Wednesday, February 20, 2019

S3 Expedition To The Barrier Peaks By Gary Gygax As Old School & OSR Campaign Jump Point!

Yesterday was the type of day that can test my last nerve. I loath driving long distances but a client needed some specialized work done on a sewing machine. But a friend had something waiting for me when I got home. This post from F.A.T.A.L. & Friends outlining the classic 1979 TSR catalog.

This catalog answered a lot of questions that I had as a kid. Why were Boot Hill, Gamma World first Edition, & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons all cross compatible with each other?! The answer of course was that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was their money maker & already the foundation was laid with each of the various conventions acting as the 'marketing' & advertising factor. Its interesting to me to see the various TSR classics are already in the mix here. Original Dungeons & Dragons is still going strong at this point as well but Basic is right there to introduce new players to the grand game.

Boot Hill & Gamma World both share certain themes some of which I've exploited in the past. To a certain extent these themes are the taming of a wilderness & being pioneers in the wastelands . These are PC's who are a cut above the norm but are able to bring an end to the darkness around them. With BootHill these are the paper veneer heroes of Fifties TV Westerns with the AD&D first edition combat engine. Boot Hill is downright deadly. It captures the fatality of the Fifties television Western in spades.

Gamma World 1st edition by James Ward is the companion with player's PC's generated to be hardier & able to take on but still get taken down by many mutated menaces of the wastelands. 
This opens up all kinds of possibilities for the dungeon master to exploit. S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks By Gary Gygax gives the players a point of adventure that he or she can exploit to draw & drop PC's into the thick of things in a fantasy setting.

Expedition To the Barrier Peaks is the perfect way of adding in the classic  fantasy elements and blending them into a science fantasy campaign with out batting eye especially in the wastelands.  Its essentially the perfect way to take the first edition Monster Manual & the Fiend Folio & create the outlay of a mutated fantasy wasteland.

My point here is that even before Metamorphosis Alpha first edition came out there were already old school gamers using Gamma World with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition in their own campaigns.

S3 Expediation To The Barrier Peaks gives a pivot point for combining the fantasy in with the harder elements of the science fantasy for one solid take on doing a complete campaign within itself. This basically means that you could be running into displacer beasts with additional mutations or a Bulette of gigantic proportions that could wreck city blocks!

So what happens if the location of the Warden disrupts the local space time continuum?! Simple answer is that a modern day realm of mutated & pulp heroes has to put things right. That being said S3 Expediation to the Barrier Peaks could be used as the touch stone for a comic book style fantasy  crossover with say a Mutant Future & Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures! Rpg campaign? 
Oh I've heard it all about how OSR & old school games don't mix & I know its bunch of manure.

Case in point is the fact that the Fiend Folio's Adherer gets a make over in Amazing Adventurer's Manual of Monsters. The pulp version is much darker & right in line with many of the themes to Gary Gygax's S3 Expedition to The Barrier Peaks.

So imagine that the Warden comes down inside Europe or South America or God forbidden central Asia & starts dumping off AD&D first edition monsters into the wilderness. All of time & space becomes at risk as the hyper drives of the warden begin to malfunction & cause planar warps.  Weird visiters from other worlds begin to stumble into Earth & the mutated wasteland around the Warden begins to expand. Can the heroes shut down the engines before this Earth becomes a horror show for the Earth's inhabitants?! Well this leads to other things & very dire events coming up! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Review & Commentary On Ford's Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired by Henry Justice Ford From Studio Kortex For Your Old School Campaigns

So I've been looking for a Dreamlands inspired monsters & stumbled across a 'free resource' for Original Dungeons & Dragons. That's when I stumbled upon Ford's Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired by Henry Justice Ford! This is a free Pdf of a hundred & ten pages of old school monster induced goodness. Perfectly suited to get the vibe of HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Lord Dunsany, or even Jack Vance into the ruins & dungeons!

Clocking in at about a hundred & ten pages this book is a perfect addition to any old school game adventure where creatures that the players are not familiar are needed. The addition of the high fantasy & fairy tale element is the icing on the cake for this book. Here's a sample creature called the Aurora child
Armour class: as leather
Hit dice: 1-1 Move: fast on snow and ice, normal otherwise
Attacks: knife (d4) or bow (d6)
No. Appearing: see below
 Morale: 5
Treasure: stolen goods 800 GP
Alignment: chaotic
Special: speak with animals

