Sunday, December 31, 2017

In The Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk Campaign Setting The Battle Against The Slavers Continues In A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade By Harold Johnson & Tom Moldvay

The battle against the slavers continues! You and your fellow adventurers have defeated the slavers of Highport, but you have learned of the existence of another slaver stronghold, and you have decided to continue the attack. But beware! Only the most fearless of adventurers could challenge the slavers on their own ground, and live to tell of it!

Secret of the Slaver's Stockade was the Summer of 82's most dangerous module for me where five PC's died and the spider cult wasn't doing resurrections. A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade puts the party in the middle of the conflict with the 'slavers' in the Drachensgrab Hills & one of their fortresses

"Secrets of the Slavers Stockade
was published by TSR in 1981 as a thirty-two page booklet with an outer folder, and was written by Harold Johnson and Tom Moldvay.[7] The cover artwork by Jim Roslof features a drawing of two hobgoblins, one of which is a sergeant with a leashed boggle, and a party of adventurers."

The entire module smacks of a solid Sword & Sorcery style affair in the vein of a Robert Howard Conan story. There's lots & lots of Orientalist Hobgoblins throughout A2. This is one of those modules that has a strange other wilderness feel that ties in with the pulpy corruption of T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. This makes A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade perfect for using with a Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk campaign. The fact is that hobgoblins are a perfect up tier monster from the traditional 'pig faced orcs' that most starter AD&D first edition adventures seem rife with. I've always thought of Dungeons & Dragon hobgoblins as semi demonic left over monsters from the Pre- Biblical Flood years who had a Mongolian style empire ruled by elite 'demonic Orge Magi wizard tyrants'. The society's Fall came with the Flood & they've never quite recovered.

I’m using material the playtests version of the Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors Collection. Now given some of aspects of A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade its easy to see that the technological levels late Roman Empire of ACK's easily though out the module. Its quite easy to see that the PC's are going to have several adventure messes through out the module with some side puzzles & minor side quests. There are several locations in A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade module that could be seized as holdings by the PC's. They'll need to leave behind trusted hirelings to control them. These are perfect areas to act as tribal ins for warriors to breech into the lands that the hobgoblins have seized control of. These wildernesses areas of Drachensgrab Hills seem the type of areas that have been infected with the Chaos energies of the Temple of Elemental Evil. There are tons of monsters that seem to dip on the pulp bucket; things such as the the boggle, the cloaker, the haunt, and the phantom. These would later feature in the Monster Manual II & could be used to highlight adventure encounter to foreshadow the next adventure
Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords.

A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade is one of those modules that's completely centered & plugged into the Greyhawk campaign setting's wilderness. The adventure features an overland wilderness  of 110 miles (177 kilometers) through the Drachensgrab Hills  and offers plenty of opportunities for adventurers to get in way in over their heads.
So could the monsters of  'the Drachensgrab Hills '  appear in Hyperborea of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition?There's a perfect opportunity to connect the tunnels of the dungeon in  A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade unto AS&SH Underborea. The cloakers of A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade's tribes might be perfect dimensional travelers who are taking advantage of the chaos of the Temple of Elemental Evil to raid both worlds!

The material in the playtests version of the Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors Collection  really has several systems that allow one to add classic TSR adventures into home campaigns. These include several to help flesh out the plunder, tribal status, & how it affects both the party & community. A2 Secret of The Slaver's Stockade remains an old favorite because its very easy to adapt as an adventure to many classic AD&D first edition games as well as D&D first edition with some adaption on the dungeon master.

Dungeon stairs by Erol Otus, from AD&D module A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Deeper Readings Into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition's PC Class The Rune Gravers

Before the hill's high altar bowed,
The trees are Druids, weird and white,
Facing the vision of the light
With ancient lips to silence vowed.

No certain sound the woods aver,
Nor motion save of formless wings—
Filled with phantasmal flutterings,
With thronging gloom and shadow-stir.

Unseen, unheard, amid the dell
Lie all the winds that mantic trees
Have lulled with crystal warlockries
And bound about with Merlin-spell.

