Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report II


Further bits from last night's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game with DM Steve.


We began the exploration of the inner workings of the sink hole with our two thieves repelling into the void with a pair of expensive silk & spiderweb ropes we had picked up back in the capital. They had short swords & mini wrist cross bows in the ready. We didn't have long to wait till we heard the descent stop short & the stomach churning realization that our thieves weren't alone! They had a narrow escape being suspended above the damned of Underborea!


Ilustration by Jason Sholtis 

Even with our large group of players we were in deep trouble! We dropped a giant rock on the sink hole hopefully sealing it in. There were dark forces at work here & we tracked the sufuric acid from a nearby river to a series of lava tubes. That's when we ran into the black necromancer's Pict cannibal mercenaries! 



At that moment my warlock been fiddling with a scroll of chain lightning that I grabbed a couple of games ago in the tomb of a dread Ixian wizard condemned to the cold Hells. But now his loss was my party's survival. The eldritch lightning bounced around & scattered the cannibals! We made our escape as our Ixian wizard collapsed the tube with a handy spell. We made our way back to the shore and called the ferry man! We found a few coins to pay the demonic bastard god! 



The junk appeared out of the mists & now we're on the path of a slaver who hired us in the first place! He's cleared the village & solid the population into slavery in the search for the village treasure but a necromancer double crossed the slaver when the volcano lair of the Ancients was found. Now we have to make sure we get home in one piece with our souls in tacit. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report

Tonight I took a break from being behind the screen to take a break & get into playing within my friend DM Steve's rotating Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game in Litchfield,Ct. So once again I dusted off my Hyperborean warlock character Mojin Wormus. This would be my fifth or so game in this campaign.



I met the rest of the party down on the docks around Butcher's Bay & we heard the lamenting other worldly bell of the Piasus the Ixian short stock junk  ship that we were meeting. We were a grim bunch with our ruin graver Davis Bloodbear quietly getting his spells ready by his side the dark natured & haunted Amazon fighter Nazen. Nazen's  wife Gurta an Amazon  cryomancer of no small worth. Our Ixian wizard Braear The Unknowable was a wizard whose soul had been sold to four different demon lords & who bared the tattooed mark of ownership & trustfulness of his former masters of the dark arts. Our Pict Shaman Haro The Hairy One stood next to his sons the thieves Yul & Nul. The priest Val stood next to our witch Chura the Blooded One.
We were on a mission to slay undead on an island infested with these horrors! We knew something was wrong the moment we stepped on the ship & wind blew up with storm clouds on the horizon.


A few hours later we found ourselves in the middle of storm of epic scale. Winds howled, the rains tore us & the crew to pieces. But it was the captain suddenly demanding payment in the middle of the storm that told us something was very wrong! Our priest was able to turn the captain that was revealed to be some sort of undead horror. Bits & pieces started to fly off of the ship as it came apart around us. Everything went black.



We awoke on the shores of the island with bits of the ship around us. We also found a monk down shore who had been washed up on shore from an earlier ship wreck. Walking into the middle of a deserted village we found a huge crater like hole that went down into the bowels of the island. Our party of cut throats ran straight into an apportion as night closed in around the village. Some fast team work between our priest & the shaman made short work of this horror with some very excellent rolls by the players. 




We decided to camp outside of the village with guards posted on shifts. We were nervous & still saw the junk's captain at different points but it was only illusion. We began to explore the island's evirons coming across a river of bright neon green water. The stuff proved to be sulfuric acid bubbled up from the nearby volcano. We manged to piece together the source of the acid & the forces that were at work in & around the volcano. But this sink hole in the middle of the village & its a hazard that might get the PC's killed if not taken over. 

Having To Go Further A Field With Dragon Issue #94 For Your Old School Campaigns

Further & further down the rabbit hole I go with looking into both Stars Without Number Revised & Godbound. These two games have led me into a series of campaign notes that I made back in the 90's. Those notes pointed back to a little known resource from Dragon magazine issue #94. Not only does this issue have a gorgeous cover by Clyde Caldwell  but there are few important articles in this issue.  






