Monday, January 27, 2020

Delving Deeper With Chainsaw - The 'Lost Treasures of Atlantis' For The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg line Interview

"In the far reaches of Hyperborea’s Crab Archipelago lies a small, mountainous island known as Crystal Point. Passing sailors recently have witnessed a crimson glow in Crystal Point’s waters and beams of russet light shining up from its steep cliffs. Too, unusually frequent lightning storms in the area have torn the sky in blinding flashes, shattering the air with their awesome sound. The seedy wharf taverns of Khromarium and elsewhere buzz with these strange tales—some even speculate that Crystal Point may hold the lost treasure of Atlantis!
'Lost Treasures of Atlantis'
The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg
 is available right here. 

Recently Swords & Stitchery did a mail call & review of  'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' By Chainsaw   for The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg. But for our readers that's not enough to satisfy us at Swords & Stitchery. We wanted to go beyond the module & get to know the author & designer Chainsaw. So we delve deeper into the author & designer today. 
Q: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with Swords & Stitchery.
A: Sure, happy to chat.

Q: How did you start with Dungeons & Dragons & how long have you been professionally writing as well as designing under the Chainsaw nom de plume?
A: First played in the early 90s, when my super-cool grandmother bought me a Basic set. Loved it and quickly moved to AD&D and ran games for my friends for years. We couldn't make heads or tails of the TSR modules of the time, so we always used homebrew materials. I took a break during college and in my 20s, then picked up again when my good friend capitalbill started running an OD&D game with S&W. Eventually I started up an AD&D game and then began running AD&D/AS&SH events at NTRPG Con and Gary Con.

Atlantis was my first effort at a published dungeon, though it released after my other credit, Brazen Bull (in Rats in the Walls and Other Perils). I decided to write under Chainsaw because that's how I'm known on the forums and at the conventions. 

Q: The obvious question to begin. How did you develop 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea?
A: I had an idea in early 2015 for a complex dungeon on an island, effectively a "mini mega-dungeon," then spent most of 2015 bouncing between mapping, keying and writing. Lots of times I'd end up revising earlier decisions, especially as I playtested (2016-2018) and saw what worked and what didn't.

Q: You've run  'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' well over a hundred times now. How does your module differ from some of the other OSR Sword & Sorcery modules on the market? 
A: Well, not quite *that* many times, but I have run it 16 times for 100+ people, which still gave me tons of great insight into
how to make improvements.

As for how it differs from other modules, I really can't say. I generally don't read a module unless I'm running it and what I have run has been designed by well-regarded names, so I'm hoping their strengths have rubbed off on me! 

Q: How did you find running 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis?' & what were some of the pit falls?
A: I enjoyed it because the dungeon's non-linearity, distinct-feeling levels and high interactivity kept it interesting - every party brought new situations for me. Of course, the price of admission there is that you have to prepare really well. You can't assume the party enters a certain way and then proceeds a certain way when there are multiple entrances to the levels and connections between the levels. It puts many, many rooms within striking distance. You never know how it'll go down!

As for the pitfalls of running it, apart from the design requiring a good command of the material, it was also much too large for a single four- or six-hour convention session. I addressed this problem by creating some mini-quests tied to certain areas. This gave the groups some direction and a sense of accomplishment despite not being able to explore the location fully. My play testers loved it - some even signed up for a second game so they could see what they'd missed. Even that failed to cover all of the material though. It's a big place.

Q: You've been highly active in the AS&SH rpg community & one of the most vocal fans of the AS&SH  game over the years how did this help you at conventions to run the module?
A: Tremendously! There's a great group of friends at the Hyperborea and Knights and Knaves Alehouse forums that regularly attend NTRPG Con and Gary Con. It's easy to coordinate on- and off-grid games with people who appreciate what you're doing.

Q: This module seems to be a cut above some other OSR modules that I've seen over the years how long was 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' in development & how did this change the direction of the adventure when it first started?
A: I had the idea in early 2015, spent most of that year mapping, keying and writing, then play tested from 2016-2018, always being sure to revise it based on what worked. These changes were usually smaller things that made a room or situation clearer, more interactive or more interesting. The main concepts and maps didn't change too much. I finally turned in my word doc draft in mid-2019 and then NWA began their additions, editing, layout and certain other aspects of production.

