Thursday, February 15, 2018

A More Basic Adventure Campaign Arch With The Villainy of B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology For Your OId School Campaigns

On the edge of civilization violence & horror has been visited upon the villages of Bohemia.Strange raiders from Hell itself or so it seems have been looting, burning, and rampaging across the countryside! Weird humanoids have been taking out many of the larger villages & bastions of civilization!

B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology is one of my treasured mega modules and a perfect set up adventure as an introduction to the Lion & Dragon retroclone rpg. Since the PC's start as zero level characters, they need a mega module to really get them over the hump & onto upper levels for the Thirty Years War's time line with the Lion & Dragon retroclone.
Why is In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology adventure perfect for this? 

Because it put's the PC's at ground zero & at the center stage as the Elves stage a big push in Bohemia to take over. They begin acting through cells of witch cults, & a huge population of humanoids who have been manufactured in Fairyland. 

"In Search of Adventure is an abridged compilation adventure module published by TSR, Inc. in 1987, for the Basic Set of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. Its product designation was TSR 9190. This 160-page book features cover artwork by Keith Parkinson."
This super module is a mix of many of the most popular module with a lot left on the cutting room floor;"The modules B1-B9 include: B1 In Search of the Unknown, B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, B4 The Lost City, B5 Horror on the Hill, B6 The Veiled Society, B7 Rahasia, B8 Journey to the Rock, and B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond."

These events are happening around the Bohemia Revolt's beginning & the Bohemia is a great stand in for the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Why would the Elves let loose their dogs of war on humanity during this time?
"The death of Emperor Matthias emboldened the rebellious Protestant leaders, who had been on the verge of a settlement. The weaknesses of both Ferdinand (now officially on the throne after the death of Emperor Matthias) and of the Bohemians themselves led to the spread of the war to western Germany. Ferdinand was compelled to call on his nephew, King Philip IV of Spain, for assistance."

"The king-elect then sent two Catholic Councillors (Vilem Slavata of Chlum and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice) as his representatives to Prague Castle in Prague in May 1618. Ferdinand had wanted them to administer the government in his absence. On 23 May 1618, an assembly of Protestants seized them and threw them (and also secretary Philip Fabricius) out of the palace window, which was some 21 m (69 ft) off the ground. Although injured, they survived. This event, known as the (Second) Defenestration of Prague, started the Bohemian Revolt. Soon afterward, the Bohemian conflict spread through all of the Bohemian Crown, including Bohemia, Silesia, Upper and Lower Lusatia, and Moravia. Moravia was already embroiled in a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The religious conflict eventually spread across the whole continent of Europe, involving France, Sweden, and a number of other countries."

 Because these events involve  all of Europe,PC are going to be scrambling to play catch up with the hordes raging at the fringes of Europe. The old strongholds of the Elves now in ruins, being used as dungeon locations, & as gateways to Fairyland are going be the targets of adventurers. So are these old school adventures presented perfectly or is there more going in B1-9? Actually there's a very solid thread about this subject on Dragon's Foot.

The PC's are going to have to deal with bands of trolls, ogres, and worse as Fairyland becomes aware of the plot by several of the secret societies of royals who are in actually keepers of the sacred knowledge of the Kings Under The Mountains.

Of course there is an Arthurian tie in with hordes of knights waiting in sleep for Europe's greatest hour of need. Part of the time may involve the PC's questing to awaken various champions of Europe & summon the Kings Under The Mountains.
  • "Ječmínek, legendary Moravian king will, according to a prophecy, return to save his country from enemies" and this looks like its it.
  • "St. Wenceslas (Václav) of Bohemia (Czech Republic). He sleeps in the Blaník mountain (with a huge army of Czech knights) and will emerge to protect his country at its worst time, riding on his white horse and wielding the legendary hero Bruncvík's sword."
  • "Knights of Sitno in Slovak mythology are a legion of knights supposedly sleeping inside the mountain Sitno in Central Slovakia, waiting to be called upon in times when the Slovaks are in danger. It is said that every seven years, the oldest of them climbs up the hill and shouts the question: "Is it time yet?" in every world direction. If nobody answers, he climbs back inside."
All of these events center around the messianic awakening of Arthur and his return to help with the banishing of the Elven darkness from England & Europe's shores. 

B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology's is perfect for creating loads of dungeons & ruins stocked with horrors from before the Biblical Flood. The  knights of Europe coming back to rid the darkness and put aside the petty whims of religion is a powerful one. The choice bits of  David "Zeb" Cook's The Veiled Society is perfect for creating assassin's plots in the back waters of Europe.
The real problem is knowing who is really on the PC's side and whose going to be turning on the party as Europe deteriorates under the weight of the advancing humanoid hordes. Lion & Dragon has some very solid rules for handling the assassination bits of some of these modules.