From the Sorcerer's Scroll Official Changes To The Ranger By Gary Gygax  new rules for tracking & hacking. Many of the from the Sorcerer's Scroll would later on form the basis for AD&D first edition The Unearthed Arcana book. That's entirely different blog entry unto itself. But I massively digress here.


  'The Army Travels on Its Stomach' by Katherine Karr is massively interesting to the historical war gamer & D&D player. 'Honor is My Life' The Knights of Solomia By Tracy Hickman  is another possibility for incursion into Godbound. But its really flared out as historical background for Dragonlance. For both Stars Without Number & Godbound the 'Ecology of the Chimera' by Ed Greenwood is paramount. In the article are bits & pieces about Chimera speaking red dragon as a language & their origins being lost to the mists of time. For my own campaign back in the Nineties I used an etching from  1777 –84 by Louis Jean Desprez. called 
The Chimera (La Chimère de Monsieur Desprez). This hellish beast is mother of all Chimera  from the depths of Dante's Inferno. Capable of taking on a party of demigods by itself. She is the spawn of Tiamat & some other god cursed demon. All other Chimera are merely pale reflections of this beast from the depths of Hell. 



The real star of the issue is the Creature Catalog II, and this supplement contains monsters by many TSR illuminate; "Ed Greenwood: Belabra; Bhaergala; Firestar; Flamewing; Orgautha; Xaver. Matthew Quinn: Betta, Giant. Samuel Offutt: Dragon, Phase. Gregg Sharp: Ekrat. Lenard Lakofka: Fireball Fly; Lightning Bug, Giant. Roger Moore: Hurgeon; Urisk; Wyrm, Great. Stephen Inniss: Lillend; Rummele; Viltch. Kris Marquardt: Rekeihs" The monsters in the Creature Catalog are aimed at first edition AD&D which at the time of publication was the main stay on the rpg scene. All of these monsters are geared for one thing use as a mainstay within a campaign.
Need to hold an adventurer or hero for awhile and have them remain unharmed? The Belabra is on the job;"The belabra, or tangler, is as valued among merchants and other travelers as it is feared in the wild. Though it is a carnivore, it can be trained to entangle and hold creatures captive at its master's command without harming its victims" Imagine a Flumph but useful! Want a bard demi god cut off from its worshipers? Then a pack of bhaergala, is just right for assassinating such a target; "The bhaergala, or gunniwolf, is a large predator encountered in heavily wooded

often use this faculty to lure prey. Most areas from tropical to temperate climes. It is most common in jungles where the undergrowth is dense, for it uses the heavy cover to conceal itself from prey. Its food is known to include sylvan elves, satyrs, and man. "
Need a familiar for one of your adventuring space wizards but don't want to over power them? Use the lovely phase dragon. Need alien life forms with a twist? The Firestar, the flame wing, the giant betta, and a few others are perfect for the job. The Lillendi are a personal favorite of mine;" Lillendi are natives of Gladsheim (see DRAGON® Magazine, issue #90), though they may travel astrally to the Prime Material Plane and may also be found on the planes of Olympus or Limbo. On the material plane, they prefer to dwell in temperate or tropical woodlands. They are peaceful and delight in song and conversation, but they are by no means harmless. Those who offend lillendi may receive harsh treatment at their hands, and even blameless individuals are subject to their pranks. Lillendi are particularly hostile toward those who seek to impose civilized order on the wilderlands."