Twilight on the Snow  (1922)  by Clark Ashton Smith

The snows here in Connecitcut have been off & on today. I'm taking a moment to dip into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition hard back to take a quick look at one of the new PC classes of the game. The Clark Ashton Smith poem reminds me of the Runegraver a new clerical subclass in AS&SH.

So I got an email asking how would I handle the Runegraver PC class from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition. What are they?Their a clerical sub class with some really interesting overtones "Runegraver: a mystic warrior who carves runic spells on bone, metal, stone, and wood"  So using a combination of will power, magick, their own blood, & the will of the gods the Runegraver adds a rune encrusted  potent mix to a party of adventurers. But there is a cost & a dark side to these warriors of the gods.

Del Teigeler did an amazing job illustrating the RUNEGRAVER


If begin looking into the background of the PC class we quickly see that these are not the run of the mill cleric. During the Kickstarter for AS&SH second edition we got further previews,
"The runegraver possesses many interesting abilities, such as the "ale rune", turning water to a healing ale; "casting lots" which allows the runegraver to make predictions; and "nithing pole" which allows the rungraver to create a special device that lays a curse."
Part clerical pagan warrior priest & part seer with more then a hint of the dark blood magick that one finds throughout the classic mythological Icelandic sagas of Egill Skallagrímsson
Infact I'd use those sagas as possible inspiration for some of the background for an AS&SH player character. They've got Norse flavor for miles. The Runegraver is a character class with some dark secrets though.

Runegravers often serve the dark gods Ymir & by using their own brand of rune magick must expand hit points in order to achieve their spells. This is straight in keeping with the Norse sagas themselves. Hyperborea is a world bound by seemingly eternal Winter lasting years & the Runegraver's abilities to act as a seer are going to be a key to survival. But these are a wily bunch at best & at worst a group of clerics with abilities that complement the struggle on Hyperborea beyond simple survival. To turn this on its ear, Runegravers are going to see others as competition for the power structure within tribal or village life. This means that adventuring Runegravers are those whom the tribal Runegravers have turned loose into the world to seek their own fortunes.

The world of the PC Runegraver is one of the spiritual  journey for fortune, power, & ultimately divine & tribal security of their own.

Essentially those Runegravers who follow Yimir are following a dead god whose flesh went on to form the Earth. Odin & his brothers killed Ymir at the beginning of Creation. Yet, Ymir's children the ice giants walk the arctic wastelands of Hyerborea. How is this possible?

Ymir gets himself killed by Odin and his brothers.
By Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908).

Its heavily implied but not stated in AS&SH's background material that 'the Ragnarok'  or twilight of the gods has taken place before the formation of Hyperborea. This gives a very different spin on the cosmology of the Runegravers. They're interactions with ice giants might be a very critical and possibly life threatening once in a life time event. Why? Because of their association with the god of berserk's Ullr.

Battle of the Doomed Gods (by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882)

Ullr was originally a god of archery,warriors, skiers, skaters, & duels. He was the son of Sif & step son of Thor himself.
"In chapter 31 of Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Ullr is referred to as a son of Sif (with a father unrecorded in surviving sources) and as a stepson of Sif's husband; the major Germanic god Thor:

Ullr heitir einn, sonr Sifjar, stjúpsonr Þórs. Hann er bogmaðr svá góðr ok skíðfœrr svá at engi má við hann keppask. Hann er ok fagr álitum ok hefir hermanns atgervi. Á hann er ok gott at heita í einvígi.[2]
Ullr, Sif's son and Thór's stepson, is one [too]. He is such a good archer and ski-runner that no one can rival him. He is beautiful to look at as well and he has all the characteristics of a warrior. It is also good to call on him in duels.– Young's translation