 In the dead of winter, the children of the frozen taigas escape their kingdom of ice and darkness through the emerald gates that sometimes appear with aurora borealis. They venture into the woods to hunt and find supplies, often resorting to rob travelers and plunder isolated settlements. Many stories are told about unpleasant encounters with beautifully dressed, innocent looking children who act like thieves and murderers. Aurora Children do not care for valuables unless they can be worn or sewn into their clothing; they take food and supplies over gold and even magical items. Aurora children can speak with animals, asking them for favours in exchange for food and shelter. They are cunning adversaries, setting traps, using every ruse to avoid life loss on their side, though they have no qualms about killing, or abandoning travellers naked in the snow. Children under eleven are always spared, and sometimes asked to join the Aurora tribe.
When Aurora Children are encountered, roll d6:
1. 2d6 children traveling, mounted on reindeers
2. 2d10 children setting up an ambush
 3. 1d10 children and a pack polar bear, looking for supplies
4. 3d10 children going on a raid, d6 mounted on giant snowy owls
 5. 1d10x1d10 children making camp, with assorted helping beasts
6. 1 child, intent on leading adventurers into a trap (roll again)

So very close to Original Dungeons & Dragons rules & territory here with a very close to both the Sword & Sorcery aspect of the original books as well as the high fantasy found in fairy tales of yesteryear. Yes this book is done with public domain fairy tale artwork from the works of Henry Justice Ford but its very well done. The monsters here are exciting enough to generate adventures in the dungeon master's imagination.

While the Pdf is free the book of Ford's Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired by Henry Justice Ford is around six dollars US from Drivethrurpg. This is going to be one of my next purchases from Drivethrupg coming up!

The layout is clean, the monsters well done, & the execution
 very well presented. This is a must have for any old school dungeon master who wants a pack of monsters that are a bit weird, different but actually useful. I dare say that these monsters are perfect for fitting into any old school adventure where a bridge gap is needed between fairy tales & mythology. The dungeon master is given just enough of a thumb nail sketch for them to add these monsters into an existing campaign & not have to look back. Solidly done & very nicely handled I can see using these monsters in just about any campaign. A very well done four out of five because I wish there had been a few more!

You can download & buy a physical copy of
 Ford's Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired
by Henry Justice Ford

Monday, February 18, 2019

Four Free OSR Monster Books For Your Old School Campaigns

Old School dungeon masters can't have enough monsters & sometimes you've got to dust off some old favorites to throw a scare or two into the players.  Last night I was pursuing through the Planet Algol blog & dusting off some old ideas for my inner Earth campaign. Keeping to the gonzo pulp aesthetic of the campaign has taken me down a short path of memory lane to a few years ago. The first thing I noticed were two monster books that had escaped my notice for a long while. The first one was Varlet's & Vermin from the Roles,Rules, and Rolls blog;"It's a collection of monsters and related ideas for challenge levels 1 and 2, written for Swords & Wizardry but easily adaptable to other systems." I had forgotten how good some of these fiends were. I also really like the Man of Wounds, and the rat variants are very nicely done.


The second monster book is Telecanter's Deadly Distractions from Telecanter's Receding Rules blog and these are perfect beasties to challenge as well as dismay your party of adventurers. These are low level creatures with a twist or two. They're very well done and quite weird fitting in a number of criteria that I've had.
Download Telecanter's Deadly Distractions
Finally there's The Basic Fantasy Field Guide of Creatures Malevolent and Benign which has a ton of monsters that are usable with a number of retroclones with minor adjustments. Did I mention that their free and you should also check out some of the other free downloads while your there on the Basic Fantasy website as well.

The Basic Fantasy Field Guide of Creatures Malevolent and Benign Here
 There are two free nearly forgotten tomes of monsters from Dragon's foot. org Monstrous Tome - Volume One which contains new dragons , demons, monsters and all original content for AD&D first edition.  Be careful with these monsters some of these creatures have the potential for an old school party wipe of adventurers. GRAB Monstrous Tome -
Volume One RIGHT HERE 

Then there's the second volume of The Monstrous Tome which adds a whole other layer of weirdness & nastiness to the monsters in your dungeon. The second volume of the Monstrous Tome seems to focus on monsters of the planes, some deadly dungeon deviants, and more horrors to throw into old school campaigns.


Monstrous Tome 2 - Book of Beings HERE

There's a good mix of old school style original creatures to populate your dungeons, megadungeons, and campaigns. Then of course there are the various creations of Ancient Vaults whose Senufio: Lords of Misrule
  are going to get a workout as the heads of some of the heads of cults of Chaos that the party will be encountering. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review & Commentary On Rats In The Walls & Other Perils By Jeffrey Talianin For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Your Old School Campaigns

"Rats in the Walls”: A dockside tavern in Khromarium is plagued by rats of a most unusual breed. These abominable rodents have ruined the tavern keeper’s business and his life. The man is desperate, and he offers a substantial reward for the elimination of his horrific problem."

