Thursday, July 19, 2018

"A Deed Without A Name" The Wayward Sisters & Cults for Old School Campaigns

SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

"Thunder. Enter the three Witches
First Witch
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Second Witch
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Third Witch
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.
First Witch
Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights has thirty-one Swelter'd venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Second Witch
Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Third Witch
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches' mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark, Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew Silver'd in the moon's eclipse, Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips, Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver'd by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Second Witch
Cool it with a baboon's blood, Then the charm is firm and good. Enter HECATE to the other three Witches
O well done! I commend your pains; And every one shall share i' the gains; And now about the cauldron sing, Live elves and fairies in a ring, Enchanting all that you put in. Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' & c
HECATE retires
Second Witch
By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, Whoever knocks! Enter MACBETH
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do?
ALL A deed without a name."
Macbeth | Act 4, Scene 1

Scene from Macbeth, depicting the witches' conjuring of an apparition in Act IV, Scene I. Painting by William Rimmer

Last Summer I did a one shot adventure with a group of friends in which I used Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd edition & combined it with Shakespeare's play Macbeth. I used witches as NPC manipulators & causers of chaos behind the scenes of an adventure. These witches are twisted demi goddesses in their own right & servants of an ancient goddess of chaos.
I'm going with the classic definition of these witch sisters as "some nymphs or fairies endued with knowledge of prophecy by their necromantical science" from; " the account of King Duncan in Raphael Holinshed's history of Britain, The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587). In Holinshed, the future King Macbeth of Scotland and his companion Banquo encounter "three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world" who hail the men with glowing prophecies and then vanish "immediately out of their sight". Holinshed observes that "the common opinion was that these women were either the Weird Sisters, that is… the goddesses of destiny, or else some nymphs or fairies endued with knowledge of prophecy by their necromantical science."
I'd place them someplace between hags & the classic slyphs out of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. But not easily defined except that they all share a sort of twisted supernatural intelligence & an ironic sense of humor as they sew the seeds of chaos.

While these beings have close ties to the moon goddess of Hyperborea they are wholly independent yet bound to the being once known as Hecate. Their mystery cults of little interests to them while they go about their business of creating & toppling royal lines. Time & space are mere thought constructs to them & the occult  runs very strong in their veins. They have all the abilities of a hag & slyph plus they can cast spells as a 6th level witch. Further powers are proved by their dead goddess whose name & power still hold sway even as the cold red sun blots the sky.

The three witches hold court over their cult in the dead months of Winter when new acolyte witches are presented to them during the sacrificial rites. They see themselves as ironic instruments of destiny & the decree of fate but others see them as twisted representations of chaos of the highest order. There are certain places where those who are found out to follow & worship these entities are beheaded & burned.
Witches & clerical followers of these witch sisters are granted a vision each fortnight to insure the maximum amount of chaos can be caused. Cults of these creatures will have 1d6 2nd level witches with a 5th or better leader who will gain personal visions during the full moon & can curse 1d4 victims each new moon. These cults operate with 1d20 agents throughout an area who may or may not know what or whom they are spying or doing dirty tricks for.

The inner rites of the cult involve the summoning of ghosts or the damned  souls  of familial members of the cult. These are often ancient ancestors or royals whose advice to the living will sew the seeds of chaos & murder. This summoning can be done during the last phases of the moon but a commune with the dead spell can be done at any time.

Motives for the use of the Wayward Sisters in Old School Campaigns
  1. The Wayward sisters specialize in the destabilization of royal reigns & bloodlines often through advising the rulers or kings of looming disaster or threats to the crown. 
  2. Prophetic dreams or visions are often used to distract or sew seeds of discord in royal house holds leading to murders & suicides these are used as sacrifices to the moon goddess.  
  3. Rulers often seek out the witches to lay curses upon rival rulers in times of peace or war leading to more chaos. 
  4. Rich or poor souls do not matter to  the sisters who see themselves as supernatural instruments of fate, chaos, & even death. They bare witness to all of the events from the astral plane even as they sew more discord across the countryside. 
  5. These witches may be the remains of ancient pagan goddesses from the 'old faiths' of Earth & harbor a special favor for those who remember their ancient names. They may grant a small favor to one who knows them. 
  6. Juicy pieces of royal gossip & scandal are met with favor. A  mortal who tarries these witches favor with such a bloody piece of gossip will be granted a potion or some other minor item for such. But these items are often double edged swords. 
  7. The witches are often sought out for their prophetic charms & dreams on royal children. This only allows the witches to have supernatural influence in the lives of such children. 
  8. Once per week one of the witches may visit a particularly promising acolyte to give them a potion or minor charm to further the cult's aims. This of course is to further their own occult of agenda of chaos. 
  9. Certain dungeon or adventure locations are watched over by the witches because of their supernatural importance. PCs may attract the attention of the witches much to their detriment.
  10. The witches are drawn to the scent of tragic events  & violence as moths to the flames of a burning flame. They may 20% be compelled to give a shrieking prophetic & cryptic riddle or poem about some dark future event. 