In Skáldskaparmál, the second part of the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions Ullr again in a discussion of kennings. Snorri informs his readers that Ullr can be called ski-god, bow-god, hunting-god and shield-god. In turn a shield can be called Ullr's ship. Despite these tantalising tidbits Snorri relates no myths about Ullr. It seems likely that he didn't know any, the god having faded from memory."
So how did he become the god of beserkers? The violence & war of 'the Ragnarok'

twisted him unto this new god because he's one of the only gods who survived. He continues on his father's ways but runegravers know of what happened during Fall of the Gods. They dare not speak of it openly.
The Ice Jotunns of Hyperborea are wily, dangerous, and infinity cunning as well as completely evil. They also happen to be able to trace their linage back to Ymir. Ymir is also central to the formation of the dwarfs of Hyperborea.
"In Gylfaginning High explains the origin of the dwarfs. High says that after Asgard had been built, and the gods assembled on their thrones and held their things. There they "discussed where the dwarfs had been generated from in the soil and down in the earth like maggots in flesh. The dwarfs had taken shape first and acquired life in the flesh of Ymir and were then maggots, but by decision of the gods they became conscious with intelligence and had the shape of men though they live in the earth and in rocks". Stanzas from Völuspá consisting of dwarf names are then provided to show the lineage of the dwarfs."
The Dwarven race of Hyperborea are dangerous, evil, & highly linked to Underborea. This gives the Runegraver a very heavy burden to live with should he or she cross into the dwarven domains & kingdoms. This might be something that these warrior priests want to avoid at all costs for where did they learn the craft of runes?! Perhaps it was taught to them by the children of Ymir himself.

For my own Old Earth setting
'the Ragnarok' happened & millions were killed. The aftermath is still being felt hundreds of years later. Runegravers wander the Earth doing what they can, teaching their craft to the worthy, & putting down 'the hates of old' where & when they find they find them.

Then the Awful Fight Began (depiction by George Wright, 1908)

Runegravers are warrior priests who are walking in the shadows of the gods while trying to keep themselves from slipping into the clutches of the dangerous razor's edge of the evil & uncaring alien supernatural.
Playing one of these PC types could be very rewarding old school rpg experience. Hope all of your dice rolls are twenties!
More to come folks!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Further Readings Into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition

So I've been thumbing through my copy of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd Edition that I got sent thanks to lovely folks at North Wind Adventures for Christmas. Thanks so much for one of my favorite retroclone systems &  books of 2017! But I have an ulterior motive for thumbing through the wonderful hard back & all around bad ass book. I've been dipping my poisoned pen into the interior Mythos of AS&S Hyperborea. I was not disappointed by what I found for my 'Old Earth' campaign setting.

'Old Earth' is a post Mythos style setting reminiscent of the works of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Howard, & HP Lovecraft & his circle. The clock is ticking & its ten to twelve when the stars come right as the Old Ones awaken. Hyperborea sits out near Saturn & a red bloated sun hangs in the sky how or why is not known. Several Mythos races have returned to Earth from its interior including the empire of N'Kai, the Hyperboreans, the Deep Ones, & many more. The Earth was cast into ruins & many of the works of man were forever changed!?
Humans live in fortified city states & the world was ruled by Hyperboreans & the necromancer tyrants of N'kai until Iceland & part of  Greenland was wretched from the Earth.

Parts of Canada, Alaska, & North America were fused by horrid volcanic activity that killed millions & became the legendary lands of Lomar. Fire arms are black powder with wheel lock & flintlocks weapons being common but many of the Mythos races have energy weapon technology that makes the humans quake. Certain human city states have grasped the secrets of energy weapons but they are only for the very wealth. Humanity is on the upswing again & the humans have some atomic rockets & an ion drive system but have all but lost the FTL hyperspace drive secrets. Magick has returned with a vengeance & its chaos plays havoc with the works of man. Already the players have journeyed deep passed the civilized areas of Lomar into the Wastern wastelands & the trading  outpost there which is part tent city, part Roman style fort, & part marketplace for relics.
The Western wastelands are a wilderness of unnatural horror filled with mutants, madmen, monsters & much worse. There are alien things that are worshiped as gods & worse. Which brings me to my second reading through one of the player sections of AS&SH  & I noticed a very interesting detail about priests & their Lovecraftian gods in AS&SH. Even the most evil of gods in AS&SH can have good priests?! Page seventy three of the AS&SH second edition rule book.