A third edition D&D illustraiton of a Lillendi
 from here 

These lovely monsters are perfect for those want a bit of that druidic AD&D flavor but on some distant plane or planet where the players are not going to expect such a being to appear. And this is one of the strengths of the Creature Catalog series.  The Dragon Dex site has a wonderful break down of the Dragon magazine series along with many others that appeared in the venerable Dragon Magazine. One of the things that I've found over the years is that one has to go just a bit further of field to deal with jaded old school players to impress them with monsters. Not simply 'monsters of the week' but monsters that help to shape a campaign & its parts & pieces. The classic Dragon magazine did this by helping to fill the gaps as a regular supplement that came to your door & newsstand. The Creature Catalog series was one of my all time favorites. Notice that I skipped the demonic Vitches and the highly dangerous great wyrms from the Creature Catalog II  because both of these will be playing a very central roll in my up coming campaign. There is very little reason why these monsters couldn't be used in many of the current retroclones on the market at this time. These are some very timeless monsters from an exceptional issue of the classic Dragon magazine.

 Note that this is a very important issue for the Marvel Super Heroes rpg DM & players for it contains a wealth of background on S.H.I.E.L.L.D. , the original Nick Fury, The Hobgoblin, and some very good articles in the Ares section. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Going Down Deep - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign Workshop & White Dwarf Issue Seventy Commentary



"Until about three years ago, the peculiar town of Port Greely was renowned as a prolific exporter of crustaceans. Then the Greely lobstermen severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned.

More recently, a small group of Fishmongers’ Guild representatives from the City-State of Khromarium has gone missing in Port Greely, and answers have been less than forthcoming. At present, the Guild seeks answers. It wants to know what became of its representatives, and it wishes to re-establish its lucrative partnership with the Port Greely lobstermen. Your party have been contracted to help resolve The Mystery at Port Greely."


So last night I got a call from DM Cole whose a gentlemen I met a book swap some years ago & he runs an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea/AD&D mash up game. He has for some years now. He's been putting his group through their paces with The Mystery At Port Greely & the recent 5th edition Saltmarsh hardback. Once all of the Deep One menace has been solved then what? 
Baring in mind that all of this took place over a year's time & that he's dealing with 8 or so players in a small  New York state town. I began to wrack my brains as to how to continue the campaign until Cole told me something very interesting he'd recently picked up a crate of the old run of White Dwarf magazines. 'Do you have issue 70 in there by any chance?' I waited with baited breath. 'Yes.. why?'   'We've just solved your campaign issue.'  Here's how we continue'.  



White Dwarf issue Seventy has three things going for it besides coming out in '77 it features a particularly nasty adventure titled 'In Too Deep'. Now this is a perfect side quest for making the Salt Marsh & Port Geely campaign cycle continue! Besides the Williams cover artwork that could be used as the 'big bad villain' of the campaign. This issue features the following ;"
The Role-Playing Games Monthly. In this issue: Reunion - A Golden Heroes Caper. Plus: In Too Deep - Aquatic AD&D Adventure. Cover by Williams. Cover price $3.00."
All of this blends very nicely with the recent  fifth edition Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh book that came out some months ago. 


But let's talk about The Mystery of Port Greely here for a moment & what it actually means to the campaign. The Deep Ones are making a very orchestrated move on Hyperborea & its no secret that using this adventure is going put the horrors of Deep Ones center stage. The church of Dagon is going to be bring a power play to all of the shores of Hyperborea. I hope that DM Cole's group of players is going to be up to what he's got planned?!


The Sword & Sorcery action is going to be flying high & hard in this campaign path. Most of the PC's are middle levels now so they should be able to weather some of the coming Deep One storm. I believe that we're gonna see much more dangerous versions of these Lovecraft favorites trotted out. There have already been a few deaths here & there; 
Lovecraft provides a description of the Deep Ones in The Shadow Over Innsmouth:
I think their predominant color was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design—living and horrible.