    Shakespeare's witches have been inspiring writers & artists for centuries. This version was made for my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg adventure  using the alternative  historical Dark Albion & Dark Albion Cults of Chaos setting rules. Bits & pieces were taken from Lion & Dragon as well.

Tegel Manor A Mid Summer & Fall Campaign Meeting & Actual Play Event

"Tegel Manor, a great manor-fortress on the seacoast, is rumored to be left over from ancient days when a charm was placed over it protecting it from most of the ravages of time and human occupation. The hereditary owners, whose family name is Rump, have been amiss in their traditional duty of providing protection for the market village to the west. Some have said that this failing and their bizarre eccentricities have led to their corruption. Many have found the manor and area to be a dangerous place to visit!"

So the other night I had a Mid Summer or early Fall campaign meeting with my players. Its been a long & twisting road of campaign play to line my players back to the twisting & winding path back to Tegel manor. But back they are! Just as the manor is getting ready to shift planes across time & space now!

The temple of Thor has ties to the PC's already(as long as their bri em given a generous donation) with the party having beat into sub erm made a peace treaty with the cult of Toad god.The party's  wizard notices that many of the features of the manor have a  distinctly fuzziness to them ( a result of the supernatural &  other dimensional energies of the place).  This really starts to worry him. Will the PC's make it to the manor & the village in time before the next 'crossing'?  Whose in command of the late era Roman soldiers on the road to the village?!

So now I'm going over my notes from last year about the inner workings of the Tegel manor & rereading the The Babylon Broadsheet blog's piece on "Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent, England. The January/February 2016 issue of Archaeology Magazine has a feature article on Knole House, and describes it as “one of the five largest houses in England”. The house itself “occupies four acres, surrounded by 26 acres of gardens and fields, and another thousand that make up a medieval deer park.”"  This place is my inspiration for Tegel Manor & the Rump line  within my home campaigns.
Knole House is part of the National Trust of England & a visit to their website is not only informative but highly inspirational. It dovetails in with the Three Dee Romansque thread about the manor on the OD&D forums. 
Dragon's has the  Tegel Manor 1977 or 1989? thread with some really good opinions & in game byplay comments for those wanting to run the adventure.

I've also been quietly going over the reference material from Wayne's Books on Judge's Guild product & I've have come to the conclusion of perhaps expanding the material of Tegel with JG's other haunted house adventure The House on Hang Man's Hill. There's already adventure threads that can easily tie into Tegel manor's dark mystery shrouded past within The House on Hang Man's Hill.

So I'm set up a mega Gothic/ Sword & Sorcery /Clark Ashton Smith mini plane domain setting for my campaigns based partly on the JG product & a lot on my twisted writings over the years. We've had scores of player's PC's die off this past year & the players keep coming back for more. I think that there are a lot of reasons for this expansion to work;
  1. There are lot of loose threads that need to be resolved & expanded upon with my home campaigns. 
  2. Tegel manor needs more of its due from my players & there's a pile of rooms & subplots that they've created during play. 
  3. There are a variety of factions that are looking to exploit the party erm the manor. 
  4. A variety of undead NPC's have been on the PC's trail for months now.
  5. The manor is going to take months & the sub dungeons will take even longer to play through.
  6. The mind flayer brain under glass is actually a major NPC villain but none of the players actually know this. This will be expanded upon with links to The House on Hang Man's Hill

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Six Unexpected Monsters & More From Advanced Dungeons & Dragons's The Monster Manual That Would Fit A Post Apocalyptic Setting

Today I was having a friend over after work for a beer & we got to talking about the recent release of Gamma World Fourth edition back into print. Now for years I've taken it on the chin because I've always used the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual for mid level management & boss monsters in the ruins of Gamma World urban & city settings.

There are any number of lower tier monsters that would fit right into the terrifying post apocalypse setting of Gamma World. So let's quickly go over those first shall we.

The Ankheg is a perfect way of putting the fear of Gygax into a group of would be adventurers & mutants in the Gamma World game. I've used these bastards as replacements for cockroaches around certain types of ruins of agrofarms & A.I. garden  installations! They are nasty & can take a hand or arm off in a moment's notice.

Skeletons are perfect post apocalyptic guardians and there are literally millions of them underfoot to cause players a ton of trouble. They can also be intelligent & very dangerous to deal with especially if they don't realize their not dead or undead. Skeletons can be very effective chasing down or seeking revenge against parties of ruin raiders & dungeon seekers who trespass on their resting ground. But they can also be a source of knowledge for those seeking particularly rare artifacts. Any of the undead from the Monster Manual make excellent post apocalyptic ruin encounters. The Follow Me & Die Blog had an excellent post on the Monster Manual undead.