The book turned on its side so players can't make it out. But notice the quality of the binding!

This brings up an interesting point in an AS&SH campaign there could be orders of good priests, monks, monasteries, knights, hermitages, etc. dedicated to Azathoth the blind & idiot demon sultan who sits at the center of the universe amid the piping of demonic Outer gods. Priests of Azathoth dedicated to helping the poor & wretchedly mutated of the Western wastelands!?! Who pray tell is Azathoth?! Well there's a fantastic video series called Cthulhu Mythos Explained by Mr.H Reviews that goes into some wonderful details.

I own nothing and this video copyright & trademarked to Mr.H Reviews. Used under the terms of fair use & for purposes of this article.

Another detail that Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerer's of Hyperborea second edition is the expanded monster section. Within it is one race that seems tailor made for manipulation and strife, the Transmudane are a lawful race of decedent & enigmatic alien manipulators who it seems serve the will of the Outer Gods or the Elder Gods with equal ease. This race reminds me of a certain  HP Lovecraft short story called Hypnos & a Clive Barker story from the Books of Blood called Human Remains. They are lawful evil at times & very haunting with more then a touch of the Watchers from the classic Marvel Jack Kirby run of the 1960's Fantastic Four comic book.

The Transmudane are a really nasty addition to the AS&SH family but fit in with the sort of haunting other worldly quality that the Old Earth campaign setting has. I'll be using them in this week's game coming up!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bloody Wheels Within Wheels "Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk" Part Eight Commentary - A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity By David 'Zeb' Cook

"The heroes have entered the dungeons & ruins of The  Temple of Elemental Evil. Great deeds of valor & heroism were accomplished, & riches were taken from the belly of the beast. The greatest evil that Greyhawk has known has been vanquished back to the darkness of the Underworld & Abyss! "

"The horror & depravity has ended. Now the PC's can retire to a life of barbarian pleasure & decadence. Actually not quite!? "
First of all you've got one of the main city states now a time haunted ruin!
The city-state of Verbobonc  is going to take years to tame. You've also got tons of humanoid raider tribes now dealing violence to the  interior of the heart of the the central Flanaess .

So given the tribes & options of The Heroic Fantasy Handbook play test document . What other possible deviltry could happen to Greyhawk? T1 Temple of Elemental Evil is going to take the PC's up the level ladder from one to nine.  Now given the amount of grief left behind from the fall out from the humanoid raiders, more dungeon clean out, the marauding tribes, monsters, battles, & inter tribal warfare. Its conservatively going to take between five to ten years campaign time to mop up all of the blow back from the awakening of the Temple of Elemental Evil. This power vacuum is going to be filled by all kinds of inner tribal turmoil as well. 
Local events are going to keep the players too busy to notice the raids by
slavers on the coastal population along the Sea of Gearnat from Onnwal to the Wild Coast. Well that is until the local lords come to the PC's for help!
That's right 'the Slave Lords' have slipped in while the PC's have been embroiled in the inter politics of barbarian tribal events!

"It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!"

The Slave Lords and their operations in the central and southwestern Flanaess are a perfect fit to bridge the gap into a coastal barbarian & raiders campaign. They'd take full advantage of the chaos of the fall of one of the major city states!
"Slave Pits of the Undercity was published by TSR in 1980 as a twenty four page booklet, and was written by David Cook.[3] The cover artwork by Jeff Dee features an illustration of two aspis fighting a party of adventurers (including a bearded female dwarf).[4] The interior art was done by Dee, David S. LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham"

Orc by Tim Truman  from D&D module X5: Temple of Death, TSR, 1983

The orc tribes from the Temple of Elemental Evil are going to be seeking employment & who better to go with then the next power block on Greyhawk. The fact is that in a 'Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk ' slavers are going to be a major power block raiding, taking slaves, causing organized violence.
Just the sort of thing that Adventurer, Conqueror, King's system excels at! If the PC's have gotten too powerful or to high of a level then its time to introduce the PC's children or legacy characters to take over in the family's tradition. Could the slavers have been funding the various dark magick cults, black wizard cabals, etc. behind the resurrection of the Temple of Elemental Evil this whole time? Why?! A simple power grab sets up & destabilizes the entire empire of Greyhawk from within.