Q: How is the 'lethality factor' of 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' in your opinion compared with other OSR modules?
A: The groups that relied on brute force (e.g., kicking down doors) usually fared the worst, which was my goal. I think higher-level modules should challenge players to rely on more than their battle skills - to interact cleverly with intelligent creatures, exploit utility spells wisely, gather information, have good plans, etc. Anyway, I think we only had two or three TPKs, but there were a lot of one-off deaths. Someone probably died at least every session! We're also talking con games though, where people sometimes throw caution to the wind, especially toward the end of a session. Hard to say how it compares with other modules because I don't read many modules.

Q: 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' adds even more to the world of Hyperborea setting  & really cranks up the 'alieness' & otherworldly aspect. How does your home campaign of Hyperborea differ from the 'official' AS&SH Hyperborea?
A: I don't have a home campaign at the moment, though I've run a couple of good, but relatively short, AS&SH Roll20 campaigns (10-15 sessions) over past few years. I would say that those two campaigns were pretty well grounded in Hyperborea. Remember though, one of the setting's strengths is that it hints at things and lets you fill in the blanks.

Q: Do you see yourself returning to the world setting of Hyperborea in the future for other projects?
A: Maybe! It's a great setting for me because it's rooted in pulp, which tends to be pretty varied and flexible.

Q: How did you find working with the North Wind Adventure crew? 
A: Consummate professionals. 

Q: On average what's your favorite amount of players for a module like 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' and how long should in your opinion this adventure take to go through? 
A: I prefer games of 4-6 players, regardless of module. At the cons, I'll sometimes run tables of 8-10 so that I can accommodate friends, but these games usually wind up a bit too slow for my tastes. As for how long it might take, hard to say. Groups vary greatly. There's at least a session of material in the town and at least three sessions on the island, so maybe four for a really efficient group.

Q: Do you have a love of Swords & Sorcery or High Fantasy literature or Appendix N material? If so do you feel that this helped you to achieve a greater scope for 'Lost Treasure of Atlantis?' 
A: Hmmm... Frank Frazetta, Karl E. Wagner (Kane), Clark Ashton Smith (Hyperborea), Vance (Eyes of the Overworld), Burroughs (Barsoom) and Tolkien... but I also love He-Man, Thundarr, Scooby-Doo, Alien(s), Apocalypse Now, Clash of the Titans, Conan, Goonies, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, The Road Warrior, Star Wars (IV-VI) and lots of metal music, 8-bit NES games and other horror, post-apoc, sci-fi and western movies. I kitchen sink it, man. No inspiration off limits.

Q: Overall are you pleased with the final  'Lost Treasure of Atlantis' module or do you find yourself looking over your play & campaign notes thinking that there's even more adventures within the 'Crystal point' area of Hyperborea?
A: There's always more to be had, right? I could see adventures liberating slaves from crab-man copper mines, assassinating crab-man leaders at an undersea military complex or even chasing them off-world to Poseidenos, for example. There are also springboards to Underborea, of course. So, lots of potential!

Q: And what are your future OSR endeavors coming up? You've got the floor so plug away! 
A: Ha! Thanks. I'm working on a new volcano dungeon (for OSRIC), similar in scope to Atlantis (maybe a little bigger). Planning to play test it this summer at NTRPG Con. Speaking of which, I should probably go work on it now!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us at Swords & Stitchery & yeah you'd better get back to work now..
AS&SH art by Mick Fernette

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Dragon in the Ointment - Godbound/Cha'alt Play Session Recap Part II

Things got a little weirder in my on going  Cha'alt/Godbound Rpg game!
Well, sometimes players love to throw a spanner into the works using one of  my wife's idioms! The players seized on one small aspect of our play sessions from about a month ago. This bloomed into an entire night of campaign catch up & play! So the wizard & his war machine ala Thundar The Barbarian is now going to attack the city state of the dragon! The players took one small adventure  thread & completely ran with it! And we played it out!

My players instead spent the night gathering information on the supply trains coming into Fort Hope from Rex Harenae Crawler In Toxix (King Sand Crawler The Toxic). They had encounters with the refugee train & found out about the Dryadale raiders who attacked & completely decimated the train! Rex Harenae's son Count Eul' Zu is a dragon born straight outta of  Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu by  Omer Joel, & Alexander Macris.

Now the party is on a supply train running straight into the den of the dragon. The party is gonna be riding shot gun & watching for raiders who are gonna be coming straight from the random tables of Cha'alt itself. But I've got a few tricks up my sleeves these days thanks to Venger Satanis & Jeff Talanian. There are several Hyperborean mercenary factions already operating inside the city state of Rex Harenae Crawler In Toxix .