Giant Slugs are always underestimated by players in post apocalyptic games & I don't know why. They excellent monsters to use to up point that something's just not right or weird. Giant monsters are always excellent for pointing out some sort of contamination or chaos style toxic dump weirdness.

Harpies are the perfect beast to put into the ruins of an urban landscape to point out that even the god's have deserted the ruined city or other wasteland location. These things are dangerous, amoral, nasty, & particular favorite of mine because of the Ray Harryhausen style connections to Greek Mythology.

Another monster that fits right at home in the backwards of the wastelands is the AD&D catoblepas with its gaze attack & nasty disposition it fits in right at home. Evil tempered, highly dangerous, & perfect for placement right around some swamp bound ruins.

Now let's take on some of the mid range monsters who would certain give even the most seasoned wastelander pause & perhaps might manage some of the ruins for these horrors.

1. The obvious monster that is perfect for the wastelands is the neo-otyugh, a larger, more intelligent species of otyugh. These bastards are some of the most underrated monsters to throw into a dungeon or post apocalyptic landscape.

2. The Lamia is another haunter of ruins & I've used them as rulers for a number of ruined cities & towns all under the tails of their larger cousins in the Fiend Folio but then familial warfare & royal  feuds is half the fun.

3. Medusa are another horror that can easily command or even rule a small shattered kingdom in the middle of the wastes. They are perfect agents of chaos moving among the ruins & tribes of mutants causing as much damage as they can.

4. Vampires have been always a good solid choice to move things from behind the scenes in the wastes. Vampire Hunter D not withstanding, vampire lords are perfect foils to rule rowdy packs of mutant tribes & command wasters to do their bidding. They can be very easy to insert & rile players in very interesting ways especially to die!

5. Red Dragons are an excellent source of unexpected fear & dread in players when they encounter them in command of hordes of mutants & wasteland trash. These horrors are perfect with a compliment of humanoid warrior types to carry out the will of their draconic master or mistress! Any of the dragons found in the AD&D first edition Monster Manual found in their natural environment will cause shock & horror among players of old school or post apocalyptic games.

6. The Lich is the perfect monster to command & sew the seeds of chaos among old school players. Want to bring that 'Thundarr The Barbarian' quality to Gamma World then insert a lich. They're the perfect replacement for the run of the mill Saturday morning wizard & they're the perfect 'before the world ended' foils for parties to bow & scrap to for scarps of information about relics of the Ancients & what not. Best of all they can command armies of undead & mutants!

These monsters could easily be transported over to Mutant Future & used in that game as well. No I didn't use the beholder because its been used numerous times in the wastelands. There are a ton of classic monsters that I missed but I've sewn the seeds for others to get really into the idea of using classic monsters in the wastelands.

Beyond S1 The Tomb of Horrors & More OSR Sword & Sorcery Campaign Commentary

'Well the place is cleared out & all of the horrors are gone never to cause the people of keep anymore trouble.' 
'Did you hear that rumbling in here last night?'
'Scary wasn't it'
'Grab the last of the loot will ya?'
'Say that stone door wasn't there before was it?!'
'We'd better go tell the bosses about that'
'Wouldn't want to get ambushed or anything by those demon pig bastards things again!'
'And did you smell those & what was with that weird squealing. And say did you hear that?'

So the PC's have solved the mysteries of  B2 The Keep On The Borderlands but lets talk about the fact that a mysterious door may have opened that leads to a massively long tunnel that pops into one of the most dire places imaginable.
Hopefully the PC's have secured both T1 The Village of Hommlet & B2 The Keep On The Borderland otherwise this adventure path isn't going to work. The evil wizard Acererak is a perfect example of the sort of Clark Ashton Smith style demi god wizard in the mold of all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb. After recently having read Greg Gorgonmilk's CAS collection I've concluded certain things. Acererak has three things going for him as the vile villain who to maintains several of the dungeons of classic era TSR. He has the time, money, & minions to economically deal with these projects as well as see the resurrection of T1-4.

S1 came out in 1975 when it debuted at the 1975 Origins 1 convention & designed specifically to challenge players & their PC's. It could be used under the moons of Saturn to remove any high level interference for this pet project of Acererak. Also the tomb would have to be within eye shot of the Hyperborean capital to maintain it. Hyperborea is perfect for S1 because of its ironic sense of weirdness & terror. Why would
Acererak maintain the caves of Chaos & the dungeons under B10 Night's Dark Terror as well direct his newly hatched orcs & goblins? Sheer boredom & as a project to grow the Temple of Elemental Evil's influence. In other words because he can!

