festival By Carl Sargeant For Your Old School Campaigns

"Someone has "borrowed" a cleric, and without him, the fabled King's Festival cannot go on. Unfortunately, it looks like the orcs have him, and your characters must rescue him. "

So I've been playing around with & looking over lots & lots of B/X  & Advanced  Dungeons & Dragons adventures over the last six to eight months. Now let's dive into the deeper B/X pool with an adventure that seldom gets mentioned.

If your looking for a B/X Dungeons & Dragons adventure that will actually take your PC's from first through fourth without the iconic drivel that seems to follow in the wake of Keep On The Borderlands. Let me point you all in the direction of one of the most under sung modules to come out post classic era TSR then
B11 King's Festival might be just what your looking for. This introductory adventure will take your PC's from levels one right through four with action, danger, & plenty of actual plot.
This is an adventure that takes the humanoids & orcs especially bringing them where they belong front & center. So I know what your thinking, " What the hell does this have to do with Sword & Sorcery"? Well I'm glad you asked. The orcs of King's Festival are the nasty & highly dangerous pig faced orc bastards that old school players know & love.
But as good as my word
B11 King's Festival makes a perfect Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition set up. The fact is that in AS&SH orcs are the product of a mating of Picts with a really nasty Lovecraftian or Clark Ashton Smith pig demon thing.

The result of this is a rather nasty monster with all of the charm of a migraine headache for your PC's. But there's also another hook here for AS&SH players for the DM to take full advantage of,
"King's Festival provides players and DMs with a valuable introduction to fantasy role-playing in the land of Karameikos."
 If we transfer the events of King's Festival to just outside of the Hyperborean capital of Khromarium then suddenly things take a very weird turn of events. All of this might center on Petrides the evil NPC behind all of the events of this adventure. He could well be connected with the thieves/assassins guild  network of one of the Vorloi, Radu, and Torenescu families Atlantian royal survival families in Khormarium from my version of B6 The Veiled Society.

What King's Festival does doesn't just set up B6 but also puts orcs dangerously close to the Hyperborean capital & sets up events for either an earlier brush with Keep on the Borderland or a combat round about with Night's Dark Terror waiting in the wings. This all culminates in the awakening of the Lovecraftian forces of 'The Temple of Elemental Evil' set on Hyperborea.

I've written about The Temple of Elemental Evil way too many times on this blog. But there's a more subtle & insidious reason to pick
B11 King's Festival as introductory adventure. B11 puts the PC's square on the path of domain level play, the PC's are in the cross hairs of the royals of the adventure & destined for greatness or the headman's ax. The stakes here are perfectly aligned for a Sword & Sorcery campaign set against the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rules set.

I've used B11 King's Festival in the past as a set up for a  Dark Avalon campaign. The 'orcs' were debased humans that had been mutated by the chaotic energies of Fairyland. There were  the ruins of Elven engines nearby allowing the animation of the dead. This all centered around the occult gateway that was beginning to open up again allowing a crossover into the dread realm. The set up here was the fact that the kidnapping by the 'orcs' was the first salvo of the Rose War.  The adventurers were pawns in the game of the royals. My point is that B11 King's Festival is flexible as it is useful.  If your going to set B11 for Dark Albion make sure that you use Cults of Chaos.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

OSR Commentary - B/X Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Waltz & Science Fantasy Campaign Construction

Many folks look at B/X Dungeons & Dragons as a basic or beginning set for the grand game of table top role playing but I have found a bit more respect rummaging through the annals of this game. Lately I find myself referring constantly back to it mixing and matching B/X with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & Adventurer, Conqueror, King with bits of Labyrinth Lord. All of this becomes wrapped around a core of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition. The whole is not always the sum of its parts as the players & campaign dictate what comes to the fore for the system from session to session as all dungeon masters have to contend with.

So I've been thinking about my 'Old Earth''s Antarctica & day dreaming about HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness but after rereading the novella for the hundredth or three hundredth time I'm convinced that there were other entities besides the shoggoths. This is a teaming brand new frontier continient that is possibly one of the most alien & dangerous places on 'Old Earth'. A place teeming with jungles, deadly sub prehistoric monsters, shoggoths, The Elder Ones, raving Tcho-Tchoid mercenary bands,and scores of inhuman ruins, temples, and alien places whose form & function is unknown.

Here I turn back to Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft where shores of Antarctica is the domain of dangerous guardians. The Dean of Science fiction Jack Williamson early in his career laid down one of the weirder & very dangerous great Old Ones seldom mentioned The Ice Entity. First found in 1937's Thrilling Wonder Stories this god thing is a left over from the war between the Great Race & the Elder Things mentioned in HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. This alien monster is both related to HP Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space & Ithaqua.
The ice entity itself is worshiped by the Gnophkehs,  along with Rhan-Tegoth & Aphoom-Zhah. It keeps the new continent free from most humans & adventurers.The entity also has ties to the new North Pole of 'Old Earth' & forms a world spanning religious cult of great evil. It may its origin out around Neptune & Uranus where many Great Old Ones originated.
Jack Williamson during his early period was heavily influenced by Weird Tales style pulps & another favorite author of mine.
"Jack Williamson's work during this early period was heavily influenced by A. Merritt,[4] author of The Metal Monster (1920) and other fantasy serials. Noting the Merritt influence, Algis Budrys described "The Metal Man" as "a story full of memorable images""

This same issue of 1937's Thrilling Wonder Stories also contains another great novella and possible creation of the Elder Things I'm speaking of the 'Brain of Venus'.  John Russell Fearn (1908–1960) isn't even known today outside of certain science fiction & pulp circles. He was one of the first British authors featured in American pulp magazines.
The Brain of Venus features what became 'the Venus Treatment' in my home AS&SH campaigns. 'The Venus treatment' is what happens when certain shoggoth & elder thing wizards & priests get a particularly strong individual's mind. They treat it with certain exotic necrotic alchemical formula preserving the thing & creating an undead guardian capable of the spells & abilities of a seventh level necromancer or evil wizard. These entities are free willed chaotically evil entities often carry out the wills of their alien masters. These things are often found in weird temples in strange basins of brine & soul literally rooted to the spot. They have an AC of 5  or more and can hurl a lightning bolt three times per day.

These 'Venus guardians' are often used to control 1d6 hosts of lesser entities around elder thing properties & holdings. These entities fight to the death with little to no regard for their own safety or well being. They are puppets acting out the wills of their twisted masters. The jungles of Anartica teem with creatures not seen for millions of years on Earth. There are darker & weirder entities that serve strange & sinister purposes. The Yzel tend the info temples & bio information storage houses of 'the Elder Ones'

They collect & collate much of the collected super science & higher alien intelligence of the Elder Ones. Speculation runs high among wizards of Old Earth that these entities are actually part of a telepathic alien higher mind system that has not been seen on Earth since the dawn of the planet. Many adventurer's brains have been turned to mush trying to 'hack' the library plant systems of the Elder Ones. Temples & buildings are covered with vast arrays of alien whorls, symbols, and etchings of the highest eldritch traditions. There are rumors of wizards sacrificing fortunes & wealth to study these forbidden places.
There is a 10% chance of a wizard going up a level or saving vs death as their body's are consumed in massive displays of other dimensional fires. Others are hunted down & gutted by shoggoths or worse during the night. The 'Elder Ones' keep their secrets well.

'Art Copyright 2017 Garrisonjames. Used by permission.' the 'Art Copyright 2017 Garrisonjames. Used by permission.'