So about a week ago during the last snow storm I emailed Jeffrey Talianin about grabbing a copy of the updated Astonishing Swordsmen &  Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure The Rats In The Wall & Other Perils. Boy I'm glad I did! There are several different things right off the bat about this pdf. First of all every adventure featured in this pdf is centered the Hyperborean city of 
Khromarium. Next is the fact that the lay out & cartography is light years ahead of the first edition adventure. In fact let's not touch on that other version of Rats in The Wall again. There are in fact three adventures Rats in the Walls, Chainsaw’s “The Brazen Bull”, and “The Lamia’s Heart”, by Jeffrey P. Talanian. (An early draft of the latter was published in the AFS fanzine.) Now Rats In The Walls is named after the controversial HP Lovecraft story but shares only a few adventure elements of its name sake. What the adventure does instead is to place 1st level AS&SH PC's at ground zero & to keep the adventure pressure up. The real star of Rats In The Walls & Other Perils is the city state of Khromarium. 
 Khromarium feels like your wandering around someone else's Sword & Sorcery kingdom that your adventurers have inherited right after they died in their sleep. Elements of this adventure don't feel real but not in a bad way. There is a nightmare like quality about these adventures. Even though Rats In The Walls is only a first level adventure this isn't a first level you really want your PC's to screw up on. They will die rather badly. The adventure is well done & really brings home the madness of the AS&SH's Khromarium
campaign setting. 

 Jason Sholtis  statue of the deity, Aurorus, "The Shining One", inspired by Abraham Merritt.
If Rats in the Wall is the introductory travelogue into the world setting of Hyperborea's capital city. Then 'The Brazen Bull' is the weird 'Heavy Metal'  kid in the corner  of the school bus.
"“The Brazen Bull”: Whilst traversing one of the seedier neighbourhoods of Khromarium, your party are solicited by a greasy-haired Pict. He offers to sell you a sheaf of magical lotus that allows one to see the future or to brew potions that empower the imbiber with sorcery. He beckons you to follow him into a dilapidated building...."

Here the player's PC's are brought into the mind warping effects of the world of Hyperborea right in the city state center of the action. This adventure is like the side streets of a 70's used Sword & Sorcery paperback story brought into focus into the interior of the adventure. This one doesn't over explain every single element & there's room here to really customize the Brazen Bull for your own AS&SH adventure. I like the adventure elements & the bring your own death vibe to The Brazen Bull. So far these are the adventures that I wished had been used for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyberborea second edition rule book.The adventures feel real & solidly like they belong in AS&SH's world setting without being too heavy handed.  

"“The Lamia’s Heart”: Your party are contracted by the nascent master of an unsanctioned thieves’ guild. To earn his favour, you must steal a singular gem from the mansion of a prominent merchant. Purloining this gem, however, may raise the ire of the city’s official thieves’ guild; notwithstanding, the reward is significant."

If the first two adventures in The Rats In The Walls & Other Perils are Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft inspired then the third adventure is a straight up homage to Robert Howard creator of Conan. This is straight up an adventure that pays its dues in respect to Conan & his exploits. The design is tight, the layout very well done & the pay off could be a complete TPK if the player's are not careful.

AS&SH art by Del Teigeler and Glynn Seal

Thieves & purloiners are a must in the 'Brazen Bull' & besides the obvious uses. The thieves guild is vitally important to the success or death of the PC's. The fact is that these three adventures are easily exploitable for getting the characters into a heap of trouble in the back alleys of 
Khromarium. There's plenty of adventure hooks to grab adventurers by the throat & exploit their weaknesses to get them into the further ends of Hyperborea. I'm speaking of using some of the hooks in 'The Brazen Bull' & 'The Lamia's Heart' as lead ins for Tim Callahan's Beasts of Kraggoth Manor.  The deep alleys of the city lead to the edge of sand & suffering just waiting to put the 'hold of Hell' on player's PC's. 

That's the beautiful part of 
The Rats In The Wall & Other Perils its easily customizable to fit the campaign design & refinement of the dungeon master. Even though it only clocks in at forty four pages there is enough meat here to have the dungeons & adventure elements of Rats In The Wall to fit into your game. The Hyperborean burial grounds that brim with pre–Green Death treasures is only part of this series of adventures. 

Is The Rats In The Wall & Other Perils  worth your time & your money?! In a word yes! This  series of adventures sets the tone & ideas of Hyperborea very well. AS&SH has been using its adventures to help define the world of Hyperborea well & serves as a series of gate way adventures into this blood stained & violently soaked world. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Chaos & Conquest The Spores of The Demon Lord Juiblex In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons As Well As My Old School Campaigns

It is known as Juiblex, also called The Faceless Lord
Lord of Sloth, Demon Lord of Poison and Ooze. It  is the demon lord & father  of Slimes and Oozes but its other names are  Szhublox & the faceless rot. Juiblex's lair is on the 222nd layer of the Abyss, which he shares with Zuggtmoy, the Demoness Lady of Fungi.  Together they are fungal rot & chaotic evil incarnate tearing apart the soul of the planes. 

Juiblex appeared in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual in 1977. In first edition, Juiblex rules his own layer of the Abyss, the 528th layer, which is an infinite sea of slimes and oozes feeding off each other's putrid forms.