I mean but this, that you the king have filled
More tombs than I the outlawed necromancer
Have ever emptied, and detest not idly
The raising of dead men. Would you have me summon
For witness here against you the grey shade
Of Famostan your father, in his bath
Slain by the toothed envenomed fish from Taur
Brought privily and installed by you? Or rather
Would you behold your brother Aladad,
Whose huntsmen left him with a splintered spear
At your instruction, to confront the fen-cat
That he had merely pricked? Yet these would be
Only the heralds of that long dark file
Which you have hurried into death."
The Dead Will Cockhold You By
Clark Ashton Smith

So why open the tomb after B10 Night's Dark Terror & the caves of chaos's monster generators have been cleaned out?! Because the party of adventurers are interesting threats & rivals coming up the long ladder. Its another game played by an insane immortal undead wizard & no doubt he's doubling down on the player's PC's greed.

My question becomes who else is going to wake up once the Tomb of Horrors becomes active?  There are many wizards who may have survived the events of  Ragnarok  & the Green Death. These Hyperborean wizards may have had plans of their own set off by fail safes once the Temple of Elemental Evil becomes active again. This might also help explain the presence of the FORGOTTEN FANE of the COILED GODDESS 

adventure location.

There was suggestions from a friend of mine to place an alternative set of caverns near the Tomb, he suggested the Classic Blue Cavern Tile sets for Dungeon Crafter from Dragon as a possible side quest. They are free so use them as you like.

I'm by no means done with using classic modules on Hyperborea but for the moment I'm going to wrap this up. Work has been causing my blog posting schedule to change at the drop of a hat. But I do think that the undead horror known as Acererak is an excellent addition to Hyperborea.

For now keep em rolling!

All artwork used without permission for the purposes of this blog post within the bounds of fair use.
All commentary is mine &  North wind publishing nor Dragon's have any influence upon this blog post. This blog post is for entertainment & educational purposes only.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lost In The Eighties! LoFP Carcosa & OSR Actual Play Session One

A brand new group of young adventurers faces down the legacy of the Nazi expedition to the alien shores of  'lost Carcosa' but a far more heinous threat looms for this Earth! Come with us now to the Eighties the Age of Heroes!

June 1957 marked the end of 'the Prenatural Wars' as the very last expedition to lost  Carcosa crashed into the seas off of Sicily. The last of the radioactive Nazi brain wizards  & their robotic minions had been defeated but the cost had been very high for our party of 'black guard' adventurers. The last of Hitler's clones had been destroyed on the sky island lair.
The artifacts recovered propelled the Earth from the 'Adventurous Sixties,' & 'Plastic Dash Seventies' into 'the Hard Core Eighties'!  Wizards were questioned, debriefed, & moved off to some remote island off the coast of Sicily. Thieves were cycled into the Cold war efforts & their contributions will be blogged about another time. Fighters were used in any number of cold war theaters & the world moved on. The very last of the old guard took very fat retirement packages. Some wrote Christmas cards to the pagan clerics of alien gods who had found California to their liking. Their cults were growing by leaps & bounds.
But something was very,very, wrong. The Earth had opened a door unto an alien world back in the 50's & it was coming for them! The United States & Russia had gain the secrets to occult secrets, & alien energy weapons. They hid them behind the illusions of concrete vaults & beneath cinder block bunkers.

But it was far too late now for the grand children of the psi scouts of the Nineteen Fifty Seven mission sensed their coming first. It started with visions of nightmarish proportions across the world of alien rites & weird insanity inducing monstrosities! Kids & adults awoke across the planet screaming, insane, & worse changed!

Artwork used without permission for last night's actual play event!

Already  the United States Department of Energy, has activated its operation  'Project Doorway' occult mission back to Carcosa in its Montauk, New York and nearby Long Island locations. But it may be too late all ready! The Russians 'Delta Incident' less then twenty four hours ago has revealed that alien forces & a possible invasion are on their way. American & Russia military forces are forced to put aside their differences as an alien brain wizard appeared in the Grand View Mall in Virginia. The PC's mission? Recover the wizard, protect the civilians, & get out before the other forces show up!

Of course none of this went to plan as underdweller cultists showed up from another dimension! The on going fire fight caused missive collateral damage & the PC's wizard launched a lightning strike inside the mall! Then the underdweller's real mission was revealed to set up a dimensional warp device!  The PC's managed to stop the device but the collateral damage was vicious. The army had evacuated the civilians out of the mall before things got ugly.