For Clark Ashton Smith's end of things there are several of his stories that spring to mind but one that stands out is
End of the Story, The (1930). This tale takes place in in 1787, its the only  Averoigne story to take place outside of the Middle Ages or the early Renaissance. But within it are elements that have much in common with some of the central themes that run through B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology. This is anything of a standard love story, and in this The End of the Story   transcends the usual limits of its own mythology. As an NPC the exquisite lady Nycea would be right at home during the events of the Thirty Year War. Another possible Elven royal mover and shaker among the landed and high born royals making war with the lives of their lessers. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Horrors of WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun For Your Old School Campaigns

A most bleak, mysterious, demonic, sinister, and gothic adventure just waiting for the PC's to stumble upon the horror of it! Deep within the complex of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth a hidden temple has been covered that might turn the tide of the Thirty Year War back into the Elven favor! An ancient, dangerous, and demonic horror worshipped by the Elves for millions of years might be awakened and with its howls of rebirth millions will die!

After months of actual play most of the players will have thought that the
Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth adventure is wrapped up. There are no more challenges to the human dominated Europe of the Thirty Years War. The Elven menace from the pages of the Lion & Dragon retroclone system are over with. Peace seems to loom on the horizon for the human race after the petty concerns of religion are put aside for the possible horrors of  brutal planar war. The yawning abyss and vampire horror at the center of Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth has been put aside.
In a word no! The gates of Fairyland explode open as hordes of  ratmen, orcs, giants, and worse come to invade the French countryside, the lonely fringes of Italy, and the marshlands surrounding Spain. 

"The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game, for use in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. The module was published by TSR, Inc. in 1982 for the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules by Gary Gygax"

Many DM's that I've played with over the years have run WG4 as a part & parcel of 
the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and within the underworld of Europe something demonic stirs in its sleep. A powerful cell of witches from the Le Fey bloodline enters a hidden & mostly forgotten section of the temple. Things are not going well for the Elven powers & while they have fed will on the minds, hearts, and souls of mankind. The overarching march toward peace is coming. But they have a plan! 1643 is on the horizon and within two years events will turn on a pivot point in time unless an ancient god awakens!

In 1645, a French army under Turenne was almost destroyed by the Bavarians at the Battle of Herbsthausen. However, reinforced by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, it defeated its opponent in the Second Battle of Nördlingen. The last Catholic commander of note, Baron Franz von Mercy, died in the battle.[76] However, the French army's effort on the Rhine had little result, in contrast to its string of victories in Flanders and Artois.[77] The same year, the Swedes entered Austria and besieged Vienna, but they could not take the city and had to retreat. The siege of Brünn in Bohemia proved as fruitless, as the Swedish army met with fierce resistance from the Habsburg forces. After five months, the Swedish army, severely worn out, had to withdraw."

There are rumors of the Holy Grail being numbered among the treasures of Prague. Ancient troll like creatures of chaos not seen in centuries have been reported in the passes of Bravaria far from their native homelands. Other rumors point to a group of strange fairy beings (gnomes) asking for help with these horrors!

At the same time there are worries among the royals on both sides of the conflict that the forces of chaos are planning something very nasty and dangerous. A cult of the
remnants of worshipers of the imprisoned god Tharizdun have recently been seen in the night. This cult traces its origins all the way back to the fall of Babylon & even before the holy Flood washed away the stank of chaos from the Earth itself. The seers & wizards who trace their blood back to Merlin himself have been having dreams of the horror in the Black Cyst.

 Neither the Produstants nor the Catholics trust these wizards for they trace their origin back to the 'son of the Devil' himself! Non the less these sages & wizards are predicting doom for anyone who enters the temple but the temptation of more treasure to the cash strapped Europeans is too much. Because of the occult power of the Black Cyst gateways to France, Austria, Italy are readily accessible by the temple which has its own reality within the chaos ridden horrors of Fairyland.
The doctrine of the temple is spreading among the witches driving them into greater heights of occult frenzy and horror. Will the PC's give into  to the traps & snares of insanity & chaos just waiting within the Lovecraftian bounds of the temple?! Arthur & his knights once faced down its horrors and were able to banish the temple back to the pest hole of Fairyland when Camelot was at its strongest. Will the PC's be able to do the same?

So is there story or two of Clark Ashton Smith that reflexes the dark and dire weirdness of WG4? Both the  Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles, The (1958) & Tale of Satampra Zeiros, The (1931) have the central themes of chaos and depravity in spades needed to serve as fodder for running this classic adventure.
Of course if the DM wants the 'true' background on this adventure of weirdness & depravity then they'll have to read & use
CAS's The Dark Eidolon. This contains most of the known background on CAS's incredible demon god Tharizdun.Tharizdun is a play on 'Thasaidon'  from G.Gygax who often used the works of Clark Ashton Smith as fuel and inspiration for his classic adventures.

WG4 isn't simply a mystery waiting to be solved but rather a dangerous adventure of survival horror against the powers of darkness & Hell themselves. This isn't an adventure to be taken lightly to be sure. The rate of mortality in this one makes it something  further  a simple dungeon crawl and into the realms of investigative survival.
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is a well oiled machine of an adventure that will take the PC's from their comfort zone and into the possibity of the lead PC dying numerous times because they failed to take into account the fact that this adventure doesn't care for the simple whining from the players when their beloved PC dies.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Hidden & Dangerous Corruption of S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth By Gary Gygax For Your Old School Camaigns

"Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage - if you live!"