Juiblex is one of the most dangerous of the Abyss's demon princes not because of its ambitions but because its already among us. Slimes, jellies, & puddings are a part of him & his children. They are everywhere spreading from dungeon to dungeon moving among the planes like a fungal infection. He rules not only his own plane but the Undersump as well. A series of planar tunnels that are networked throughout the Abyss connected by the river Styx. Not only does he know all but is aware of everything going on around his children. Green slimes infect a myriad of dungeons & even though they are not intelligent in the traditional human sense. They relay a trillion  bits of data back to their demonic parent whose vary existence is a mockery to all of creation. 

Slimes move into dungeons & ruins across the multiverse giving Juiblex access to an infinite number of planes. The power of the Grey Oozes are not to be discounted. His silent assassins & spies stalk the halls of power & have claimed many a life of a powerful wizard or even some powerful  demi god children. These silent assassins are often used by his worshipers such as powerful Drown families, drug users, & poisoners of divinity along with royalty. 

The powerful bruisers of the dungeons are the Ochre jellies who are spawned by the cult rituals & rites of the cults of Juiblex. They are the strong arm of these cults taking on any who challenge the right of them to worship their parents inside dungeons & ruins. They are the hand of the entropic demon lord ruining the lives of any who challenge their lord's worship. 

The power of ochre jellies should never be underestimated & it is said that their demonic master himself uses these bastard horrors as his tools on the prime material. These 'blessed'  jellies often seem to exhibit a remarkable degree of cunning & evil intentions. They can use tactics & traps to murder any adventurers they come across as sacrifices to their 'father'.  Since the planes are in the "Kali Yuga (Sanskrit: कलियुग, translit. kaliyuga, lit. 'age of Kali') is the last of the four stages (or ages or yugas) the world goes through as part of a 'cycle of yugas' (i.e. Mahayuga) described in the Sanskrit scriptures.[1] The other ages are called Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, and Dvapara Yuga.

Kali Yuga is associated with the demon Kali (not to be confused with the goddess Kālī). The "Kali" of Kali Yuga means "strife", "discord", "quarrel" or "contention".
According to Puranic sources,[2] Krishna's departure marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga, which is dated to 17/18 February 3102 BCE"
 Juiblex's power & influence has been on the rise as is the cycle of Abyss moves into descendancy;"Undoubtedly, few denizens in the Abyss equal, in the horror they evoke or in the hideousness of their forms, the corrupt majesty of the Faceless Lord. In the gloom that enshrouds his realm, he holds court over the glistening masses, the twitching oozes he sires. Juiblex is deemed a lesser figure in abyssal hierarchy, judged Lord of Nothing by his peers. However, in my research, I have plumbed the foul mire to examine the full darkness that is this disturbing fiend. Juiblex is a power defined by incremental advances, a being whose wickedness flows slowly but inexorably toward an unspeakable end, which troubles even this writer."

I've always loved the Demon: Juiblex artwork  by christopherburdett

Juiblex is the premiere alien demon lord whose long standing form of chaos incarnate has been the subject of being one of the possible sources for the creation by the Elder Things of the naught impossible horrors of the  shoggoths. Because of the mating of Juiblex & 
Ubbo-Sathla ("The Unbegotten Source", "The Demiurge") according to The Mysteries of Science which gave rise to the most dangerous & demonic of these foul monsters. 

The Pit of Shoggoths  by Azaghal

Juiblex's influence should never be uncounted. He or it is one of the most dangerous of demon lords. Ever present & waiting to corrupt & strike. His reign of terror starts when & where its needed coming into full bloom when adventurers least expect it. Here are ten ways I've modified Juiblex to fit in my home campaigns: 
  1. I've used his other areas of worship to great effect for his dungeons & temples besides the usual fungal aspect of the demon lord. These include Chaos, Destruction, Evil, & Water. 
  2. Juiblex's human cults are very dangerous & think that destruction of everyone & everything is good for the multiverse. They will murder when & where it suits them.
  3. Juiblex has a strong on going rivalry with  Tsathoggua over certain regions of the underworld & upon Hyperborea. 
  4. There are write up on Juiblex in the Wraith of the Immortals set for his place on Mystara 
  5. Cults of Juiblex often pay for rare & exotic molds, slimes, & jellies 
  6. The temple areas & ruins of Juiblex are often infected with some the most dire of chaotic diseases & infections
  7. His influence pops up in the post apocalyptic wastelands as a god from time to time among wasteland nihilists
  8. Gamma World has three temples dedicated to the demon god. 
  9. Juiblex has been summoned to destroy worlds in a post apocalyptic fungus fueled frenzy over millions of years. 
  10. Juiblex is actually one of a race of powerful demon lords & he is their father. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

More Commentary On The Many Facets Of The Demon Prince Orcus In Original Dungeons & Dragons As Well As My Old School Campaigns

  Tonight I busted out my copy of Eldritch Wizardry not because I was feeling nostalgic about psionics but because I wanted to stare into the face of one of demon lords of the Abyss. Lately, Demongorgon has been getting a ton of press because of the Netflix show 'Stranger Things'. But pound for pound I've used the demon prince of the undead more times then I can count. Eldritch Wizardry is pretty special to me because this was the book that my adopted uncle gave me before my folks & I returned to Connecticut from New York State. Its also that same copy that would get me expelled the first time from the Christian high school I was attending about eight years later. Why? Not because of the powerful occult Original Dungeons & Dragons items inside or the demon lords. Nope it was the naked chick on the cover. 

