Friday, August 9, 2019

From Hyperborea I Can See Oerth - Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk Being Run With The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System Part II - B2 In Search of the Unknown By Mike Carr

"Many years ago two wealthy adventurers, Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown, built a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. From this base, they conducted their affairs away from the prying eyes of civilization. While of questionable ethical standing, the two drove back a barbarian invasion and gained the support of locals. Eventually, they gathered their own army and went on an expedition against said enemies, where they met their demise."

If you've been following this latest incarnation of blog entries I'm playing a thought experiment for working on a Sword & Sorcery version of Greyhawk here's the other day's blog entry. 

So Jeff Talanian got a chance to go on (Mathew Finch) uncle Matt's Youtube channel last night after some minor difficulties. After cyber... erm fanboying out with these two I got one last question in the mix. 'Whose your favorite author/designer besides Gary Gygax? The answer was Mike Carr whose work in the game design field is right within the classic period from 1968 through 1983.

To be quite frank the answer surprised me. But B1 In Search of the Unknown is one of my all time favorite modules. So I grabbed my copy & began to really dig into the module once again. Nearby my handy copy of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

There's something about the Caverns of Quasqueton that draws me back down the misty corridors of time once again. At about three am I was mucking about on the internet and came across a whole host of OSR links on Dragon's foot and a source book for one of  my favorite module from TSR for D&D. I'm speaking of course of the classic B1  In Search of The Unknown by Mike Carr. The sourcebook is a free jammed packed piece of OSR goodness with all kinds of old school awesomeness. Its available for download in the fifth paragraph down with the words," Demos Sachlas (paleologos of Dragonsfoot) has assembled a mighty B1 Campaign Sourcebook (link is for pdf download; linked here with permission), which is subtitled "a collection of original work and material gathered from the pages of Dragonsfoot and elsewhere on the internet". Since I don't have permission to host the link, go to the Zenopus Archives & you won't be sorry.

But something happens when I started staring at the Charles Lang cover for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Sure up in the corner is the homage of the castle from B2 Keep of the Borderlands by Gary Gygax. But there's something that echoes the Caverns of Quasqueton there in the artwork but very Weird Tales and alien in its own right. But what's this got to do with Greyhawk? Well, everything really.
What does B2 In Search of the Unknown have to do with Greyhawk? Originally in the first run of the module it was clearly set in Greyhawk. But what does this have to do with AS&SH? Well, as we look upon the red bloated sun baked alien world of Hyperborea its not that much of a stretch to imagine that a very different Sword & Sorcery soaked version of Greyhawk might be right around the corner.  Take a look at the cover for the latest version of The Sea-Wolf's Daughter  with that art by Del Teigeler & its not hard to see that Gary Gygax Greyhawk influence there. Also if you haven't backed the Hyperborea Otherworldy Tales  kickstarter then by all means do so.  I say this with confidence. 

What if there was more to this thought experiment then simply whistful thinking. What if Greyhawk's Oerth was actually in orbit around not another sun across some scattered plane prime but near Hyperborea on the same plane. In fact let's go one better and place it within our solar system.

Are you mad there's no way that could happen. Well yes I'm mad but no it could happen in the wiki entry on Oerth; 

"It takes exactly 24 hours for Oerth to make one revolution on its axis. Oerth lies at the center of Greyspace. Unlike most planets, Oerth does not orbit its sun, Liga. Instead, the Sun, and all other planets in the crystal sphere, orbit Oerth. Thus, Greyspace houses a geosystem, rather than a solar system. Oerth's "moons", Celene (Kule) and Luna (Raenei), are in fact the first and second planets in the geosystem, with Liga being the third. From Oerth, planets beyond Liga appear to the naked eye as wandering stars.
Liga orbits the Oerth once every 364 days, thus the Oerthly year is slightly shorter than that on Earth. Luna has a 28-day lunar cycle, while Celene's cycle is 91 days."

But it was this further revelation in the same wiki entry that it was revealed that there were other alternative versions of Oerth; "In a 1984 interview for Polyhedron Newszine, Gary Gygax revealed several "alternate Oerths" while explaining the setting for his HEROES CHALLENGE game books, co-written with author Flint Dille and published under the aegis of the Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation by the Wanderer Book division of Simon & Schuster.
"By the way, action takes place on Yarth, a place somewhat similar to Oerth, the setting of Greyhawk, et al. It has fewer magical properties than Oerth but more than Earth. It is not impossible that additional works will be contracted for in months to come, action being set on Yarth or perhaps another alternate world, Aerth. On Earth, magic is virtually non-existent. On Uerth, dweomers are weak, chancy things. Yarth has a sprinkling of things magical, and Oerth is pure magic."
This implies that the planets differ in both their geographies as well as the relative presence of magic; but also that they operate in divergent realities.
Other references to these alternate Oerths appear in the Gord the Rogue short story anthology Night Arrant as well as in Gygax's Epic of Aerth campaign setting for the Dangerous Journeys roleplaying game. The five parallel worlds of Oerth, Aerth, Uerth, Yarth and Earth were mentioned in the 3rd Edition adventure Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk and thus found their way into 3rd edition canon."

So if we go with the explanation that during the far future  events of Ragnarok the gods of Greyhawk evacuated humanity to the world of Greyhawk's Oerth then where's the planet? Well its in orbit around its own sun near what was once Jupiter. Now a separate sun whilst Hyperborea is in orbit around Saturn.

Artist's impression of the Voyager 2 space probe (1977—) on approach to Saturn. Artist's description: "Voyager 2 at the moment of its closest approach to Saturn. The ring divisions were drawn on the board with a rapidograph pen before the paint coats were applied! Earth is the blue 'star' to the right of the Sun, below the Sun is crescent lit Titan. Oil on illustration board for JPL.

B1 In Search of the Unknown By Mike Car takes on a whole new meaning as the hordes of humanity settle onto their new home of Oerth. And they begin to prey upon each other as warlords seek to carve out empires. This is a time when might makes right & 
Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown are the type of heroes of questionable ethical standard that are needed. The world of Oerth as a Sword & Sorcery setting isn't for the faint of heart. Add to this some Lovecraftian horrors of AS&SH and you've got a mix forces beyond the pale of most men. Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown's slide into legend & fate takes on a much broader stroke of the pen of mythology in this expansion of the Mike Carr legendary introductory module as we shall see in the next installment. 

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