But its gonna be the a bit of a sort of megadungeon when I begin to design out the mega dungeon city of the serpent men that the dragon king has settled into. For this I was reading through A Paladin in Citadel's blog post on Dungeon Module D1: Descent Into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax. I pulled out my copy of the classic module & began to thumb through & he's right! Let me summerize;"This post really needs to be subtitled "A Megadungeon Template."  I say that because the Drow module series is the best example I can find of a TSR-published adventure that provides the sort of megadungeon I would want to run."  I read through D1 & he's utterly right but this quick reread got me thinking about one of my all time favorite ACK's modules the ACK's version of  

I've decided to locate my campaign's version of 
Dwimmermount down in South America specifically in Argentina. The German like town of Muntburg situated itself right into the mountain plateau towns. As the megadungeon wound its reality into the surrounding underground & underworld. The whole of the country is experiencing a bit of a gold rush with its appearance. Powerful factions within the dungeon have been out maneuvering the Hyperborean influence within South America & Mexico. These are not simply mega dungeons but fully functioning power houses unto themselves! 

They know about the dark influence of Zoth &  xanthium-183. These dark beings are playing a very dangerous game as Cha'alt wave pulses & circles the Earth. Its EMP effects continue to play havoc with the Earth's technologies sending the Earth's technologies into the early Nineteenth century. Another mega dungeon that I'm thinking of pulling out is  ASE1: Anomalous Subsurface Environment By Patrick Wetmore . This mega dungeon could easily be somehow attached to Dwimmermount via teleportation pods or the like. I've had a ton of experience running   ASE1: Anomalous Subsurface Environment By Patrick Wetmore  & it seems perfectly suited for this campaign! 

All of this is gonna tie back into me using the ACK's  Heroic Fantasy  Handbook for many of the monster templates to give the level of violence & OSR weirdness that's been happening in this campaign! I personally blame Venger Satanis for this!

More coming up soon & I'm gonna go into how Cha'alt & ACK's play with one another! 

Review & Commentary On AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity by Newton Grant & Alexander Macris For The Adventurer,Conqueror, King Rpg & Your OSR Campaigns

"Cyfaraun is a city of ancient lineage. The name itself is an Auran corruption of its original elven name, Cyfarawn. Evidence of elven construction is still visible in the city’s oldest district, today called Old Cyfaraun. Many city residents know that Old Cyfaraun was founded atop an earlier settlement – Ancient Cyfaraun, buried by cataclysmic ashes over 500 years ago.
Only the most illustrious sages are aware that the Ancient City was itself built over an even deeper ruin, a Forgotten Cyfaraun, a city brought low by an earthquake almost 2,000 years ago. Forgotten Cyfaraun was reduced to rubble but its lasting legacy is a hidden Nethercity, a treacherous place of twisting tunnels, dusty catacombs, and black, volcanic caves that waits, forgotten and unplumbed - until now…"

There are times when you look at your pile of books & one slips through the cracks. That's happened with 
AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity by Newton Grant & Alexander Macris. And yet this is in my opinion one of the most vital adventurer,Conqueror,King rpg books to come out. Why?! Because this book fills in many of the cracks & take downs I've heard from gamers regarding the ACK's official campaign setting found in the Auran Empire Primer. Namely that there's not enough adventure opportunities & dungeon fodder in the book. This is complete nonsense of course. AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity by Newton Grant & Alexander Macris fills in many of the campaign gaps in the official setting with a kilo dungeon & lots of nasty history hinted at in  the Auran Empire Primer.  This is not a nice place for adventurers to go! Given the history & adventure material found within AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity. Its little wonder that the book was meant to bring  characters from 3rd to 8th level of experience. This is one nasty book filled with twenty interlocking adventure locations that make up the AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity.  The cartography by Dyson Logos and Simon Forster are on point along with the  layout are top notch

AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity has a ton of PC options for ACK's & adds a layer of optional add on's to the world history of  the Auran Empire Primer. The  PC's can add  the Elven Cultist, Elven Hierophant, Elven Warlord, and Elven Wizard to an adventurer party. This fits right in with the history of  the Auran Empire . The monsters in AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity by Newton Grant & Alexander Macris  are really nasty & written for the level of  ACK's The Heroic Fantasy Handbook. The  Faewyrd, Incarnation of Terror, and chaos backed horrors  are primed for cross breeding. This ties right into the ACK's adventure AX4: Ruined City of Cyfandir. 