"Orcus was first presented in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement in 1976, by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, for the original (white box) Dungeons & Dragons game.[3] Although the book states that there are several such demon Princes, only Orcus and Demogorgon are detailed, "two of the greatest of these exceptional demon lords". Game statistics for Orcus appear on page 27, while a description of Orcus appears on page 35 with an accompanying illustration, and a description for his Wand of Orcus appears on page 42 under the section for artifacts."

At the time I received my copy of Eldritch Wizardry  I was reading a ton of Marvel Seventies Dr.Strange. The demon lord slotted itself forever more in my mind as one more demon lord that Doc could encounter but because he was prince of the undead he couldn't be banished from the mortal plane.I got the feeling that his cult was expansive & very dangerous as his titles suggest as  the Prince of the Undead & Prince of Undeath. 

"In 1977, Orcus (Prince of the Undead) was included in the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual by Gary Gygax. First edition AD&D game statistics and a description for Orcus appeared in pages 17–18 under the "demon" section, with an illustration of Orcus by David C. Sutherland III on page 17 and an illustration of the Wand of Orcus on page 18.[5] The Wand of Orcus was detailed on page 162 of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, also by Gygax, in the section on treasure (artifacts and relics)."
Then in '77 we got a fully fleshed out Orcus in the Monster Manual & his rod was fully detailed in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. His corpse fat bloated continence glows like some infernal chess master over the myriad of planes across the multiverse. Each & every skeleton, ghost, etc. in the dungeon or backwater village adds a bit more power to the bastard. He can't get enough & its never going to be enough for him. So he adds his necromancers & death masters as his cult grows just a bit more. To me it always felt like there wasn't a corner of the planes of existence where Orcus didn't have just a little bit of influence. His rod really gives the clue on how & where his cult spreads, it annihilates anyone it touches. This is the perfect creed & philosophy of his cult of nihilists, the final corpse bloated peace of the grave for everything. Only its not the end because you'll be animated as a skeleton or wight or some other undead. 

But it was when I had read Clark Ashton Smith's Empire of the Necromancers that Orcus came into focus;

"Unbroken before them, through fields devoid of trees and grass, and across the channels of dried-up rivers, there ran the great highway by which travelers had gone formerly betweea Cincor and Tinarath. Here they met no living thing; but soon they came to the skeletons of a horse and its rider, lying full in the road, and wearing still the sumptuous harness and raiment which they had worn in the flesh. And Mmatmuor aad Sodosma paused before the piteous bones, on which no shred of corruption remained; and they smiled evilly at each other.
'The steed shall be yours,' said Mmatmuor, 'since you are a little the elder of us two, and are thus entitled to precedence; and the rider shall serve us both and be the first to acknowledge fealty to us in Cincor.'
Then, in the ashy sand by the wayside, they drew a threefold circle; and standing together at its center, they performed the abominable rites that compel the dead to arise from tranquil nothingness and obey henceforward, in all things, the dark will of the necromancer. Afterward they sprinkled a pinch of magic powder on the nostril-holes of the man and the horse; and the white bones, creaking mournfully, rose up from where they had lain and stood in readiness to serve their masters.
So, as had been agreed between them, Sodosma mounted the skeleton steed and took up the jeweled reins, and rode in an evil mockery of Death on his pale horse; while Mmatmuor trudged on beside him, leaning lightly on an ebon staff; and the skeleton of the man, with its rich raiment flapping loosely, followed behind the two like a servitor."
It doesn't matter your station or social standing the power of undeath & necromancy makes a mockery out of the afterlife. Todd Lockwood's Orcus from 1981's Dragon takes all of the grayness of the demon prince's realm & brings it into sharp focus. There's a certain mocking black magick something about this piece that has the same effect on me as the Ray Harryhausen skeleton fights. You can almost see the movements of the skeletons bringing the poor sacrifice before the bloated demon prince. 

Because the Todd Lockwood's piece of artwork came out in 1981 its forever associated in my mind with the 1966 film Planet of Vampires. It was the same year I got this piece of artwork in Dragon & had that Italian horror flick burnt into my young mind at 3:00 A.M.!

Orcus is the demon prince of undeath, so it stands to reason that vampirism (undeath) is under his purview. In my young mind these to connected somehow. I whipped up an adventure in which the planet Aura was simply another plane that Orcus had discarded in the past. This unknown planet was part of some bizarre planar chess game he played with his fellow demon lords. Little did I realize that apparently this was something already built into background of AD&D. 