Artwork used without permission 

In last night's game we had seven players, we used a combination of Apes Victorious, 
The following make up of players  & PC's:

Carl - 6th level wizard - Carlous Destine
Matt - 5th level fighter - Major Julian Rozenstein
Shelia - 4th level Carcosa mutant - Rubber Matty 
George -5th level psi scout - Eyes McGee 
Eric D - 4th level fighter - Rocky Plimton the third 
Ed - 6th level barbarian - The Masked Terror of Tejaudnia 
Bart - 5th level Carcosa black sorcerer - Mister Weevil

Note that none of these PC's have any background to them other then some of them being the kids of the previous player's PC's kids or grand kids.

We used Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition as the frame work system for last night's pickup game! I'm planning on dropping the players into Barrens of Carcosa soon as I can possibly next week!

Yes I'm planning on using Goblinoid Games  Realms of Crawling Chaos 
for filling in some of the artifacts & other weird devices! Will there be apes?! Next session there should be a competing party of ape adventurers from an alternative Earth!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Drums of War on Hyperborea, The Temple of Elemental Evil, & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

"Once far from any important activity, the Village of Hommlet became embroiled in the struggle between gods and demons when the Temple of Elemental Evil arose but a few leagues away. Luckily for its inhabitants, the Temple and its evil hordes were destroyed a decade ago, but Hommlet still suffers from incursions of bandits and strange monsters."

I spent most of the weekend away from social media because of limited internet access & I got a chance to dive into Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. Classic TSR era Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was also on my reading list especially T1 The Village of Hommlet. I also got a chance to go over the play by post  Basic Dungeons & Dragon's T1 Village of Hommlet game from 2011 on Board Game Geek.

Clark Ashton Zmith's Zothique & Hyperborea cycle are key I think to placing the T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil within Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition. AS&SH's second edition is in my opinion superior to the first but not necessary to understand the relationship that the Elemental Evil cult & religion's impact on Hyperborea is going to have. All things natural & para natural have their alien seasons in cosmic history within CAS's work. This is spelled out in Coming of the White Worm, The (1941) from the Hyperborean cycle. Zothique's setting takes this theme further & spells it out with the rise & falling of eons of empires millions of years into Earth's future. AS&SH's Hyperborea was wretched from 'Old Earth' a very long time ago & its only now that elements are settling down. Pyromancers tap the elemental chaos of fire & cryomancers the structure & law of the eternal  as the druids tap into the whole of Hyperborea's very alien soul. 

The cult of the Elemental evil is an alien perversion brought to the shores of Hyperborea & it would cause warfare among almost every community it touched. Drexlorn's Temple of Elemental Evil Research Project on Dragon's has a huge number of free resources that can be used to flesh out such a war campaign in AS&SH & beyond. 

 T1 village of Hommlet needs to be placed far enough away from the Hyperborean capital so that events of T1-4 are not directly under the purview of the royals of crown. This is where B2 Keep of the Borderlands comes in. B2 is the 'adventure opener' for a warfare campaign. The elemental evil cult can't get a hold on the interior lands of Hyperborea. The thing is a perversion from the ancient days of 'old Earth'. The cult is a source of demonism in Hyperborea but more then that. CAS's Zothique goes into why from a letter to  L. Sprague de Camp, dated November 3, 1953: ; "The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days."  The elemental evil religion is a hate of old before the Ragnarok of the gods & the Green Death of AS&SH. If the elemental evil cult flourishes again then perhaps Ragnarok will flourish again;
"Brothers will fight
and kill each other,
sisters' children
will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
whoredom rife
—an axe age, a sword age
—shields are riven—
a wind age, a wolf age—
before the world goes headlong.
No man will have
mercy on another"
The Ragnorock I speak of in my campaign of AS&SH isn't simply the Norse mythology but the death of many of Earth's gods. The ending of modern civilization & the beginning of the Hyperborean empire perhaps with the rise of the Cthulhu entities & many alien 'others'.

Then the Awful Fight Began (depiction by George Wright, 1908)

The dimensional thresholds & barriers of 'old earth' were torn asunder & war with the gods had come home. These occult barriers are still cheese cloth on Zothique & Hyperborea. In

the introduction to Tales of Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith, edited by Will Murray and Steve Behrends, and published by Necronomicon Press this very subject is addressed;
"Smith had already created Averoigne, Poseidonis, and Hyperborea, and was looking past the pages of Weird Tales toward the day his work would appear in book form. Writing H. P. Lovecraft around this time, he expanded upon his initial concept and for the first time evoked the name Zothique—although he seemed to waver on the final selection:
It would be nice (if ever I get to the book-cover stage) to publish a separate volume of tales under some such title as The Book of Hyperborea. This primal continent seems to have been particularly subject to incursions of "outsideness"—more so, in fact, than any of the other continents and terrene realms that lie behind us in the time-stream. But I have heard it hinted in certain obscure and arcanic prophecies that the far-future continent called Gnydron by some and Zothique by others, which will rise millions of years hence in what is now the South Atlantic, will surpass even Hyperborea in . . . incursions of "outsideness" . . . and will witness the intrusion of Things from galaxies not yet visible; and worse than this, a hideously chaotic breaking-down of dimensional barriers which will leave parts of our world in other dimensions, and vice versa. When things get to that stage, there will be no telling where even the briefest journey or morning stroll might end. The conditions will shift, too; so there will be no possibility of charting them and thus knowing when or where one might step off into the unknown."