This world campaign commitment echoes itself in 
the city of Cyfaraun which is perfect  for use by your adventurers in between dungeon delves. This ties in with B2 Keep of the Borderland By Gary Gygax & many other classic B/X Dungeons & Dragons adventures. What separates AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity from other OSR resources is that its a dungeon book with player  possibilities for domain play & the sheer volume of OSR play weirdness that's in the book. 

If your an ACK's dungeon master 
AX2: Secrets of the Nethercity by Newton Grant & Alexander Macris is in my opinion this is an essential & absolute solid adventure resource. Here we have absolutely solid adventure resource book which will keep the players on their toes for years to come or destroy the PC's utterly. 

X2: Secrets of the Nethercity by
 Newton Grant & Alexander Macris
Is Available
Right Here  

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mail Call & Review & Commentary On 'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' By Chainsaw For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

"In the far reaches of Hyperborea’s Crab Archipelago lies a small, mountainous island known as Crystal Point. Passing sailors recently have witnessed a crimson glow in Crystal Point’s waters and beams of russet light shining up from its steep cliffs. Too, unusually frequent lightning storms in the area have torn the sky in blinding flashes, shattering the air with their awesome sound. The seedy wharf taverns of Khromarium and elsewhere buzz with these strange tales—some even speculate that Crystal Point may hold the lost treasure of Atlantis! "

I count myself very lucky indeed because I maintain fantastic friendships with some incredible authors of the OSR & old school gaming. Today's Sword & Sorcery mail call comes in from Chainsaw himself the author of Lost Treasures of Atlantis  for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg. 

Now 'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' by Chainsaw  is one of those AS&SH adventures that has many of the hall marks of AS&SH quality adventures. Solid writing & design by the module's author, really nice layout, cartography by Glynn Seal Monkey Blood Design  clocking in at sixty four pages of Sword & Sorcery Hyperborean OSR weirdness. This is a solid module done with care & eye towards really pulling the PC's into the adventure's heart & action.

Check out the quality of the binding & the paper for 'Lost Treasures of Atlantis'.

The module places the PC's within the fully fleshed out  VILLAGE of KREN-FAK & its Esquimaux crab-kin which  indicates that your party of adventurers isn't in Kansas anymore especially the village descriptions;
 "The Esquimaux crab-kin of this village, located a few days from Crystal Point, dye their skin red to resemble their crab-man masters. They also adorn themselves in chitinous titivations. When not raiding Pictish crab-kin villages toward the base of the Crab Archipelago, the locals fish, whale, and oversee slaves in copper mines on the nearby islands. The villagers view travellers suspiciously, but they will tolerate visitors so long as the strangers bring goods to trade, tributes for the crab-men, or important news."
This village is an important start point where the party is going to pick up supplies, rumors, hireling, and perhaps even replacement party members! 'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis'  is a fully fleshed out adventure & geared for the far reaches of Hyperborea’s Crab Archipelago.  The whole adventure is for   four to six characters of 6th through 8th level. I want to stress that this is the case! PC's are gonna half to watch their step in  KREN-FAK  with its Esquimaux crab-kin inhabitants.
The ocean voyage to Crystal point is dangerous as it gets;"The voyage to Crystal Point is fraught with peril, island hopping the ocean reaches of the Crab Archipelago. Following the ancient Esquimaux bearing, worthy sea vessels at length will enter the tempestuous zone known as River Okeanos, located betwixt the 18th and 36th parallels. Here the winds flow in opposing belts, looping and crisscrossing at different junctures depending on seasons and other conditions. In Tempest (Year 4, Hare), River Okeanos is plagued by deadly whirlpools. Sea ice forms from Coda (Year 12, Fox) to Genesis (Year 1, Bear), and icebergs are a constant threat7 . Veteran mariners (viz. Amazons, Ixians, Vikings, and Zangeriosans) understand the River Okeanos and use its wuthering airstreams to their advantage. Less realized is the capability of Esquimaux seamen who ply this deadly zone in their umiaks, outfitted with outboard runners"
If your running the  'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis'  don't take the oceans of Hyperborea lightly they can be deadly. The random encounters add an extra element of action & complete danger to the affair.
The colours on the module covers is eye popping & vibrant! The artwork & the  paper of solid quality!

Note that this will be happening to your PC's & don't screw with the crabmen!