Of course 1981 is the same year that the Evil Dead films came out & you've got to wonder if there isn't a passage or two about Orcus in the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Come to think of it perhaps those demons were birthed by Shub-Niggurath (The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) & Orcus in some obscene acts out in the multiverse some place? This might help explain the random demon generator from the pages of the Best of Dragon magazine. "Orcus was often depicted, accompanied by Succubi and Type V demons. Here's one illustration, created by Jennell Jaquays that depicts a whole host of demons." This piece of artwork from the pages of the Best of  Dragon magazine helped to flesh out many of the demons of his from the Monster Manual over the years. In fact several demonic monstrosities  have been birthed from that corpulent stomach after a friend joked about him being pregnant. 

I don't think that there's been a plane that hasn't been touched by the demonic prince of undeath. His influence continues to spread across the planes & his cult has made it onto Hyperborea. I adapted Orcus's 'origin' by Frank Mentzer as official inner circle cult doctorine & inter game dogma for AS&SH;"

Orcus was one of two demon rulers (along with Demogorgon) described in the Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Rules set (1986) by Frank Mentzer, in the "DM's Guide to Immortals" booklet on pages 33–34, with accompanying charts on pages 35–36. Orcus and Demogorgon are said to command all the other demons described in the book, although they are but two of the many Eternals of the Sphere of Entropy. Orcus (also called The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, and The Black Prince) commands all mortals of the Sphere of Entropy, which includes undead monsters, and he also commands a small body of loyal Immortals. The book notes that Demogorgon can even command Orcus, although he requires great and sufficient cause to do so. In this version, Orcus attacks with any convenient weapons, wielding one in each hand.[11] In Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Orcus's history was fleshed out somewhat; he was said to have been a devil swine (a kind of shape-shifter who changes between the form of a fat human and a wild pig) in the long-ago kingdom of Traldara on the world of Mystara. His hatred for all life was sufficient to draw the attention of the Immortal Thanatos, who sponsored Orcus's own successful bid for Immortality.[51]:31 The article "The Known World Grimoire" by Bruce A. Heard in Dragon #196 (August 1993) mentions that the orcish Tribe of the Sea Plague has Oruguz (also known as Orcus) as their patron. Oruguz is part of the pantheon of the orcs of the Dark Jungle, and the tribe that serves him is led by devil swine, which enforce the precepts of Oruguz among the tribe. "
Here's ten  modifications I used for my own home campaigns over the years with Orcus
  1. The bits of Orcus lore I kept were his demonic epitaphs The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, and The Black Prince
  2.   Orcus commands all mortals of the Sphere Cult of Entropy, which includes undead monsters, and he also commands a small body of loyal demonic Immortals.
  3.  The book notes that Demogorgon can even command Orcus, although he requires great and sufficient cause to do so. In this version, Orcus attacks with any convenient weapons, wielding one in each hand.
  4.  In Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Orcus's history was fleshed out somewhat; he was said to have been a devil swine (a kind of shape-shifter who changes between the form of a fat human and a wild pig) in the long-ago kingdom of Traldara  His hatred for all life was sufficient to draw the attention of the Gods of Undeath who sponsored Orcus's own successful bid for Immortality.
  5. Orcus is one of the big Lovecraftian baddies in my games & he's caused myriad zombie (ghoul) zombie plagues  
  6. His influence pops up in the post apocalpytic wastelands as a god from time to time among wasteland nihilists
  7. His demons are used all of the time on my version of Hyperborea because of their connection with AS&SH necromancers. 
  8. All undead have a bit of Orcus's demonic influence 
  9. There are a myriad of planes, dimensions, planets that have fallen to his fat corpulent rotten influence over billions of years. 
  10. A demon prince of undeath isn't something to be taken lightly. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review & Commentary On 'The Pay What You Want' OSR Monster Book - The Found Folio Volume One By Jeremy Reaban

"Found Folio is a collection of roughly 130 monsters converted from 3rd edition (most notably the in print 3.75 edition) of the world's first fantasy roleplaying game back to 1st edition (and to an extent, original and other old school editions)."
The Found Folio Vol I does exactly what it says on the tin. A collection of converted 3.5 monsters ready & willing to go into your latest adventure or dungeons as a pay what you want title. There are seventy one pages of wall to wall monsters of malice waiting to be inflicted unto your players's PC's!