 Knowing DM Cole like I do, there are several things that I can see happening here; 
  1. He's gonna lean even more heavily on the The Mystery of Port Greely which means that his players are likely to see a heavy Lovecraft influence throughout the campaign. 
  2. The Clark Ashton Smith Poseidonis  cycle is going to get a lot of table top air time. So given that his players better bone up on spells & their 'A' game. 
  3. Cole's got the option of fusing this campaign with D1-2 Descent Into The Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax. That launches the campaign into a very different direction 
  4. There might be a few Deep One Hybrid turn coats among the party of adventurers already this was something we spoke about last night. 
  5. There's complications with the royals of the capital city of Hyperborea already and some of the guilds this could play out with assassinations especially of the adventurers. 
  6. Family members of some of the adventurers might be infected with Deep One taint already. 
  7. Some of the treasures that the adventurers have taken might be cursed and dark magick might already be at work among the party. 
  8. There might be Altantis's royal  influence among the background ranks of the campaign 
  9. Some of the PC's home towns along the sea coasts of Hyperborea might already have gone up in flames. 
  10. I believe that given DM Cole's plans many of the Deep One activity might be a prelude to more dire Great Old One action in his campaign. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dungeons & Sheens - A Stars Without Number Revised Campaign Idea Using Dragon Magazine issue #258

"Once the Glaive was a powerful weapon. In the right hands, it can be so again." "Don't worry, I'll come back with it." "If you don't come back with it, Colwyn, you'll not come back at all!" -- Ynyr to Colywn, Krull, Marvel Comic Adaptation



So the year is Nineteen Ninety Nine,  Dragon magazine is a force to be reckoned with, Alternity is the new sci fi game from TSR  & White Wolf rules the wilds of the hobby shop shelves. At the ready on the table from that is Dragon issue #248 with a great cover by Todd Lockwood but its the article by Bruce R.Cordell called Mage vs Machine that has my interest tonight.



The entire campaign is tailor made to be run with Stars Without Number Revised.  Your typical D&D style fantasy world is completely overrun with cybernetic A.I organisms called Sheens. The wizards, and certain magic wielding types adapt to the onslaught & begin to salvage & re purpose some of the Sheens technologies. This is a well thought out campaign setting by Cordell & he's got a plethora of new classes, lots & lots of magic items, robotic occult goodies, & more.
But how would I adapt 'Man vs Machine' for Stars Without Numbers revised? I'd subvert the ideas of the setting completely by going back to the Eighties. Take Stars Without Numbers rules entirely & gut what you need from the setting.


I would go back to the Eighties & take the Dragon magazine article 'Man vs Machine' then dig out my blu ray of the cult classic film Krull from 1983. Set the events depicted in the article as happening in the same timeline as Krull down the line in the future. 



Now we've got every excuse to land a space craft on your fantasy planet tracking the latest wave of 'Sheen' technology & they recruit some local hot shot talent adventurers. The adventurers find out that their a part of a much broader interstellar sector!



The royal line established by   Colwyn &  Princess Lyssa are in grave danger from the Sheen as they have comeback to claim their long forgotten home world. The horrors of  the Beast's kind are the real threat lurking beyond the claim & placid reality of the home world of Krull. Our heroes are recruited into a much more dangerous universe & sector of space then they understand. There are several reasons why this work & work very well: 
  1. My friend Michael Tresca did a D2o Krull book that can be down loaded for free & its easily converted over to Stars Without Number. 
  2. The sheen have a huge number of variations of troop types these are easily used with SWN's space magic rules. 
  3. There were more threats indicated in the cult film of Krull & these can be fleshed out using Stars Without Number. 
  4. Many  new players are not even familiar with Krull or its deadliness. 
  5. Who knows what ruins & space dungeons might be lurking in the space around Krull. Its the perfect opportunity to create something quite unexpected in orbit! 
  6. What happened to the Glaive after the events of the film? Is a new champion of Krull needed?! 
  7. Are the descendants of  King Colwyn &  Queen Lyssa in deep trouble from the sheen or something quite worse? 
  8. Time to break out the copies of B2 Keep on the Borderlands. This is the perfect opportunity to use an old classic module & give the players an unexpected jolt of D&D action on Krull. 
  9. Is Krull the backward that it really appears to be or could there much more that was implied in the script lurking below the surface. 
  10. Could the elemental courts of AD&D have designs on Krull & the royal family that not even the PC's can guess? 