Crystal Point itself is a study in Hyperborean dungeon design & deadliness with the PC's coming into the action like something out of a Ray Harryhausen movie. 
'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' switches up the Lovecraftian action on 'eleven' & then breaks off the knob with the PC's encountering ruined temples, random NPC's with ties to other dangerous factions of Crystal Point, and adventure elements surrounding the mystery of the isolated & insane location. I mean this in a good way.

Yes my copy of the 'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' 
came with the awesome book marks!

'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis'  is both a sandbox, & location based adventure with lots of weird & some tragic NPC's who are going to cross the PC's path. The adventure material here is solidly strange with PC's running across a temple of  Shub Niggurath & throughout module we see the strange influence & domination  of the AS&SH Crabmen. These beings are strange, alien, unsettling, & very dangerous to the PC's life!

AS&SH art by Mick Fernette
'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis'  is a nasty little dungeon delve & Hyperborean hoe down as Chain Saw amps up the weird to Lovecraftian levels again & again. The adventure  environs here are going to be very memorable & highly dangerous to the party! Around every corner is another shock & surprise I'm not kidding.
I don't wanna spoil the surprises but 'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis'  is gonna take a lot of thinking on the player's end & its gonna take whole lot guts, guile, intelligence, & roll playing to get past some of this adventure's obstacles! I mean this in a good way! The PC's are gonna be in way,way, over their heads very quickly. 

The room descriptions, the magic item artwork, the twists & Lovcraftian turns, all added to by the editing of  David Prata with Chainsaws writing as well as his design make  'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' . All of this module is brought to life with the artistry of  Johnathan Bingham, Mick Fernette, David Hoskins, Diogo Nogueira, Glynn Seal, Del Teigeler, & Mike Tenebrae. Take into all of this & this is another five outta five in my estimation. 

I want to thank Jeffrey Talanian & the whole North Wind Adventures crew for bringing to life  'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' . But I wanna thank Chainsaw himself for sending these modules my way! I've got more to say about Otherworldly Tales adventures coming up so stay tuned!

'The Lost Treasures of Atlantis' By
 Chainsaw Module
 Is Available Right Here 

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Continuing Outer Realm War - Godbound/Cha'alt Play Session Recap

I'm picking up my first Godbound/Cha'alt  play session tonight & here's what's going on. I've got little time but the United States Military is fighting back with groups of salvaged Cha'alt robots & droids. The Cha'alt wave & planar pulses have caused an EMP. Only the alien equipment,guns, & swords are working. The world has been knocked back to the Nineteenth Century!
What the PC's don't know is the fact that a wizard is gonna bring in a war machine ala Thundarr The Barbarian down on the player's heads tonight! Fort Hope has been the site for the military's rebellion &  PC's having a dry dock for their equipment. But now a wizard is starting to move in & crush this pimple of resistence & the best way to do that is with a massive flying fortress!

The forces of the black pyramid have taken enough of these upstart humans! The gods of  Earth & their Hyperborean allies are tied up with evil  Elven forces from the Outer Realms! Causilties are high!


Meanwhile the players are dealing with trying to deal with the sporadic attacks of mutants & the occasional horde of zombies animated by the occult power of Cha'alt buffering against the Earth.

Can the player's PC's continue to save the humans against the trepidations of the slavers, raiders, & scavenger scum that shows up all of the time to feed on their own! Any fallen warriors that stumble by are soon stripped of all gear & weapons as the cycle continues.

Originally the party of adventurers were summoned to this Earth to be the heroes that were needed to turn the tide of the Cha'alt warp's incursion or is it invasion of California,Nevada, & Arizonia. But they've gotten bogged down with many of the monsters that have come through the warp unchecked. There were many other adventurers who were summoned to boaster the ranks of the gods! But many of these have taken to fighting among themselves!

Now all of this actually takes place with the fact that this Earth might be the 'Old Earth' of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea! The coming of the black pyramid & Cha'alt has awakened Lovecraftian forces of darkness who have slept deep in the hollows of the Earth since the sinking of R'lyeh.
Hyperborean forces have come rushing out of the edges of the Earth to retake what was originally theirs! But there are others who are opposed to their their breathen because the stars are not right!

Now add to all of this the fact that there are the slaver's forces  from the classic 
Against the Slave Lords  who are taking full advantage of the chaos to take slaves, make deals, & have been taking samples of xanthium-183 which has been showing up across the underworld of  United States & well California as we know it is a warzone of epic fantasy proporations! 