Monsters are always something that a dungeon master can always use for dungeon & adventure design. Jeremy Reaban is a one many OSR band that takes & designs some very well thought out products. Case in point is the Found Folio, this is an OSR monster book that clocks in at seventy one pages. With two monsters per page the Found Folio packs in some great 3.5 OGL monsters converted over to OSR stats with both descending & ascending armor class. The monsters have a solid all round set of old school stats. For example here's a Bomon a type of giant vampire bat as an example;
NO. APPEARING: 2-8 (colony) or 4-32 (swarm)
 ARMOR CLASS: 6 (Descending) or 14 (Ascending)
 MOVE: Fly 15”(b) (Classic) or Fly 40(good)' (Neo)
IN LAIR: 25%
 ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
SIZE: S (1' long) L/XPV: 1/20+2/hp (40) xp
 Boman are a magical form of vampire bat, cursed by the gods. While able to subsist on cattle, deer, and other animals, they prefer the blood of humans, humanoids, and demi-humans."
This style of layout & stat block is familiar to any Advanced Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master or player. This is a pay what you want book with plans for more in the series; "Found Folio is a collection of roughly 130 monsters converted from 3rd edition (most notably the in print 3.75 edition) of the world's first fantasy roleplaying game back to 1st edition (and to an extent, original and other old school editions).

Volume One consists of monsters you might actually use in a normal game (dungeon or wilderness) since they are all monster I've used in my game. Volume Two is planned to convert various player races, Volume Three on outsiders (demons, devils, daemons, demodands, divs, etc), and Volume Four (if i ever get that far) will probably be on dragons (which despite the name of the game, are creatures I am loathe to use in play) " 
Despite its simple design & purpose there's lots of legs in this volume perfect for getting together a Saturday night special adventure or a Sunday old school creature feature. The monsters are vibrant & very well done with just enough detail left out for the dungeon master to fill in what's needed.
There is artwork here but its  lean & its not really necessary per say. The interest is in the monsters & how to use them. There are lots of familiar faces here some of quite nasty & dangerous aspect for old school play.
What I can see actually using the Found Folio for is old school adventure construction where the dungeon master needs something a bit different for a dungeon or wants to surprise the players with a new & very deadly creature. The production values while not high are well thought out with easy to read fonts & solid stat blocks that don't clutter the landscape. All in all the Found Folio does a nice job of introducing lots of nicely converted & monsters who might be new to the jaded playing palettes of experienced players. Monsters find their value with the dungeon masters who are willing to think outside of the box when designing adventures. Here the creatures are engaging enough to warrant your attention & a few of these  monsters are perfect for both gonzo & solid old school dungeon design.
Do I any complaints about the Found Folio?! Maybe that I wish it was longer. Overall a healthy four out of five for the Found Folio in my humble opinion.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual By Jeffrey Talanian (author), David Prata (editor) From North Wind Adventures

"The heroes of a HYPERBOREA campaign delve the mazes and labyrinths of vast dungeons filled with horrifying monsters, lethal traps, and bewildering puzzles. They explore savage frontiers, breach hostile borderlands, probe ancient ruins, and investigate cursed tombs. They plunder for treasure and magic in a decaying world inhabited by bloodthirsty beasts and weird, otherworldly beings."

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is the premiere OSR Sword & Sorcery retroclone system until  the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual has come out. This is a solid addition to the North Wind Adventures line of products. 

If there is one game that sums up the OSR for me its gotta be Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I've spent more time on this game then many others in the OSR. So I asked Jeffrey Talanian for a crack at reviewing the  Rats In The Wall adventure.  I received the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual along with a bunch of other stuff for review. Then I got hit with a rather nasty ice storm in Connecticut. So I settled in with my pdf copy & began writing notes. Just in case you don't know what Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is about. Let me help you out with this helpful video.

The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual  provides the players of the game a lower price point for the Sword & Sorcery world of Hyperborea. A quick overview of the three hundred page tome goes something like this;

"The Players’ Manual contains all the information that you need to play AS&SH, including character creation, spells, and adventure and combat rules. You can play a fightermagiciancleric, or thief, or one of their many subclasses: barbarianberserkercataphracthuntsmanpaladinranger, or warlockcryomancerillusionistnecromancerpyromancer, or witchdruidmonkpriestrunegraver, or shamanassassinbardlegerdemainistpurloiner, or scout. Character races include Amazons, Atlanteans, Esquimaux, Hyperboreans, Ixians, Kelts, Kimmerians, Picts, and several lost or moribund racial derivations, plus a variety of admixtures. "

The artwork is on point & so is the layout. The system itself is like an OSR revision of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition with some tweaks making it familiar & unique in its approach to the millions of years in the future world of Hyperborea.

The artwork is outstanding & on point for this book! The character generation has lost nothing of the big red book of Hyperborea kickassery. Here the characters are solidly put together to get a hunger for adventure right out of the gateway.
Everything in this book is here to generate player characters take names & then go kick ass except the world of Hyperborea itself. That's fine since this is a player's hand book that does exactly what the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook does. It gives this solid approach to the players allowing them to use the role playing system to create their own customized creation.

This book boils down the PC creation unto its essential &  solid parts. On the whole the hand book gives the players exactly the systems that are needed to play the game. The AS&SH system is squarely between the OSR & old school Dungeons & Dragons which is perfect for many people who love this game.
The quality & quantity is right up to North Wind Adventures standards. Note that this PDF comprises the first half of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition). If you have that PDF, you do not NEED this one. This PDF contains all the information that a player needs. The complete edition contains all the information that a referee and/or a player needs.