Playing With The Ruler of The Devil World For Your Old School Campaigns




Scheduling is one of the biggest hazards in setting up a new game campaign. Today I've been meeting with DM Mike & his brother Steve to discuss doing a sort crossover game using Stars Without Number & Godbound.  We started tossing back & forth different ideas villains that we've used in the past. Who would fit into the campaign world? 


We dived into Ward & Kuntz's Deities & Demi Gods going back to when we were kids the Babylonian pantheon & our experiences with Dante's Inferno, Tiamat, Judge's Guild's Inferno adventure, & more. The one bastard that we all remember is the "king of Devils Druaga"  He gets a  bit  of space in Deities & Demigods but seems to almost be a background player in the games of devil kind. 



 "Ruler of the Devil World, is a lesser god.  He and his worshipers are lawful evil, and he has been known to send devils to aid worshipers who have recently sacrificed a virgin to him."  Reading through a recent Tim Brannan Otherside of the blog  entry on Druaga there was an interesting bit, "Is it me or does his mace remind you of Asmodeus' Ruby Rod?". No its not simply you Tim. DM Mike reminded me that we used Druaga as one of the mentors of Asmodeus. He was kicked out once Asmodeus descended to the throne of Hell & the Inferno. 

But what would Druaga be like in the context of a game of Godbound? Well he'd be ruler of 'the Devil World' by the modern standards of our game, a Hell plane fragment(yomi world) that is separate from the inferno. His cults thrive among the rulers, statesmen, & kings of the gulfs of space. He's a patron to tyrants & is always looking to expand his reach across the interstellar golf. The ruby rod of his marks him as a former ruler of the Inferno who retired from his position after the descend of Asmodeus. Asmodeus continues to tolerate to Druaga because the interests of master & former student rarely overlap. There are rumors of back handed support to his old teacher but these are very unlikely to be substantiated. Druaga is methodical in his methods but quite blood thirty in his appetites on the mortal realm. 





Druaga is an active god on the plane Prime appearing as an assassin at the beckoned call of kings & rulers of the space ways. He gains access to the inner workings of empires while actively corrupting governments around him.  At other times Druaga appears as a wise wizard of the space ways serving the whims of ancient devils of fallen civilizations. Or at least that is how events appear. In fact Druaga has been taking full advantage of the empty throne of Heaven to spread his own special brand of mayhem across the planes. His cabals & cells of cultists operate on the fringes of space while keeping his wizards busy within the infrastructure of the machinery of interstellar civilization.
Druaga's champions & warrior cults have made a series of daring raids across the interstellar gulf as space pirates. Several A.I.'s serve the devil ruler & there are a few 'up raised' rebotic entities  among the ranks of his cults. Several worlds have fallen to his machinations over the millennium.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Planning On Going Back To My Stars Without Number: Revised Edition OSR Campaign

I've been speaking with some of my players about running a Godbound Stars Without Number: Revised Edition campaign. Some of my players are thinking of switching to the back of the screen & over the years have had lots of experience in this regard.  Why?!
"Backwards compatibility, as the Revised Edition is built to work cleanly with existing Stars Without Number supplements and materials. The new systems slot in smoothly, and you can take or leave them individually as your group prefers." This also means being able to be use both OSR & D20 products with Godbound. 



The fact is that many of the OSR products are D20 OGL based so there easily a backwards compatibility that goes all of the way back to my other half grabbing Troll Lord Game's Mythos Bundle as a gift last year. 


The OSR is created on its own term by your players & you as the dungeon master, this allows a group of players & their dungeon master to take full advantage of the derth of classic TSR era products that are on the market these days. For myself this means taking advantage of a recent gift from DM Steve a great copy of Jeff Grub's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Manual of the Planes. 



