Monday, November 12, 2018

OSR Commentary - Calidar's Vortexs & Dimensional Cancers - Otherthere & Back Again In Your Old School Campaigns

Last week I wrote about cracks in many of the major campaign worlds & what it means for players as well as their dungeon masters. Calidar newest kickstarter has exploded since I first started writing about it. But what does this hold for Greyhawk?! A lot of very weird planar threads & adventure hooks actually.




Skyships are nothing new in the skies of Greyhawk & Mystara but these worlds don't have as high an arcane index as Calidar.  Mystara is still on the trading routes of Calidar as far as the OSR dungeon masters are concerned.
'In 2012 and 2013 Bruce Heard wonderfully detailed in his blog almost all the Alphatian Kingdoms, from Arogansa in the south to Frisland in the far north, including coats of arms, maps and adventure ideas, making them much more detailed and interesting places for adventurers.'

'It’s hard to describe Calidar in just a few sentences as the setting is wonderfully rich with original themes and distinctive features. It’s not just a world, but a whole solar system, the Soltan Ephemeris, where different cultures interact and clash. It has magical flying ships, but the magic power to travel between worlds is not cheap, and the competition to acquire it is fierce. It has a central world, the namesake Calidar, with a few developed nations and a huge expanse of wild lands, where the World Soul of the planet is ready to react with hostility to any exploitation. It has, indeed, living planets with complex ecologies. It has dragons, obviously, and draconic knights serving them and eager to conquer new worlds and lands. It has steampunk dwarves and imperial elves, gnomes with a special connection to the natural world and savage halflings called fellfolk, who in some places have embraced the gifts of civilization. It has humanoids, who come periodically from the alien world of Ghüle to raid and take prisoners for their dark gods. It has heroes, who can literally become immortals and even gods, if they are able to earn a lasting fame.
And, as it seems from the previews of Beyond the Skies, the whole Ephemeris and the gods have to face a terrible menace from another universe.'
From the article
'From Alphatia to Calidar'
by Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 11
Could this menace of evil be the same one that we've seen time & again over the years of reading Blackmoor, Mystara, & Greyhawk products?! I think so but the fact is that Calidar's system has the Vortex.
'the important feature of Calidar which is particularly relevant for the scope of this article is the Vortex. A mysterious and unexplained tear in the fabric of time and space, the Vortex is a strange phenomenon that often brings into the Calidar universe people and flying ships from many other places. Often, the people who experience this passage have their memories altered, and can no longer remember the place from which they came.
In the setting, this is obviously the perfect excuse to bring to Calidar player characters created for other settings, and also a way to explain why some Calidaran cultures, as also happened in Mystara, closely resemble some cultures of our real world.'
This is literally a cancerous planar gateway right under the collective noses of the champions, gods, demons, & heroes of Calidar.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Greyhawk's wizards & kingdoms have been sending sky ships across the dimensional threshold. But it also means that the evils of both Mystara & Greyhawk could come to plague Calidar;
'And besides the above canon Vortex, Bruce recently detailed another one, complete with its wormhole, which also could become a gate to Calidar, in the Kingdom of Floating Ar6 in Alphatia.
It’s up to each DM to decide how Mystaran Immortals, or even the Old Ones, may react to a skyship returning from the Vortex. If left alone, such a vessel could report back to the Mystaran empire from whence it came, and Alphatia (or Thyatis) could decide to fund further explorations of the Calidar universe, at least if they are able to locate a spot where the Vortex occasionally appears.
It’s also worth noting that in the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs by Ann Dupuis an Immortal named Gareth began proselytizing in Sind from the Mystaran Year 1010 AC, saying to his followers he had “returned from the Vortex”. The common interpretation in the community has always been that Gareth should be Benekander, the new Immortal created during the Wrath of the Immortals adventures, but what if he is instead someone who came from Calidar?'

The horrors of The Wraith of the Immortals are bad enough but what of the more dangerous cancers let loose by the events of the Temple of Elemental Evil?! Don't think it could happen? Think again, back about 2013 a thread appeared on
The Piazza forum titled The Elemental Evil in Mystara



This thread provides an entire setting, notes, etc for the players & their dungeon master to bring the cancer of the Elemental Evil cult to Mystara. Last blog entry I wrote about the Froggies cult from DA2 Temple of the Frog becoming one of the primary menaces. But what if they were only the tip of the ice berg. Modules and adventures in Mystara article by Bouv 

the Vaults of Pandius site places many classic AD&D 1st edition modules onto Mystara's campaign world. This style of approach gives the dungeon master even more options with Calidar's campaign setting being system agnostic.