So what does this have to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition ? There's always a connection according to some of my critics?! Well, that's a fair assessment but this time the connection isn't as obvious as it first appears.

The ant-like aspis of my version of Greyhawk have their own pulpy origins on Hyperborea & the Slavelords have been importing them onto Greyhawk across the Boreas winds disrupting their natural migration patterns.

So why use  A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity By David 'Zeb' Cook as campaign adventure bridge gap? Well because its the perfect module to use for what happened to many of the humanoid tribes after the fall of the Temple of Elemental Evil. This was a tip that I picked up reading over the commentary in the description of the module on Drivethrurpg yesterday;
"The Slave Lords are raiding along the Wild Coast and into nearby lands. The actual adventure is set in Highport, a city south of the Wild Coast, in the Pomarj — a peninsula overrun by humanoids. With that said, there's almost no detail on the adventure's locale, probably due to the its origins as a tournament. Instead, the details all focus on the two delves: a ruined temple and the city's sewers."

Tomorrow we'll be getting into more of the Hyperborean connection, alternative setting details on the movements of the Slavelords operations, & the focus of the Sword & Sorcery elements for dealing with this campaign. So staytuned!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Dangerous Violence & Conquest of T1 The Temple Of Elemental Evil By Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer - Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk Part Seven

"Thousands of humanoid tribes of orcs, ill spawned things of chaos have come from out of the hills! They've laid waste to hundreds of villages, farms, & set fire to ancient groves. There are whispers of demons, wizards, & worse commanding them! But the worst of it was when the raiders came! "
Lets face facts war breeds opportunity & the barbarian tribes of Greyhawk are not going to sit still while hundreds of humanoids raid their lands & slaughter their people under the influence of some ancient Lovecraftian demoness. The T1 The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer are hates of old. Their pits of incredible evil that allows the evil influence of a vanquished demoness to influence Greyhawk's people & its most foul sorceries.

So continuing on with 'The Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk' campaign setting today. I want to look at the quick & bloody rise of black sorcerous violence  in the central Flanaess  with the rise of the various humanoid races being spawned by ancient generators. If you've played through the moat house dungeon & then linked it up by tunnels to the Caves of Chaos from B2 Keep on The Borderlands then you know that those caves are only one set of these ancient hell hole creations. The rest of them have been churning out thousands of humanoid warriors ala the video game Gauntlet. So what brings down  the city-state of Verbobonc? A hybrid army of humanoids & human raiders under the hellish influence of the demoness Zuggtmoy

So where did the other barbarian tribes come from then? The refugees & survivors of these raids who survived the sacking of the city-state of Verbobonc! I've said that this is an alternative version of Greyhawk which I'm testing various systems of   The Heroic Fantasy Handbook play test document . Events here go quite differently during the sacking of the the Horde of Elemental Evil. What I'm I talking about? According to the Wiki Entry here's where things start going in a different direction;"
In 569 CY, a combined force was sent to destroy the Temple and put an end to the marauding. This allied army clashed with a horde of evil men and humanoids, including orcs, ogres and gnolls, at the Battle of Emridy Meadows. Men-at-arms from Furyondy and Veluna united with dwarves from the Lortmils, gnomes from the Kron Hills, and an army of elven archers to face the threat of the Horde of Elemental Evil, consisting largely of savage humanoids such as orcs, ogres, and gnolls. The arrival of the elves from the shadows of the Gnarley Forest turned the tide of battle, trapping the savage humanoids against a bend in the Velverdyva where they were routed and slaughtered.

At some point in this battle, Serten, cleric of Saint Cuthbert and member of the Citadel of Eight, was slain. The Citadel was notable for its absence at this pivotal moment in the history of the Flanaess, and their failure to take part in the Battle of Emridy Meadows contributed to the group's decline and eventual disbandment.