While this campaign is in the preliminary stages, but I've already got the backing of my players & my network. So now we see how this plays out but the campaign writing is already done. So now its a matter of watching this space. Stay tuned for further updates.
I'm planning on taking full advantage of the catalog of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventures. With the upcoming kickstarter I can see the writing on the wall. "This is the preview link for our next Kickstarter campaign, HYPERBOREA: Otherworldly Tales. "



Harley Stroh's  
Dungeon Crawl Classics #84: Peril On The Purple Planet (box set) for Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg for a long time & using this box set for my upcoming campaign.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Random Thoughts About The "Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine" (1980) Book

 "Are you running out of ideas for ways to stock your dungeon full of treasure? Do you need a quick and easy way to fill out your castle of 1,000 rooms with monsters? The Monster & Treasure Assortment has 900 monsters, 900 treasures, a host of treasure containers/protection devices/concealments, and complete instructions for using the assortment to fill in partially stocked or newly encountered dungeon levels. 

Designing and stocking any number of dungeon levels become a snap when Monster and Treasure Assortment is used in conjunction with Dungeon Geomorphs. TSR's geomorphs allow an almost endless variety of rooms to be laid out in virtually no time at all.

Just one more useful playing aid from the Game Wizards at TSR."

Coming out right after the AD&D Rogue's Gallery the  
"Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine" (1980) book came out in May. The Monster & Treasure book was/is a tool kit for dungeon,ruin,& adventure  design. This is the fourth printing of the book & this is where I came into its possession back in the Eighties. 



 This is a great book for stocking a dungeon that you've just mapped out & you've got your players coming over later that night. The chips are in the bag, the soda or beer is in the frig, & you've got a map done & are ready to stock it. This is the book to help you stock it in spades. And why would you use this book if you already have the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide?! 


 


The answer is simple really, your players have the same Advanced Dungeons & Dragons classic Dungeon Master's Guide as you do. Using the "Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine"  gives you the DM some flavor, variation, & a whole lot of latitude in your dungeon or ruin design. Going back to 1977 there were some variation of this book on the market. Thanks to the Acaeum  site for that little nugget of info. 

If you think I'm wasting your time with this blog entry on "Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine" then check out this little nugget of information I found on  the Grognardia blog entry;
" One of the reasons I find it so fascinating is that the 1980 edition, which is the one I own, doesn't just compile the contents of the three sets from which it's made; it revises -- selectively. Consider that, when it was first released in 1977, there was OD&D, the AD&D Monster Manual, and the Holmes Basic Set. While there's a high degree of compatibility between these three variations on D&D, they're not identical to one another. By 1978, when the later installments of this series was released, the AD&D Players Handbook was available, adding yet another possible source of rules variations. The 1980 compilation predates the release of the Moldvay Basic Rules, but, looking through the monster and treasure listings, you'll see entries that seem to reflect the contents of Moldvay. In the end, it the Monster & Treasure Assortment seems to use a hodgepodge of rules sets rather than any single one.

This jumbled character is apparent too when you look at, for example, the format used in the monster entries. Each of the monsters has an abbreviation of "AL" followed by a number. According to the book's introduction, "AL" is attack level and it's THAC9, that is, the number needed by the monster in question to hit an unarmored opponent in OD&D and its descendant games (but not post-PHB AD&D). Saving throw entries are clearly Moldvay-derived, as there are references to racial classes. But then there are also references to monsters like Type I and Type III demons, multiclass halflings, and Will o' Wisps that once again make it clear that the Monster & Treasure Assortment was never fully updated in 1980 to a single, consistent rules set, instead being a mixture of elements from several different games."


The utility of this product is incredible, I've used it with D&D/AD&D crossover games of Gamma World, Boot Hill, & Metamorphosis Alpha. The reason for this is the fact that even some of the low level lists for treasures in the book are generous with magic items. They give the PC's a bit of an edge against some of the horrors that are in the book. This book is a mix of all sorts of different editions of Dungeons & Dragons. This is a reflection of the time of the book's release. Again this doesn't take away from the utility of the product at all.
 Infact I'll go one better & say that that 
the Monster & Treasure Assortment is more useful today with the number of OSR systems that emulate early editions of Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.