 This isn't an idle boast as the energies of these "incursions of "outsideness"" have formed the basis for a tidal wave of horror & worse on Hyperborea & 'old Earth'. Now the dawning of the drums of war have begun again on Hyperborea & not since the days of the Green Death has talk around the camp fires been stark & cold with the violence of warfare.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Beyond B2 The Keep On The Borderlands - OSR Adventure Commentary & More Free OSR Resources

I'm always interested in different takes on classic TSR era modules especially B2 Keep On The Borderlands By Gary Gygax. There's something about its design & writing that echoes post warfare era of the module where the tides of war are coming back to the shores  of the keep itself. Its my belief that the keep location is the source of the ripple in the pond of war with T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil.

Combing through some of the OSR  resources for B2 I came across a review that James Raggi IV did called
Against The Giants The Keep On The Borderlands. In the review he's got a very interesting break down of magic items found within the keep & outside of it;
"There are 69 magical items found in Keep on the Borderlands.

(probably a few more, I likely missed a couple... bundles of magic arrows count as 1 item, as do scrolls no matter how many spells are on a particular scroll... and not counting all those amulets of turning resistance and protection from good medallions which would add dozens more to the number)

Even for a near half-dozen sessions of play, that's a fucking lot for what is assumed to be the start of a long term campaign, isn't it?

But that number doesn't begin to describe the situation.

The majority of the permanent (non-scroll/potion) magic items are in the Keep itself! Sure, that cuts down significantly on the amount of items the PCs are expected to gain for themselves, but what the hell? "

Why should there be so many magic items & why the incredible number of humanoid forces in the Caves of Chaos? Because B2 was a sandbox of the highest order & Mr.Gygax wasn't into hand holding but there could be more to it then that. The keep & its environs have seen countless battles, skirmishes, & flat out pieces of warfare.
If you don't believe me check out this commentary piece by the B/X Blackrazor blog; "

B2’s title is NOT “The Caves of Chaos.” It is THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS. Obviously, the Keep IS the target. 
This explains the detailed key of the Keep, front and center to the module. The main “dungeon” is the Keep, a well-detailed, site-based adventure. Everything else is an afterthought. What’s the next section to the module after the Keep? "
The Keep On The Borderland map kit over on Dragon's  only strengthens my own resolve on this old school issue. A sandbox & warfare adventure location with a complete feel for the keep & its surroundings. There's a sense of isolation & dread about B2 that friends have made a comparison to the isolated lone frontier location in a 50's Western film when the natives are closing in.

"He was concerned only with the naked fundamentals of life. The warm intimacies of small, kindly things, the sentiments and delicious trivialities that make up so much of civilized men's lives were meaningless to him. A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs. Bloodshed and violence and savagery were the natural elements of the life Conan knew; he could not, and would never, understand the little things that are so dear to civilized men and women."
Robert Howard Beyond the Black River (1935)

B2 Keep of The Borderland has always reminded me of Robert Howard's Beyond the Black River written in 1935. It reminds me of the novella because I kept expecting to find other ruined keeps scattered along the borders of a wide wilderness. A wilderness whose time has come & swallowed up whole the remains of civilization long past its prime but whose evil cults & influence continues to rise again. The
B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands" index has a ton of free resources & OSR commentary that can really help to customize & flesh out B2 for your own home table.

The Zenopus Archives site has some excellent free OSR resources on it for fleshing out & using B2 Keep on the Borderlands for a home game.
I've gotten spoiled using many of the OSR resources on the internet for B2. I'm going to be employing the module background fairly soon in my own home game & wanted to share these same resources with you my readers. Yes this is going to be warfare & take over game with the temple of elemental evil marshaling its forces from the depths of the wilderness!  Chaos is on the move and about to take over everything if they can get away with this!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review & Commentary On The Free OSR Adventure Resource - ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos by Joseph Moar For Your Old School Campaigns

I'm eternally on the look out for ways of getting the maximum utility out of classic old school modules. Is it because I'm a cheap or shabby gamer? Well in fact no I'm not a gamer at all but an OSR  hobbyist. What's the difference? The hobbyist is always looking to expand the hobby & the gamer is always in the middle of the infinite sea of play & product that washes around the shoals of the whole affair. Which brings me to today's free download, it was only just yesterday that I mentioned Night's Dark Terror, T1 The Village of Hommlet, B2 Keep of the Borderlands & T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil.