This is a solid reference for players characters to generate their own create adventurers that they want for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual  is a superior player's hand book to many of the others that I've seen as a player & dungeon master. I feel that t
he Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Players' Manual  is worth your time & your money! A great addition to the OSR & the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerer's of Hyperborea. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

An Age Undreamed of With Jason Vey's Free OD&D Booklet Age of Conan For Your Old School Campaigns

"When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat, Under the caverned pyramids great Set coils asleep; When the world was young and men were weak, and the fiends of the ight walked free; I strove with Set by fire and steel and the juice of the upas-tree; What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie? -Robert E. Howard, “The Phoenix on the Sword” "

So I've been down in the workshop trying to get caught up on repair work & some thoughts about what the OSR means to me personally. One of the first things I ran across was Jason Vey's original Dungeons & Dragons hacks he did of Conan under his nom de plume of Grey Elf. 
Now Mr.Vey went out of his way to really create a very usable & versatile booklet in under fifty seven pages. There are a number of free resources on his page which I think you should check out.

But let's talk The Age of Conan which delivers exactly what it promises on the tin an actual & usable original Dungeons & Dragons Conan campaign. Everything here is spared down to the wire & it captures the whole of Conan's world quite well.. It does this by using & recommending certain books that while they seem interesting are wholly useful for running a Conan style Sword & Sorcery campaign;
1. The Age of Conan (You have it in your hands!) 2. Dungeons & Dragons, Tactical Studies Rules, 1975-79 3. Chainmail, Guidon Games/Tactical Studies Rules, 1971-79 4. Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes, Tactical Studies Rules, 1976-79

The following books and booklets are highly recommended for play 1. Supplement I: Greyhawk, Tactical Studies Rules, 1975-79 2. Supplement II: Blackmoor, Tactical Studies Rules, 1975-79 3. Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, Tactical Studies Rules, 1976-79 4. Swords & Spells, Tactical Studies Rules, 1976-79 5. The Strategic Review, Issues 1 through 6 6. Return to the Road of Kings, Mongoose Publishing, 2007* 7. Conan Role Playing Game, TSR, inc., 1985*

I wrote all about using clerics but its really the material that's covered in the Age of Conan that set's off some of the most dangerous material that was lightly brushed over in the Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes. But that Vey has brought to light with his great rules on magical corruption;
" Corruption The easiest way to track how many failed saves a sorcerer has, is to measure it in terms of levels of corruption. Whenever a sorcerer fails a corruption save, his level of corruption increases by one, and every five points of corruption applies a penalty to all future saves and ostensibly a slide in alignment. However, it is important to note that no matter what alignment with which a character begins play, the same number of failed saves are required to fall to the next level as would be required if she began play as good. Going from good to evil requires 15 failed saves—Five to go from good to unaligned, Five more from unaligned to balance, and Five more to go to evil. If a character begins play as unaligned, he still requires ten failed saves to go from unaligned to balance. Why? Just because a character starts off with lower or different morals from a human standpoint does not mean he is corrupted by sorcery. Characters who start off as unaligned still have corruption zero. They are just less likely to note the effects sorcery is having upon them until they rack up more corruption than a good character would. As in the first Age of Conan booklet, sorcerers begin to show physical (and metaphysical) effects of Corruption as they become more overwhelmed by the sorcery. For an excellent list of examples of Corruption effects, see Mongoose Publishing’s Conan Role playing Game."
This right here brings to light the very fact that wizards in a Sword & Sorcery game are at a strong disadvantage. They are playing & dancing with the forces of Chaos in a struggle of life & death for the very power of their own souls.

Savage Sword of Conan 141 cover artist  Bob Larkin 

 Age of Conan introduces a bard class which is the perfect PC foil for some of the horror bubbling under the surface of a Hyborian age game campaign. Jason Vey does a good solid job of getting across that while there may not be a world spanning war between Chaos & Law in Conan. There is certainly a whole other original Dungeons & Dragons black magick that can bring the pain to PC's. Age of Conan introduces who all kinds of dangerous & dire elements to throw at PC's in an age undreamed of !
Illustration for 'Conan the Usurper' paperback by Robert E. Howard artwork by Frank Frazetta available here. 

Jason's Vey's material from Age of Conan  could be used in a wide array of original Dungeons & Dragons  campaign & adventure applications. The corruption rules,the magic items, the NPC stats, & more could all be used to enhance an existing original Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This means that the dark & dire evil of the Hyboria age could appear in a wide variety of classic or OSR campaign settings. The rules of evil are exactly the sort of horror & weirdness that players long for. T
he fantastic literature's settings  of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith are all done & PC's easily transported into worlds designed by you the DM & your players using Jason Vey's free OD&D booklet Age of Conan