Note that my version of the classic Greyhawk is actually Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk with twists & turns within its history. With this campaign world setting I've used a good deal of AS&SH along with Adventurer, Conqueror, King's product line to build this & expand it out. Will the PC's survive?!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review & Commentary On 'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' By Jeffrey P. Talanian For The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

"Your party finds itself in the employ of Ragnarr the Sea-Wolf, a jarl of New Vinland and a reaver of old. His daughter, a shield-maiden named Gunnhildr, has been abducted by a brute called Bj√∂rn Blackbeard. During a desperate search, the Sea-Wolf crossed sails with a former rival, and from the blood-flecked lips of a dying foe, he learnt the location of Blackbeard’s stronghold. Now, deep in the misty fjords of Brigand’s Bay, where cutthroats, pirates, and freebooters thrive, you have been charged with liberating the Sea-Wolf’s daughter."

So I approached the author & designer of The Sea-Wolf's Daughter by Jeffrey P. Talanian who also happens to be the designer & writer of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system for a pdf copy of the adventure.  After a bit of poking & prodding & a few crossed wires the adventure arrived in my email box.

'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' by Jeffrey P. Talanian  puts the PC's into the Viking & mercenary underbelly of Hyperborea. Take one part Pulp Viking adventure romp add in lots of other worldly weirdness & you've got the makings of a higher end AS&SH module designed for PC's  from four to six characters of 7th through 9th level. This is a lethal party wipe of an adventure if the players are not careful. This is an upper level AS&SH module with all that that entails.
The encounters are harder, the enenmies nastier, & the setting is pure Robert E. Howard with a Lovecraftian Jack Kirby mix of high adventure. But the first part is pure AS&SH Viking & barbarian goodness with the PC's in the 
employ of Ragnarr the Sea-Wolf, a jarl of New Vinland. But its the adventure material around the events of 'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter'  that really sets this adventure off. What I mean is that which each & every module that comes out for AS&SH, the campaign as well as the game setting of Hyperborea is expanded upon a little more. In this adventure some of the NPC's that the party is gonna run across are just as dangerous if not more so then the monsters. Not that these are not deadly.
The layout, cartograhpy by Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design is on point, but some of the artwork is down right cool with talent the likes of 
Daisey BinghamJohnathan BinghamAndreas ClarenMick FernetteDavid HoskinsDiogo NoguieraGlynn SealVal SemeiksDel Teigeler, &  Mike Tenebrae.

AS&SH art by Diogo Nogueira

Its in the second half of the adventure where events turn into a 
Lovecraftian Jack Kirby adventure experience. The PC's come into conflict with some truly dire & utterly dangerous alien powers endemic to Hyperborea.  'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' takes on a life of its own as an adventure drawing the party into high level NPC situations that the players are not going to be expecting. Not only does this adventure draw the party of adventurers in with material, puzzles, & Hyperborean weirdness but like many other AS&SH modules  there's lots of adventure tidbits the DM can fold back in for other campaign adventures. Within  'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' there are  the hordes of NPC's, locations, personalities, monsters,etc. can be used in other Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventures when the events of the module conclude. So there's a ton of utility within the module I feel.

If you were to place 
'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' in an OSR AS&SH that was using classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules which series of classic modules might you as a dungeon master pair it with? Personally I'd use 'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' with the classic A1-4 The Scourage of the Slave Lords.

 One of the main NPC's within the module would make a formiable addition to the ranks of the Slavers allowing 'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter'  to be used as a side adventure. This would take years of play to come to pass but with a bit of Viking spit & Pulp barbarian  polish A1-4 The Scourage of the Slave Lords could take on an even harder Sword & Sorcery edge to complement  'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter'
Jeffrey P. Talanian brings his usual level of quality writing & clever design that we've seen in other adventures & modules within the AS&SH line. All in all I felt very excited to have my copy of the  'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter'  & I feel that it is not only a worth addition to the AS&SH fine family of products but one that I think you'll be glad to own. I think its worth a five out of five in my opinion because it maintains the level of quality & solid design that we've come to expect outta of North Wind Adventures.

