Friday, February 2, 2018

The Cursed & Lost Halls of X2 Castle Amber By By Tom Moldvay For Your Old School Campaigns

"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber. you find yourselves cut off from the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?"

X2 Castle Amber is a beloved B/X Dungeons  & Dragons classic adventure. So let's get the basics out of the way from wikipedia;
"Castle Amber is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure module designed by Tom Moldvay. This was the second module designed for use with the Expert D&D set." The events of the  Thirty Years War 

are raging on & the PC's have already come face to face with my adaption of  B10 Night's Dark Terror.  They find themselves back on the outskirts of France but something is not right at all. The wind & driving rain have force them deep into the woods & piled ruin of a castle  stands above them.  They've never heard of the Amber family? Why?! Because the family was cursed by the forces of Fairy long ago and because of the war the entire place has been vomited back into the 'real world'.

"The module is described as a medium to high-level scenario which takes place in a castle surrounded by a strange gray mist" according to Wiki." & this is exactly why this module makes a perfect interlude into a Thirty Years War campaign. The Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville) is exactly the type of place that would be taken by Fairyland & tossed about like a sea shell in the chaotic & ever changing dreamlike heavens & Hells of that alien dimension.
The wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) puts a curse  on his treacherous relatives for murdering him or is it that he calls down the forces of Fairy on the house of the Château d'Amberville?! Invoking the forces of Fairyland proves too much for the pile and its been whisked away to the bastions of chaos far beyond reality. The chaos & death of the battles & conflicts of the Thirty Years War have wretched the place back into existence with the curse still in play after all this time.

Wallenstein A Scene of the Thirty Years War

Its illogical and cold nature of the module that plugs into the vailed threat of the nature of X2 which draws so heavily from both Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories & the fictional history of the the Amber family. The Lion & Dragon retroclone system is ideally suited to take full advantage of the differing eras, worlds, and times of X2 Castle Amber.

Dungeon Masters wanting to run this sort of an adventure should take full advantage of the Averoigene cycle stories which are:
Holiness of Azédarc, The (1933) contains some ideas for the subtle use of time & dimensional travel but wizards are going to have to take care around the environs of Castle Amber where the Inquisition is active & very dangerous! In X2 the forces of Fairy are not only very real they're also a very dangerous threat to PC's as they wind their way from one encounter to another within the castle.

A good point to run X2 Castle Amber is during the latter half of the Thirty Years War during the turning point of the early part of the 1600's;
"Tensions escalated further in 1609, with the War of the Jülich Succession, which began when John William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, the ruler of the strategically important United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, died childless." This gives a possible connection with ancestors of Johann Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg & the Amber family perhaps as curse stemming from Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) dallying with the forces of Chaos & Fairy in the affairs of European state centuries earlier.

The accursed bloodlines of 
d'Amberville give an almost Edgar Allen Poe quality to X2 Castle Amber. We know that the Ambers themselves have some strain of Elven blood running throughout their family tree and perhaps something even more inhuman. There are several hooks in X2 that indicate that other members of the family had traveled to other worlds. This gives X2 Castle Amber a utility that later TSR modules lacked. It also makes a perfect set up for using this module as a bridge into other retroclone adventures.

Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) can't be the only wizard of the Amber line & in the past I've used other members of the family as NPC's in a number of old school campaigns as patrons for adventures, antagonists for parties, as fulcrums for other old school adventures. The family Amber's role in the history of Dark Europe should not be underestimated especially behind the scenes in the throne rooms of France's highest levels.

The possibilities of X2 Castle Amber as a lost adventure location might explain not only the quirky nature of the old school encounters but could lead to the castle being the gateway to other retroclone settings. There are lots of elements that could lead to a far longer ranging campaign then might be expected. Even in the Thirty Years War the echos of other worlds & time lost centuries could lead to some very unexpected and dangerous avenues!  X2 Castle Amber is not an adventure to take lightly and has wiped out more then one party of adventurers when I've run it in the past. .

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