Calidar's system has been receiving visitors for centuries & its possible that a great many different OSR as well as OSR campaign settings could have interacted or left their mark on the system. I talked about using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's setting with Calidar in the past. The dimensional & planar cancers allow the players & DM to send their PC's over to Calidar in ancient Hyperborean sky ships which some nations might be still using. The AS&SH Kickstarter is still on going & I suggest that you check it out & support it if your so inclined.


Hyperborea Players' Manual front cover pencils by Val Semeiks


Now at first this seems like heresy using a high fantasy setting with an OSR Sword & Sorcery world. Think again because both HP Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith used their own dream lands worlds. To AS&SH Calidar is merely another dreamworld. Little do they release the menace lurking right out there in the Outer Darkness. But what exactly is in the Darkness Between Worlds & could it be coming for your own campaign world?! Next time we pop open that can of worms!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

OSR Commentary - The World of Greyhawk's Cracks of Evil Across The Planes In Your Old School Campaigns


I've had my back against the wall with work for some days now & I've been going over the classic  Greyhawk box set again. The Rain of Colorless Fire is one of the defining events in Greyhawk that completely & utterly wiped out the Suel Empire. Utterly & completely the peoples of  Suel are no longer a power upon the face of Greyhawk. Their war against  the Baklunish was the stuff of legend as the Invoked Devastation ravaged the face of Oerth. Were these change of events caused by the use of cross planar  magical rituals  & Elemental weapons?! I believe the answer is yes.



There's been very little trace of the Suel Empire per say except some new in the recent fifth edition Against the Giant events from Wizards of The Coast. 

There seem to whole cloth artifacts & magic rites associated with the Invoked Devestation & the Rain of Colorless Fire.  But do these events also include the use of incredibly advanced relics & lost technologies as well!?! Well the Greyhawk Grognard blog/site gives some very dedicated insight into this;
"And, to be fair, this doesn’t have to be inconsistent with the “official” version, either. Nothing says that the invocation of the power from the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Ash didn’t take place at Tovag Baragu. Indeed, the fact that it has some connection to other planes is a point in favor of this theory.
Many fans of Greyhawk have come up with their own inventive backstories for the Rain of Colorless Fire and its Baklunish-destroying counterpart, the Invoked Devastation. They range from ancient Baklunish artifacts to nuclear weapons to meteors from Greyspace to the use of the mysterious artifact/ruin Tovag Baragu. I’m sure there are many others."

Could all of these cataclysmic events help to explain the existence of a multiplicity of different versions of Blackmoor & Greyhawk locations scattered across the planes?! I think so & I also think it could help to explain the reach of two or more of Blackmoor's most infamous factions. The Great Migrations across the face of the Flanaess may have also lead to other worlds. Planar seams & shifts in reality of both Greyhawk & Blackmoor allow many peoples to escape. But its allowed the Egg of Coot to slowly blend into the background of Greyhawk over the centuries.
The Egg of Coot as a Relic by Havard. goes into some of the details of the Egg's machinations. The egg doesn't make waves on Greyhawk.. yet but its cult continues to spread here & there on Greyhawk. Greyhawk's Archbarony of Blackmoor is silent & deadly quietly going about its business. There's a solidly done section about Greyhawk's Blackmoor over at the Blackmoor Archives.

The second faction from the classic Blackmoor campaign that's active in the steaming jungles of Greyhawk & beyond is the Froggies.
DA2 Temple Of The Frog Dungeon Module has another location deep in the jungles of Greyhawk slowly biding its time. And you can bet your last gold piece Saint Stephen of the Rock has been very busy across the face of Oerth.


And if all of this is going on Greyhawk then what the Hell is happening in the Mystara & Greyhawk locations way in Mystara's ancient past?! I've talked about the Shared Mystara/Greyhawk elements from the
  www.pandius.com site . before but what if these two adventure & fiction elements co existing are no accident. What if these elements are the uneasy result of two planes of reality co mingling together because of a dimensional cataclysm eons ago?!
What does this mean for Calidar?! Well it means that Calidar could be next in the path of a planar invasion that its sky ship wandering inhabitants might not even be aware of!?




In CC1
Beyond the Skies we get a whole load of Calidar gods, demons, etc. & scattered throughout there are several hints & outright illusions to the weird high fantasy aspect of this venerable Bruce Heard setting. These include several mentions of dimensional or planar instabilities these could well be cracks caused by the Invoked Devastation of old.