While doing some research on Dragon's I happened across an adventure for PC's levels two through four. The set up is simple, after clearing out the dungeons of B2 Keep Of The Borderlands the action isn't done. The priests of Chaos are in full effect in the free adventure continuation of Keep, ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos by Joseph Moar.  Clocking in at forty three pages this module is a perfect adventure extension for B2.  There's a lot of Sword & Sorcery action with Gnolls, lizardmen, zombies & worse out to rip the faces off of your PC's.

So what's the story with the cover having the classic demon idol from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook on the adventure cover? Well its more then simply an old school  homage in this adventure;
"In this module the “priests of chaos” have returned. Now they have their own temple. I
am also ripping off the lovely demon idol  temple from the cover of the PHB. This idol I have determined is of a god of chaos named Simaru. Simaru is a chaotic evil deity devoted to murder and mayhem. Many
creatures have been converted to worship this new demigod and some of them are neutral in the Monster Manual. Naturally the priests are out to convert new members to this new demigod and are conducting ritual
sacrifices and other atrocities in order to satisfy their new god, gain power, spells, and
otherwise cause chaos in the land."
The interesting part is that while this is an extension of the original adventure module  principal plot its got its own vibe that runs the entire OSR course of the adventure.  There's a good chance that working their way through ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos one or more player's PC's are going to die.

There are several reasons why
ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos works hard at charting its own OSR path;
  1. The adventure itself isn't merely an extension of B2 Keep of The Borderlands. This is a wholly separate adventure with its own adventure path squeezed into forty three pages. 
  2. The maps & cartography are not at all bad for a free adventure. There's more then enough dungeon in here to act as a campaign stepping stone for a retroclone game system. 
  3. The monsters & NPC's are very dangerous although in keeping with the vibe of B2 they are still very dangerous & shouldn't at all be underestimated. 
  4. The treasure level is right in keeping with the solid construction of its source material. 
  5. I can see using this module with both classic AD&D systems & OSR foundation retroclones such as the Advanced Edition Companion (Labyrinth Lord), Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition, even the Basic Fantasy rpg 
  6. I can also see  ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos  being the jump off point for an OSR campaign unto itself. 
I can even see ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos  being a perfect insert into a mixed David A. Hargrave Arduin Grimoire. All of the heavy lifting has already been done with the other adventures in the Arduin line of products. There's just enough material in ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos to suggest that this adventure could be used as an unorthodox introduction for another OSR setting such as Dark Albion. Hear me out here folks. The fact is that with a quick fitting of B2 Keep On the Borderlands into the world of Albion on the edges of civilized Europe.

ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos makes the plight of the priests of chaos all the more desperate & dangerous. The adventure has lot to offer to advance along the state of degeneration happening throughout the political system of Albion & Europe. The temple is at the very edge of Albion's reality & the chaotic horror of a pagan laden Fairyland. Make no mistake
ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos is going to be a very dangerous adventure to drop Lion & Dragon or Dark Albion adventurers into the mix of play.  The fact is that the conversion charts in the back of Dark Albion should make using ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos
with Dark Albion's setting a snap. The dungeon master is going to have to adapt overcome the placement of the adventure within the bounds of Europe. For myself, I'd place ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos right on the borders of Bohemia & the rest of the Eastern European countries. The bastardized version of the 'Old Faith' of the  priests of chaos is a welcome weird twist on the usual dungeons & dragons fare.  I do hearlity recommend
ZA1: The Temple Of Chaos  for down load by the OSR dungeon masters looking for an adventure that is simple of use, easy to drop into existing adventure campaigns, & very well put together for a free adventure package.

ZA1: The Temple Of ChaosFrom Here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Some OSR Thoughts On Using B10 Night's Dark Terror, B2 Keep On The Borderland, & T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil As The Basis For A Campaign In Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition

Barely one day's march from Kelven, the uncharted tracts of the Dymrak forest conceal horrors enough to freeze the blood of civilized folk. Those who have ventured there tell how death comes quick to the unwary - for the woods at night are far worse than any dungeon.

But you are adventurers, veterans of many battles, and the call of the will is strong. Will you answer the call, or are you afraid of the dark terrors of the night?

I've had one of those days where I speak to a friend & then we have a go around about a favorite module or two. In this case going over the merits of using Night's Dark Terror as a warm up to the T1The Village of Hommlet & Temple of Elemental Evil.
There are a variety of reasons for this for this but it really gives the PC's a chance to get a first hand nip in the hand with some of the humanoids infesting the wilderness around the Temple. This whole affair will take the PC's from first & beyond the ladder. B10 Night's Dark Terror has a weird sort of Slavic/Russian feel to it & with a bit of flavor tweaking it can be made into a killer Clark Ashton  background piece for the low land forests of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Harry the PC's trail & give the PC's no time to think about things too closely just outside of the forests near the ruins of the ruined Hyperborean capital.