I'm I still using 
the Monster & Treasure Assortment book at the table? Hell yes I'm still using my beat up copy & in fact I've used it recently for a Gamma World cross over game. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Some OSR Thoughts on The AD&D Rogues Gallery by Brian Blume, Dave Cook, Jean Wells For Your Old School Campaigns

" Hundreds of pre-rolled non-player characters of all classes and types, complete with alignments, sex, personalities and much more."

There are books that I used to pore over for hours on end & then there are Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books that have gained utility as I've grown with this hobby. One of these is the AD&D Rogues Gallery by Brian BlumeDave CookJean Wells."The Rogues Gallery was written by Brian Blume with Dave Cook and Jean Wells, with a cover by Erol Otus and interior illustrations by Jeff Dee and Otus, and was published by TSR in 1980 as a 48-page book.[1] TSR Stock # 9031. ISBN 0-935696-18-0." 


Its 2019 & I'm still using the Rogue's Gallery for everything from NPC stats to pouring over the bits of history about Gary Gygax's original player's in his home campaign's PC's. But according to the Drivethrurpg entry not all of the PC's stats are true; " 
 "The Rogues Gallery" includes characters run by Ernie Gygax, Gary Gygax, Tim Jiardini, and Rob Kuntz that originated in the Lake Geneva campaign — some in Rob Kuntz's world of Kalibruhn and some in Gary Gygax's world of Greyhawk. This provides some of the earliest insight into the world of Greyhawk. These characters include Bigby, Mordenkainen, Riggby, Robilar, and Tenser, who would become increasingly important to the Greyhawk setting over the years — though Bigby, Mordenkainen, and Riggby were all Gary Gygax characters that he originally ran in Kalibruhn.
These NPCs also give some insight into how characters were run in the early D&D game. The most shocking revelation is how many of them were evil, including Ernie Gygax's Erac's Cousin, Lawrence Schick's Lanolin, Al Hammack's Lassiviren the Dark, and Rob Kuntz's Robilar.
Though almost all of the characters were human, a few were instead rather unusual races. Jeff Leason's Phoebus was a lizard man, while David Cook's Talbot was a centaur — both as the results of reincarnation. The dearth of dwarves, elves, and halflings among the characters is another reflection of early play styles.
Of course, these character write-ups aren't entirely trustworthy. Gary Gygax later said that at least his character stats were "quite fallacious" because he wasn't willing to give information on characters that he was still playing to Brian Blume. It's one last insight into how different things were in those early days of roleplaying, when characters might actually be secret."  Why would there be a veil of secrey around Gary & company's character stats? Well it not unlike today the many of the gamers in inner workings of TSR didn't entirely trust the competition. These folks were & to a certain extent still are risk takers & many times there were games in play that were used for upcoming projects & convention events.
 
But what's actually in the  AD&D Rogues Gallery? Well here's a fast break down from the wiki entry"The Rogues Gallery was a supplement listing hundreds of pre-generated non-player characters for use by the Dungeon Master, including characters from all the standard first edition AD&D character classes, plus other characters such as sages, caravans, and city guards.[1] The book also includes statistics for characters from Gary Gygax's original D&D campaign." If you need NPC stats fast to populate a ruin,town, high way, or just a quick encounter the this is the book for you. And this wasn't the only book of NPC's to hit the shelves; "This was the first of several books of NPCs for D&D. Basic D&D would publish their own, AC1: "The Shady Dragon Inn" (1983), a few years later. Much later, TSR would publish a Rogues' Gallery (1992) for AD&D 2e."  One thing about the AD&D Rogue's Gallery is the fact that there is wealth of humancentric NPC types making the book great for Sword & Sorcery games. The AD&D Rogue's Gallery has become iconic to early Dungeons & Dragons even making it into the first season of Stranger Things. But why was the AD&D Rogue's Gallery so iconic? Even at the time of its release there were other NPC books even from Judge's Guild.