But where are these planar cracks & dimensional weirdness leading?! Is any place safe?! Could the world of Arduin be next or your campaign?! Next time we follow the winding path through the spirals of imagination & see where they take us!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Shadows of Saltmarsh Amazing Adventures! Rpg Session Report #2

 Down by the docklands of New York of 2100 the PC's have started to ask lots of questions.The PC's have been hearing disturbing rumors of lizard men attacks on the outskirts of the Saltmarsh neighborhood. They also heard about blood sports going on in certain temporary underground ruins. They've decided to check out some of these blood sports but they've almost run afoul of the thieves guild & the Syndicate several times. This is continued from our last game detailed here


What they don't know about is the Deep One/Nazi assassin on their behind. But they've gained in ally in a royal renegade White Council member whose acting as the party's patron. Saltmarsh seems quiet & in fact a bit to quiet as they have no idea that there every move is being watched from the shadows by alien lizard men!?
Sailing Ships are used by the lower classes of the city to smuggle illegal cargoes right under the council's noses & most folks turn a blind eye because of the money lining folks pockets.
Saltmarsh is corrupt as it comes living in the shadow of the mega urban sprawl. The White Council itself has several Alchemist's spies among its ranks with Nazi sympathies.
The Alchemist is a vile monster who controls all of the vice, sin, smuggling, & slaving down on the water front from the Salt Marsh neighborhood. This includes blood sport events into which one of the PC's brother's disappeared into.
But rumors of people disappearing in the middle of the night off of ships have the populous rattled. Alien lizard men, strange sightings at night, shipments of fish disappearing & more all point to more then mere rumors & the noose seems to be tighten around Saltmarsh itself.



Then there's the matter of a Nazi agent that came in on the smuggling ship 'The Sea Witch', the PC's had a socialite spill her guts trying to hustle one of the party. They have lots of rumors, smoke, & mirror in this past weekend's game. Where will it lead?! Quite a few places as the claws of 'The Alchmist' tighten around the throats of our heroes.
So what are the lizardmen of Saltmarsh?  They're a tribe of degenerate alien servants who have escaped to Earth of 2100 smuggled in by the Alchemists several years ago. These lizardmen were originally going to be solid as 'exotic' slaves. But they turned the tables on their captors & escaped en mass. They are degenerate Saurians detailed on page 63 of the Manual of Monsters. They have none of the special abilities of those monsters except for being amphibious
They've adapted to life in New York but have no wish to return to a life of slavery among the stars. But all is not well for the Deep Ones(Fishmen from
the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters)  of New York know who & what they are they are. They have no wish to see their plans of domination of the surface world be wrecked by a tribal nation of interlopers.

The water around Saltmarsh have been teeming with Nazi fishmen hybrid scouts testing the neighborhood & the city's defenses. They refuse to engage in any combat with the PC's who ran into them! What's happening & why did one of the party detect a transmission into deep space over the weekend?!  Stay tuned to this blog for further updates!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Why Greyhawk & Mystara Matter For OSR & Old School Campaigns


Its got me thinking over the weekend how does Mystara, Greyhawk, & a setting like Calidar fit together?! Greyhawk is one of my all time favorite old school campaign settings not simply because of the finger prints of Gary Gygax but The Flanaess has its own world & adventure flavor. Mystara is an awesome campaign setting with some great high level adventures Test of  Warlords, Deaths Ride, &  Sabre River spring to mind. The  B/X rulebooks has the brief Grand Duchy info &  map are in the Expert rulebook  & X1 The Isle of Dread  has the subcontinent map. Both of these can be customized as the dictates of the players & the campaign call for. All of this fits together with the invention of the skyships. These ships may have trade routes between campaign settings.


GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos has some excellent information that could dovetail adventure hooks into the back end of  the Calidar setting. Greyhawk and Mystara share a number of weird setting details making me wonder if the planes merge at certain planar fracture points. The Vault of Pandius has a short list of setting elements these worlds have in common.


Using Blackmoor in Your Mystara Campaign by Havard
from the Vaults of Pandius site has a number of adventure elements that could be used to augment adventure & campaign  cross overs. This is especially true of Blackmoor whose dimensional & planar instability at certain places is well known. Air ships from different worlds & planar realms may not be an unknown sight in the sky. They may perhaps be legendary but know unknown to the general populous.


 
 Campaigns with multiple settings would have to take full advantage of ancient trade routes overlapping several campaign worlds.
FromAlphatia to Calidar byFrancesco Defferrari (Sturm) from Threshold magazine issue 11 takes full advantage of this. The central campaign setting spoke is going to be Blackmoor & Greyhawk in my humble opinion. These settings have so much weight with Dungeons & Dragons players that they are almost instantly recognizable. The unique nature of Calidar makes the setting unique & allows for overlap with Greyhawk;
"Calidar in just a few sentences as the setting is wonderfully rich with original themes and distinctive features. It’s not just a world, but a whole solar system, the Soltan Ephemeris, where different cultures interact and clash. It has magical flying ships, but the magic power to travel between worlds is not cheap, and the competition to acquire it is fierce. It has a central world, the namesake Calidar, with a few developed nations and a huge expanse of wild lands, where the World Soul of the planet is ready to react with hostility to any exploitation. It has, indeed, living planets with complex ecologies. It has dragons, obviously, and draconic knights serving them and eager to conquer new worlds and lands. It has steampunk dwarves and imperial elves, gnomes with a special connection to the natural world and savage halflings called fellfolk, who in some places have embraced the gifts of civilization. It has humanoids, who come periodically from the alien world of Ghüle to raid and take prisoners for their dark gods. It has heroes, who can literally become immortals and even gods, if they are able to earn a lasting fame."