The tension between the Old Faith & the new in the village takes on a whole new aspect especially given the position of Druids on Hyperborea. This links up with the humanoid raids happening in the surrounding countryside. Then the adventure events  could shift over to B2 Keep On The Borderlands with the monster generators going full blast.

The country folk having only a bit of an insight as to how far events have gone in the past few months & with the ruins of B10 having come back on line the pulpy weirdness cranks up to eleven. Duality of  the Old Faith (druidical) and the New Faith (St Cuthbert) dialing in on the village & the surroundings speak volumes of the corruption bubbling just over in the Moathouse & the tunnels leading into the  temple itself.

This AS&SH's Hyperborea where the remains & ruins of the old world are always two steps away & the quasi IndoEuropean flavor is going to more then a little implied. This is the far end of the spectrum of Earth's former future here & the flavor is dark, gritty, & pulpy. The implications of the fixed locales & adventure events with a multi-episodic structure of B10 Night's Dark Terror suggests the almost dream like fairy tale quality of the adventure.

This basically means that the PC's are going to be dragged through the back end of the wilderness via the various humanoid menaces of the adventure. They're going to need the base of the Keep of the Borderland or village of Hommlet.
Let's quickly talk about the moat house location outpost of the Temple of Elemental Evil which is only two miles from the temple proper. This is a very dangerous & pulpy dungeon location extension & its purely Gary Gygax dungeon design in & out. The place reeks of the seedy, decayed nature of the temple's base evil & purely pagan religion.
This also gives the PC's an opportunity to be murdered by two of my favorite B/X & AS&SH monsters that seldom get mentioned let alone for players to expect. Vampires & werewolves fit the back bone Russian/Eastern European vibe of the B2/B10/ T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil campaign vibe.

Werewolf artwork from the AS&SH rule book & here.

What about B2 The Keep On The Borderlands? Suddenly everything about the place becomes key to maintaining the security of the backwater kingdoms of Hommlet & the surrounding countryside. Does the temple of Elemental Evil hook into the underworld of Underborea? Sure it does because its very nature demands it. The ancient Hutaakans and the Iron Ring slavers are simply an extension of the factions introduced in the Keep & Village. All together forming a union of Chaos & dark forces decisiveness that could bring the whole capital of Hyperborea to its very knees!

Lareth the Beautiful is serving far more then one demonic spider mistress & he has deeper connections to the various spider gods of Underborea. His mythos connections might be far more deep & abiding then the PC's realize especially if he's recast in AS&SH. Could this NPC be an envoy for the faith of the upstart spider demoness Lolth on the distant shores of Hyperborea?

There are some guidelines to help take the dungeon master along the Hyperborea flavor of this weird Sword & Sorcery combination;
  • Let the fighters have a bit of a wider range of weaponry especially from AS&SH to give it that Hyperborean flavor
  • Give wizards & magic users the widest possible range of minor magics from AD&D 1st edition including cantrips and the like at least till they get to third level then let the patrons begin from AS&SH.
  • Clerics should have their gods at their shoulders because of the evils of the temple. They're going to be reactive, proactive, and frankly on edge because of the stakes of the temple's evil
  • Hirelings & mercenaries should be a mix of  AS&SH  &  Greyhawk types to show the dimensional instabilities and gate effects of the temples 
  • Don't be afraid to use Greyhawk deities as patrons in the classic DCC & ASSH style with lots of weird wrinkles on them. Use DCC magic rules here. Imagine Luz as a patron!? Why would he do that well because he's a dirty double dealing floor flusher of the highest order and he'll turn on his fellow gods in a black cold heart beat.
  • AS&SH witches can come in very handy under certain circumstances and a party should have one. They make excellent additions to an adventuring party. 
  • Feel free to incorporate the various AS&SH second edition  PC types with all of the bells and whistles intact. The adventure of Temple of  Elemental Evil 's elements will indeed set the tone and background as needed. From traps to major NPC's its all their waiting to take PC's up the long ladder from first through their ending levels.
Why would the T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil be involved with the far shores of Hyperborea? In a word, the high stakes occult powers dwelling under the dungeons of the temple & its ley lines of power in Hyperborea. The fact is that many of the factions of Hyperborea both alive & dead are interested in clawing their way back up the long ladder of royal power including the royal dead of the various Hyperborean lines. While their gone they have not forgotten the taste of power or glory.

Something no one ever talks about is the ambitions of the gods of Greyhawk. These are not static deities & powers here & they desire more worshipers & power always. Theses include the dark gods of Greyhawk & I can easily see the various cults taking a hold of & rooting their rotten way into Hyperborea. This can easily be all of the motivation for the PC's to kick them out of the setting once again.