After dispersing the Horde of Elemental Evil, the allied forces laid siege to the Temple of Elemental Evil itself, defeating it within a fortnight. Spellcasters loyal to the goodly army cooperated on a spell of sealing that bound the demoness Zuggtmoy (a major instigator in the Horde of Elemental Evil) to some of the deepest chambers in the castle's dungeons."

Yes the demoness Zuggtmoy was sealed away but she did not go quietly. She took out Serten, cleric of Saint Cuthbert  & various  members of the Citadel of Eight.

Hundreds of humanoid tribes have overrun the Pomarj peninsula  from Tim Truman, Dragon 167
Over the centuries her black influence continued to fester through cults, agents circling through Greyhawk, bandits & brigand forces loyal to her, thieves & assassins guilds whose inner circles were loyal to her, & finally those cults who maintained the spawning mechanisms of Luz.

The dusanu, or rot fiend  also by Tim Truman is a perfect example of the undead monsterous horrors stalking  in the shadows of Greyhawk during this time.

What about Vecna? Well Vecna is an Osris god of necromancers & black wizards whose worship will get your throat slit during the night. The undead are a curse on the living & another hate of old, one of whom the warriors will have to deal with in time. But not right now. At the moment his cult is one that deals as if one would if they were old black magick in ruins dealing  from the shadows bidding its time & amused at the events around it.

Meanwhile hundreds of raiders take to the saddle, foot, boat to take out other citystates taking full advantage of the chaos to get their own pieces of Greyhawk. The chaos has emboldened the various factions. More blood shed & violence are sparking off of the paranormal chaos of the Elemental Evil Temple.

T1 The Temple of Elemental Evil's fires were stoked by the sacking  of the city-state of Verbobonc  & the activating of one of the primary artifacts of Greyhawk killing hundreds in its wake & shattering the time space continuum of the nearby army & innocents across the countryside.
Here's where the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide comes in and yes I'm playing fast & loose with the DM's Guide's artifacts to keep my players guessing.

The  the city-state of Verbobonc  is a smoldering ruin where the screams of the damned, the dying, & those taken as slaves are the lucky ones. The humanoid armies haven't had time to enjoy their victory as they too have fled the scene as magical plagues have been unleashed, demons & monsters stalk the ruins & strange warriors from other lands across the Boreas winds have made 'the crossing'.
This turn of events might not be the one that the demoness Verbobonc was counting on. Yes I'm going to use Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & the Fiend Folio to fill out some of the ruins of  Verbobonc .

AS&SH second edition cover by Charles Lang.
Why? Because the heart of the the central Flanaess   needs another dungeon location to test the mettle of the players once the Temple of Elemental Evil has been conquered. 

So what's happening here? Well there are several reasons why this is happening:

  1. There are several high end treasures that are up for grabs during the events surrounding T1 coming into its own of evil. This gives the perfect opportunity to test out some of the sacking options that   The Heroic Fantasy Handbook play test document . 
  2. I've already had various Greyhawk purists getting on my case. This is an alternative Greyhawk where the Sword & Sorcery & Weird Tales elements are turned up to 'eleven'. 
  3. Events of campaign can go in lots of directions during play & that's what we're looking at. 
  4. Blood, battles, broadswords are fun & this is a round about 'what if' campaign. 
  5. So far I'm not disappointed by The Heroic Fantasy Handbook play test document.
  6. The ACK's system seems to handle this whole affair quite nicely. The PC's can start at first level & retire on the high end of the ACK's scale if they survive. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Black Sorcery Most Foul Behind The Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk Setting - More OSR Side Setting Commentary Part Six

What foul forces have been unleashed upon Greyhawk from a source of evil fouler then the imaginations of man? Where does the corruption of chaos & depravity come from? Whose let loose  foul secrets that man was not mean to know come from? Today we'll take a look in this quick interlude!