This allows the position of adventuring parties unique because they can literally earn their way across the planes on passage aboard a skyship. These adventurers are going to have a myriad of adventure & employment opportunities.


To me Greyhawk & Blackmoor matter because both of these locations are going to be benchmark & foundation settings for the generation of adventurers for these other unique campaign location settings. The dangers are also going to quite high with a lethality rate of adventurers is almost going to be of Biblical proportions. The real issue is going to be how the dungeon master balances the world setting elements so that the campaign flows together easily & the players don't get hung up on the old school vs OSR details. Several of the NPC factions of Greyhawk & Blackmoor can be quite nasty & have the ability to plane jump or journey making the player's PCs not quite as safe as they think. Dragons, liches, & even the gods or immortals may take a direct hand in the adventuring lives of PCs. All of this comes from the strength of Calidar, Greyhawk, & Mystara as viable campaign settings. Merging & overlapping them is a natural progression for a dungeon master.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

OSR Commentary On The Ice Kingdoms: The Fires of Mount Surtur Kickstarter & The Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting



Deep in the heart of Mount Surtur an ancient evil long thought vanquished is stirring. Can your heroes protect the Ice Kingdoms from the legacy of the fire giants?




Continuing the Swords & Sorcery theme with a twist with the new  Mad Martian games Kickstarter. In less then twenty four hours I've watched Mad Martian's latest Ice Kingdom's adventure Fires of Surtur Kickstarter  fulfill & now its stretch goal time.




This adventure is built around the idea of the Thanelands a full on fantasy version of Norse & full throttle Viking mythology with an old school setting twist. The Thanelands is a solid setting that could be added into an existing campaign as another Northern alternative plane or as another Norse style across the world country. There are new PC classes, spells, monsters, etc that are specifically adjusted to the the setting. The Ice Kingdoms is specifically designed for OSR games;

"The Ice Kingdoms is a fantasy setting inspired by and designed for old school RPGs. We love the ‘feel’ of old school games (such as pre-3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons) and their rules, so we are creating game material that is compatible with several modern game systems that use the Open Game License to ‘retro-clone’ those classic games. The Ice Kingdoms is compatible with OSRIC and For Gold & Glory, and our books can also be used with Swords & Wizardry, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, and Labyrinth Lord with only very minimal conversion, as well as the original editions upon which these games are based. We are currently working to convert our earlier projects to other game systems such as Pathfinder, 3rd Edition and 5th edition."




The Thanelands has its own distinctive feel & style to the setting. Fires of Surtur takes it & amps it up to eleven, given that the Thanelands is specifically designed with its own distinct take on Norse mythology, it stands to reason that this is going to be very distinctive take of an adventure. I'm also interested to see where they take the Thanelandsversion of Kobolds in this The Fires of Mount Surtur.


The artwork looks very interesting to me & since there's an extensive catalog of adventures & supplements I'm intrigued by the direction of this Mad Martian games latest efforts. If your interested in getting a feel for the Thanelands, '
The Temple of Drawoh Rock' 1st level adventure is available for 'pay what you want'. It will give a solid overview for the adventure locations of the Thanelands;
'
The Temple of Drawoh Rock is an adventure module for 1st level characters exploring the Ice Kingdoms. As warriors of Thane Ornulf the characters will sail the Atalac Sea, explore the Gate Isles, and raid the Monastery of Jove. But what starts out as a simple plan to rob some peaceful monks turns into a harrowing adventure as the adventurers cross paths with the machinations of a deadly sorcerer. The Temple of Drawoh Rock is the fourth adventure for the Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting. For more adventures in the Ice Kingdoms see Into the Mournwood, The Lair of the White Wyvern, The Girl With the Demon Tattoos, and The Ice Kingdoms Campaign Setting all from Mad Martian Games'


Is this kickstarter worth your dime?! Seriously I think so. The Thanelands setting is flexible enough to be used with a large variety of OSR games. We're finally getting the bestiary we need & the Thanelands has expanded considerably since the their very first kickstarter. Since this is the case I'd use the Thanelands as an old school  background setting for running the '81 Gygax classic Against The Giants. The Thanelands has everything a dungeon master could want to run this classic along with the appropriate background & PC classes.


I think that the Fires of Surtur adventure could be used to enhance G1,2,3, & as a possible side quest for the adventure path. Do I think that the Fires of Surtur is worth your money?! In a word yes!!