You Can Purchase 
'The Sea-Wolf's Daughter' Right

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review & Commentary On AX3: Capital of the Borderlands By Alexander Macris & Newton Grant For The Adventurer, Conqueror,King Rpg System & Your OSR Game Systems

"The Borderlands has been contested throughout recorded history and its landscape is littered with ancient fortresses, blood-soaked battlefields, and dread ruins, all crumbling relics of the empires that once ruled there. Now the dangers facing the Borderlands are greater than ever. Monsters are slipping across the porous border to terrorize and plunder. Travel has grown perilous, and the border forts are becoming increasingly isolated and outmatched. The ambitious, bold, and greedy have begun to gather in Cyfaraun, ancient capital of the borderlands, seeking glory and gold.  There, criminal gangs battle for control of the streets and terrible evils lurk in the twisting tunnels, dusty catacombs, and black, volcanic caves that lie below…."

So I went to 
Autarch  & asked for a copy of AX3: Capital of the Borderlands just like I found it right in my email box. This is a fantastic addition to the ACK's line of books. Why? Because it has just the right amount of wilderness & urban adventure action! 

This book doesn't skimp on late Roman Empire style campaign action either. We've got a bit of everything here with fifty two points of wilderness campaign encounters. Let me give this context this means that the party is going to up to their ears in all kinds of issues. These are the Borderlands area of dispute,violence, & waiting opportunities for a party. This book has lots of options that bring the PC's the power they crave but it comes with a very dangerous series of prices. The realms and domains in the Borderlands are contested areas of adventure & danger all of this comes into the heading of two hundred & twenty  six pages. Yes the title is a homage to B2 Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax.
All of this is keeping with the template of 
AX1: The Sinister Stone of Sakkara contested areas that not only spark adventure but keep it going for years. Not only the does AX3: Capital of the Borderlands have a built in tool box but it does it with style. A dozen mini dungeons & 82 urban points of interest spread across 8 mapped city districts all fit the world setting of the Auran Empire Primer 
 but it has ACK's internal post Roman Empire dark fantasy asethetic. 

The layout & cartography of 
AX3: Capital of the Borderlands is some of the best I've seen. Easy on the eyes & very well laid out. The artwork is on par with many of the other ACK's titles & easily has some excellent resources within especially the dynamic city-building system which gives enough latitude for both villages & complete urban centers. I was really pleased with the over all feel here. This is the NPC, adventure encounters, urban & wilderness book that ACK's has been needing.
Watch out for the dungeons in this book! I'm not saying this lightly the the Shrine of the Horned Rat,the Catacombs of the Ancestors, and  the Death Cult Hideout are all really nasty business! Don't venture into these lightly with a small adventuring party make sure their well equipped! The AX3: Capital of the Borderlands book has more then enough material in it to add & drop it into an existing campaign or it could alternatively be used to bridge gap the classic B2 Keep on the Borderlands as a campaign extension for ACK's! 

If the keep on the borderlands is the further flung parts of the empire then 
AX3: Capital of the Borderlands is at its center offering more opportunities for the PC's to blunder into the world of domain play. AX3: Capital of the Borderlands takes this type of play into several directions & smashes the call of adventure into the PC's laps. The Imperial Vanguard NPC adventuring party is an especially obnoxious touch. 

There's lots of opportunity to get the party of adventurers into a heaps of trouble in AX3: Capital of the Borderlands. And I can also see using AX3: Capital of the Borderlands lots of other OSR game systems especially Castles & Crusades. Why do I say that? Because the asthetic would work very well & there's plenty of tools within to keep a campaign going for years.

Many of these art pieces are not from  AX3: Capital of the Borderlands but I couldn't get some of the artwork to transfer over to blogger. The artwork in AX3: Capital of the Borderlands is especially impressive & the art pieces by Michael Syrigos are especially good. 

Everything in  AX3: Capital of the Borderlands speaks volumes to the material that we've come to know & love in Adventurer,Conqeuror, King. Between the mini dungeons & the full on wilderness & urban tools this one is a must by for both the OSR & the ACK's fan!

AX3: Capital of the
 Borderlands is available right here

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

OSR Campaign Elements in Play & Transit - A Look At James Mishler & Jodi Moran-Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1

Keeping your head in this hobby means sometimes going the extra mile deeper down the rabbit hole that is B/X Dungeons & Dragons & its respective OSR clones. I've been looking & searching for different adventure element. Fortunely I've got a few OSR resources at my finger tips.

I was looking to James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1 to help iron out some of the more daunting campaign details. The Hercynian Grimoire has handy stats for both Castles & Crusades and Labyrinth Lord games. That means that not only can you sweep the floor with the information within for old school games but can use it for a wide variety of OSR systems as well.