Alright I got an email asking me what could possibly shatter the time/space continuum of Greyhawk to such an extent that nearby dimensional gates & time slips might be the possible order of the day in the city state ruins of
Well there are certainly are weapons of mass destruction capable of releasing time shattering effects & these are royal level weapons scattered throughout the Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk's setting. These are called artifacts and there's an entire section on them in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Dungeon Master's Guides. These are the items that entire governments go to war over in Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk. Artifacts such as

Machine of Lum the Mad. And many others are more then capable of altering the cosmic fabric of  the central Flanaess.

T1 The Temple of Elemental Evil is unto itself another such artifact but instead of it being merely an adventure location this is a sink of pure chaos & magical evil. Its spell of corruption weaving its way across the landscape for thousands of years. Artifacts such as the
Staff of Fraz-Urb'luu & others are magical & psychic keys capable of unlocking the full devastating potential of these adventure locations. And there's one group of learned idiots who keep messing with such powers again & again as any reader of Swords & Sorcery fantasy can tell you about, its almost always the various dark wizards & foolish magi.

Nobiran Wizard, Charles Myers

One of the things that 
The Heroic Fantasy Handbook play test document 
goes into is this sort of highly charged black magick wizardry and adds it in spades into Adventurer, Conqueror, King but also adds it onto the Sword & Sorcery battle field. This is stated right up front on the Kickstarter; "  Magic in heroic fantasy is more subtle and nuanced than in contemporary fantasy. It works with what is, rather than creating what is not. A magician cannot teleport straight to his friend’s distant castle, though his whispered dreams might reach his friend across the black gulfs of space. A magician will not fling magic missiles, but he might call down lightning from a storm, or capsize a boat with a wave. Working magic might require lengthy ceremonies, terrible sacrifices, or the power of primeval places. And those who use magic risk corruption. Even the wisest can lose their mind, body, and soul if they tamper with dark magic. "

Combined this with the sort of artifacts in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Dungeon Master's Guide you've got the potential for a recipe for disasters that leave kingdoms devastated, weird magical radiations pouring into Greyhawk, & alternative dimensions bleeding into the landscape.
The demoness Zuggtmoy 
is representative of the types of horrors that have been let loose on Greyhawk for thousands of years to wage war.  Wizards have been summoning these horrors to do their bidding since mankind crawled from the caves.

Zaharan Sorcerer, Alexander Macris

Tribes of wandering barbarian warriors have come from the devastation left in the wake of the destruction of the city state of Verbobonc. A lost people who remember a gold age in song's of their bards & the legends told around the camp fires of sword wielding warriors & wanderers. Druid groves gather to try & heal the land but the weird radiations spawn horrors from beyond the pale of the Outer Darkness. Cults of chaos are going to be a huge problem in this style of campaign because people will gather for simple survive & power against the massive influx of humanoids from the Temple of Elemental Evil.
This is the perfect opportunity to trot out the First edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio for those random wilderness encounters. Tons of cool & downright cold blooded raiders to throw at jaded players.  With desperation comes opportunities for rewards of all kinds including the opportunities to carve out kingdoms & petty tyrant holds.

Conquest attracts the parasites & hangers on from across the cosmos. This means that PC's could be facing down very dangerous critters & humanoid mercenaries from across time & space. Clark Ashton Smith often had one off & cast off monsters littering his stories.  The power of the demoness Zuggtmoy 's influence is the perfect excuse to unleash mutant & twisted chaos horrors upon your players.

An ogrillon, from the first edition AD&D's Fiend Folio is a great style of mutant horror to fill out the ranks of roving bands of mutants & worse in a Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk campaign.

Wizards & various cabals are going to be an incredible hazard to contend with especially if cells of these these human vermin serve
the demoness Zuggtmoy. 
Cold steel & violence might not be enough to deal with the circumstances that the players are going to face down. Perhaps they may need to seek the add of other warriors & barbarians who deal with such things during their day to day struggle for survival. Here's where Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition might come in handy yet again. Crossing the Boreas winds might give the PC's the extra edge needed in their struggles against the darkness of the Temple of Elemental Evil. 
Cover artwork by Charles Lang.