The answer is when it came out in the history of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & B/EX Dungeons & Dragons. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Rogue's Gallery takes the NPC efforts a step further by 
 determining the composition of caravans, city watches, border patrols, pilgrims,  & even rival  dungeon parties. Its a hell of a tool kit for the classic TSR era.


The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Rogue's gallery even fills out some of the details on four of the more deadly AD&D psionic using monsters; " 
 four psionic- or magic-using monsters: the couatl, ki-rin, lich, and shedu." This was in the days before the internet or easy access to the AD&D rule books or Monster Manual.


 


Is this book still useful today to the OSR dungeon master? In a word? Yes it is because it can enable a DM to populate a city, town, or any encounter with an NPC into a memorable experience. You get the bare bones NPC's  but these are actually usable bare bones NPC's. There's also the fact that you've got actual usable rival NPC adventurer party stat ready to go on the fly. This fact makes the AD&D Rogue's Gallery serviceable for BECMI Dungeons & Dragons.





Many of the NPC's within this book have appeared in numerous games & adventures of mine. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Rogue's Gallery is a classic for a reason & that reason is utility. No only can this book provide hours of fun reading but it can be used to harry,harass, & goat along other player's PC's.  Many of the same guidelines &  techniques that we see employed in this book for NPC's we would see used again for other OSR products a great example of this is within the Stars Without Number rpg by Kevin Crawford. 
Products such as the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Rogue's Gallery are classics for a reason & this one is no exception.
The AD&D Rogue's Gallery is available right here. 

Further Explorations of Dungeon issue # 69 & Its Use In Old School Sword & Sorcery Game Campaigns

Way, way, back in the hoary days of Nineteen Ninety Eight Dungeon magazine was still a thing & there were some killer issues on the spinner racks. There was one issue that stood out & that was Dungeon issue #69. No its not for the issue number its for the adventure  Slave Vats of the Yuan-ti by Jason Kuhl, Illustrated by Terry Dykstra, Cartography by Diesel. p. 10-27. If you can find it then by all means grab this issue!
 


Forget the fantastic Easily cover its the  Jason Kuhl adventure that has it all. This is the perfect little mid point adventure for a Sword & Sorcery retroclone like Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Not only could this easily be inserted around   the dismal City-State of Khromarium but it could be used as a piggy back  middle jump adventure for the PC's to get them into some of the more dangerous AS&SH adventures. But this is all gonna have to take place after taking them through Rats In The Walls & Other Perils.  As well as the basic introductory adventure that takes place in the Town of Swampgate  from the main AS&SH rule book. 



On the whole the entire adventure cycle of the 
"Mere of Dead Men" takes the PC's into the heart of the corrupted serpent men ermm I mean Yuan-ti.Then drops them in to back end of a rather nasty problem. "This adventure is part 1 of the "Mere of Dead Men" series and involves an exploration of the Wolfhill House overlooking the Mere and encounters with the yuan-ti"
There area of 'Mere of the Dead Men' in the Forgotten Realms was created to evoke a dangerous historical event tied directly into the history of the realms; 
"The name "Mere of Dead Men" referred to the thousands of dwarveselves, and humans of the Fallen Kingdom who were slain here during the invasion of an orc army." Now if we use this same area & do a bit of fiddling then it can be named in our home Hyperborea campaign game as the place where the armies of Hyperboreans, men of the West, & the Atlanteans fell by the thousands to an invading orc army. 
This is just one of the strengths of Dungeon magazine, the flexibility of the adventures & how they could be adapted for your own home games.
This brings me to something that I've been playing with the over the last couple of days the Cthulhu mythos of the Deities & Demigods of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. 
Slave Vats of the Yuan-ti by Jason Kuhl, could easily be tied into the bubbling & burbling cult of  Shub niggurath that I spoke about in this blog entry. 


Given the totality of this style of adventure cycle the player's PC's could quite easily gain a couple of levels & then tackle the moat house of T1 The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax. This would to help explain the party being down on their luck & down to the last gold piece before the adventure begins.