There is a ton of OSR adventure elements that can be added into an on going or starting campaign. This means that there's room to add in elements or subtract depending upon the player's intent & the campaign direction and the contents reflect this:
Gnolls, the Hyena-Men
Gnoles, the Man-Beasts
D66 Ferocious Fighters
Spells Arcane and Occult
Spell Songs of Salamacine
D66 Fairies and Nymphs
Gnoll Tribe Generator
Magical Miscellanea
Monstrous Menagerie
   Hyena, Cave
   Lycanthrope, Werehyena
   Mandayan Nyumbanyama
      Ardhirengo “Small-Wings”
      Chinajinyama “Butcher-Beasts”
      Hewarengo “Sky-Wings”
      Kidolekuta “Finger-Nippers”
      Kuvutanyama “Dray-Beasts”
      Milimanyama “Mountain-Beasts”
      Mindajikuva “Hunter-Killers”
      Mudahatu “Long-Striders”
      Vitanyama “War-Beasts”
D666 Demonic and Devilish Traits
D66 Underworld Oddities
Olden Lands Preview: Alspadia
Olden Lands Preview: The Oldenwood
Olden Lands Preview: The Blood God

There's a lot of OSR material to unpack here but essentially many of the D66 Underworld Entities encounters, the were hyena, the gnoll PC classes, & some other elements are getting added into my on going Cha'alt/Godbound campaign. Gnolls & their humanoid scum cousins are some of the most dangerous monsters in the annals of Dungeons & Dragons. James does an excellent job with this book &  I especially love the write-ups on the gnoll culture - it really breathes life into an oft overlooked monster species, and makes them much more than mere cannon-fodder!

I've been doing a ton of rereading through the Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg books that I have & love the fact that the humanoid races take center stage as the bringers of Chaos in ACK's campaign setting. But why are you mentioning B/X D&D along with ACK's?! There's a very good break down of both ACK's & B/X on the Stack Exchange rpg site and there's an excellent break down done by RS Conley of Bat in the Attic blog fame; "
It's design is basically an expansion of B/X D&D.
It still has race as class but expands the number of racial classes into a section labeled Demi-Human Classes for example there is a Dwarven Vaultguard and a Dwarven CraftPriest.
It adds proficiencies which are skill and abilities mostly non-combat oriented. They represent something that the character is better at than a non-proficient person.
The heart of ACKS is the campaign section where the author add several subsystems that allow the character to impact the setting beyond the usual adventuring locales. These include
  • Magic Research
  • Ritual Spells
  • Constructs
  • Crossbreeds
  • Necromancy
  • Divine Power
  • Strongholds and Domains
  • Sanctums and Dungeons*
  • Mercantile Ventures
The treasure type system has been tweaked to work with the various assumptions on wealth and income outlined in the above subsystems." 
Right so not only does this allow the DM to have OSR game flow between OSR systems but allows the DM's favorite monsters far more range then they might be used to.

This basically puts the 
James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1  within the OSR  ball court of other OSR game systems such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Sword & Sorcery games such as AS&SH use traditional D&D style monsters such as the gnoll but with their own Pulp or Weird Tales style spin. This means that monsters can get quite weird under the fat  bloated red sun of Hyperborea.

Given the information within the Hercynian Grimoire #1 I'm going back to some of the information first presented on the Gnoll race in original Dungeons & Dragons; "The gnoll, as introduced in the earliest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, is the literary descendant of Lord Dunsany's "gnoles", who were clever, evil and non-human. In the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), gnolls are described thusly: "A cross between gnomes and trolls (...perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale. Otherwise, they are similar to hobgoblins..." But I'm going to be combining this will some of their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons monster & setting details;"The gnoll and flind appear first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[12] and are reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[13]

The flind is also detailed in Dragon #173 (September 1991), in "The Sociology of the Flind", a variation on the "Ecology of..." column.[14]
The gnoll and flind are detailed as playable character races in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993).[15] The gnoll and flind are later presented as playable character races again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995)"

In my version of Venger Satanis's Cha'alt setting the Gnolls are literally a transiant pack  species of humanoids that moves from planet to planet selling their services as mercenary warriors, bounty hunters, humanoid exterminators, & raiders. They do this while scoping out targets for later planetary raids & full blown invasions. This is done all the while they work for petty tyrants & interstellar warlords.

James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1  does is to add that little push of OSR goodness that campaign needs with adventure elements, memorable NPC's, OSR encounters and more. While not essential this is a really good resource to add into the dungeon master's tool chest of tricks & generators. This same tool box can also be used with Basic Dungeons & Dragons just as easily.