So the Thirty Years War has been raging across Europe, the gates of Fairyland have been flung open a few times & closed again by the machinations of a plethora of adventurers! The whole of the war has been taking on and out of circulation scores of adventurers by design or event. That's where one of the classics comes in! I'm speaking of the classic S4  "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth," but we're not taking about a simple redo and romp. We're talking about re skinning the classic module so that it now takes on the role of death trap for the Lion & Dragon retroclone system.
Our little adventure goes something like this, the Thirty Years War has been raging on and off across Europe but the Elves are both losing & gaining ground to the humans. The war is taking its toll but the Elves have brought out the big guns in the form of  Drelnza, the vampiric daughter of long-deceased archmage Iggwilv. She's been sleeping the sleep of the ages in Fairyland & with clues laid out in T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil the the PC's are going to follow the trail to S4  "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

The module's history contains a clue to where it should be placed within the ring of the Lion & Dragon retroclone rpg system.

"The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It was written by Gary Gygax and published by TSR in 1982 for the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules. The 64-page adventure bears the code "S4" ("S" for "special")[1] and is set in the Greyhawk campaign setting. It is divided into two parts, a 32-page adventure, and a 32-page booklet of monsters and magic items. The plot involves the player characters investigating rumors of lost treasure."
Toward the end of the next cycle of conflict in the Thirty Years War the coffers were beginning to run dry in Europe. The French military were facing down the disasters of the conflict & real tolls were taking place on the coffers of Europe. The French were investigating any rumors of treasure now enter the S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" which is right on the French borders having been vomited into the real world. Men are desperate & the promise of riches and power is far too much a temptation for the Europeans. But surely there's no Arthurian connection here?

Well let's look into this end of the leg of the Thirty Year War;
"Emperor Ferdinand II died in 1637 and was succeeded by his son Ferdinand III, who was strongly inclined toward ending the war through negotiations. His army did, however, win an important success at the Battle of Vlotho in 1638 against a combined Swedish-English-Palatine force. This victory effectively ended the involvement of the Palatinate in the war.
French military efforts met with disaster, and the Spanish counter-attacked, invading French territory. The Imperial general Johann von Werth and Spanish commander Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain ravaged the French provinces of Champagne, Burgundy, and Picardy, and even threatened Paris in 1636. Then, the tide began to turn for the French. The Spanish army was repulsed by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. Bernhard's victory in the Battle of Breisach pushed the Habsburg armies back from the borders of France.[66] Then, for a time, widespread fighting ensued until 1640, with neither side gaining an advantage." The French provinces of Champagne, Burgundy, and Picardy, and  Paris in 1636 were hot beds of chaos cult activity going all the way back to the time of Arthurian legend. All of these places have some claim of Merlin The Magician and the Devil himself in Arthurian legend. These legends  contrast with Drelnza, the vampiric daughter of long-deceased archmage Iggwilv. As one or more versions of Merlin were supposed to be the anti Christ.

"Several decades later, the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account, as in Geoffrey's Historia, Merlin is begotten by a demon on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blase (or Blaise) of her predicament; they immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan and his intended destiny. The demonic legacy invests Merlin with a preternatural knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to shapeshift, on his joking personality, and on his connection to the Holy Grail. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia. Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 13th century as the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail: brought from the Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, the Grail is eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival.
The Prose Merlin contains many instances of Merlin's shapeshifting. He appears as a woodcutter with an axe about his neck, big shoes, a torn coat, bristly hair, and a large beard. He is later found in the forest of Northumberland by a follower of Uther's disguised as an ugly man and tending a great herd of beasts. He then appears first as a handsome man and then as a beautiful boy. Years later, he approaches Arthur disguised as a peasant wearing leather boots, a wool coat, a hood, and a belt of knotted sheepskin. He is described as tall, black and bristly, and as seeming cruel and fierce. Finally, he appears as an old man with a long beard, short and hunchbacked, in an old torn woolen coat, who carries a club and drives a multitude of beasts before him.[11] " 

So could the local Chaos cultists be summoning back the temple from S4
"The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" to wreck havoc on the countryside of France & Europe itself? Yes I think that many of the cults of Elves listed in Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos would be the perfect vehicle after the fall of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

This would be a great resource for generating the death worshiping Elven witch cults who wish to bring back the temple and begin the times of darkness for which the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth are legendary. The fact is that these caverns were banished to the chaos ridden lands of Fairy by the deaths of a multitude of brave knights & paladins.

Now the adventure environs represent a  pure and honestly dynamically dangerous place of chaos where the forces of the realm come to trap and destroy any adventurers they come across. Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories Colossus of Ylourgne, The (1933), Enchantress of Sylaire, The (1941), & Mandrakes, The (1933) have at their core the type of spiritual and mortal corruption just as S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth does as well.

Should the  S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth be released back into the world of men, it could and will spell the doom of all of Europe. The forces of the adventure are very dangerous and powerful and only a brave bunch of adventurers have a prayer to pull this mission off in the middle of the Thirty Years War.  My advice is to bring lots of extra character sheets for this module has taken more then its share of PC's in my personal experience. More to come!