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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

OSR Commentary - Sound & Fury An Alternative Ecology For The Caterwaul From The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Fiend Folio

They are the stalkers from beyond furthermost gates of Fairyland, the caterwaul is a creature that comes straight out of Welsh myth. These creatures are said to have been a family of witches that crossed over into the deepest parts of the chaotic hell lands of Fairyland. They became trapped in their cat forms after crossing nine times back & forth into our reality.  They have become less & much more then normal human beings. The caterwaul are beings of the edges of the wilderness & the places where reality is very thin.

From the back roads of Ireland & Scotland these creatures numbers increased as their skills of hiding in shadows & moving silent along the byways of legend allowed them to move along the old trails of the late Roman Empire. They have been encountered as far away as Hungry & the upper edges of Bohemia. Each hunting season one caterwaul male assumes the title 'King of Cats' in a vicious rite as illustrated by the British legend the King of Cats.
"In the British folk tale The King of the Cats, a man comes home to tell his wife and cat, Old Tom, that he saw nine black cats with white spots on their chests carrying a coffin with a crown on it, and one of the cats tells the man to "Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum is dead." The cat then exclaims, "What?! Old Tim dead! Then I'm the King o' the Cats!" Old Tom then climbs up the chimney and is never seen again"
The caterwaul gains the white scar/spot on his chest then initiates 'the hunt' for all of Europe & beyond. These hunts are vicious affairs in which a pride of these creatures will single out a bloodline or familial line of humans. For the next six to eight months they will murder & consume these people in a weird occult or mystically symbolic fashion.  It is believed to ensure a healthy birth of new kittens for the coming year.

Caterwauls will seek out the graves of murderers & criminals of violent nature's  after they've been hung or executed by excruciating means. The caterwaul will steal into a church or temple to pass over the corpse to steal the soul before the gods or angels of death have a chance to send it onto its final reward. Such souls are consumed by these beasts in the depths of their lairs in the deepest parts of Fairyland. The caterwaul has incredibly acute occult senses allowing it maneuver the hidden gates & byways back to its otherworldly lairs. There is a large amount of animosity between certain clans of Fey & these creatures. Blink dogs in particular have an inbred hatred for the caterwaul due to their origins in the wars of the gods which involved many Fairy families of both commoner & royals alike.

The caterwaul always takes a small valuable trinket from each & every kill secreting these in their 'trail lairs' hidden hunting lodge lairs along human trade routes & lairs. These places will be filled with such trophies used for attracting a mate for the coming year. These creatures are vicious apex predators of the highest order turning to violence at the slightest provocation due to their chaotic natures. They will easily abandon a lair in search of easier killing ground if there is even the slightest hint of discovery. Secrecy & stealth are their greatest allies & they have moved across the face of Europe & many parts of Asia Minor for centuries without discovery.

These beings have used their sonic cry to murder their human & near human prey with easy. They have taste for human flesh above all else & often stalk adventuring parties for the weakest members picking them off at their leisure. There are deep ties between the caterwaul & certain witch families whose patron cat goddess is a particularly murderous aspect the goddess Bastet. 

Bastet artwork by
Gunawan Kartapranata

These creatures guard the abandoned temples of Bastet in the dreamlands & have been known to serve her whenever the Elder goddess has need of them. The caterwaul is not welcome in many parts of the dreamlands & certain occult rites are known to sorcerers there for banishing these monsters back to their home realities.
Into modern times caterwauls remain little changed. They now have an unlimited hunting ground & the killing of man has become easy in many ways. No one misses a homeless person or the occasional occult practitioner who stumbles upon onto one of the numerous lairs of the caterwaul. The caterwaul still practices their  same rites even in modern times. Many believe that the caterwaul is responsible for the reports of 'phantom cats' seen across Australia & Europe. 
There are sources that say these monsters have been seen in many of the post apocalyptic wastelands of alternative Primes using all of the techniques & skills they developed all of those centuries ago. 

All artwork belongs to the respective artists & is used without permission.  The Fiend Folio is trade marked & copyrighted to Wizards of the Coast & this blog entry is not a challenge to the copy right & trade marks of Wizards of the Coast. The text of this blog entry is for entertainment & educational purposes only. All text & description is @trademarked & copyrighted to Dark Corner Productions 2018 

Monday, July 8, 2019

An Indepth Commentary On The Monster Manual II & the Plane Facts

"An alphabetical listing of monsters found in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS adventures, including attacks, damage, special abilities, descriptions, and random encounter tables. A must for the serious AD&D game player. This manual contains all the new members, from Abishai to Zygom, including new creatures like the Deadly Pudding, Devas, and Valley Elves. And you'll also have the advantage of the expanded lists of lycanthropes, giants, and other beasts."

A couple of blog entries back I did a bit of checking into one of my favorite Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books the Manual of the Planes by Jeff Grub. But when it comes to designing high level dungeons & adventures there's one book that I continually reach for & that's 'The Monster Manual II' By Gary Gygax. The Monster Manual II expanded the range of Outer planar monsters & for that matter the information on the Outer  planes through those monsters. The Celestials of the  Monster Manual II were an excellent counter point for the demons & devils of that book. Hell got a lot more dangerous with the advent of Devils who had previously appeared in the pages of Dragon magazine.

As I found out over the weekend that this is by design & the Monster Manual II fills in as yet another bridge gap book between first edition & second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.According to the Monster Manual II Drivethrurpg blurb;
 "Expanding the Outer Planes. Monster Manual II is generally full of pretty high-level monsters. Many of them come from the Inner or Outer Planes, offering up one of the largest expansions of the Great Wheel ever. This included tons of new devils and demons, fleshing out Hell and the Abyss - though one demon, the Goristro, went missing and would be published instead in Dragon #91 (November 1984). Daemons were also introduced as a coherent group, after some scattered mentions in the Fiend Folio.

The least successful new outer race was probably the demodands of Tarterus. They were derived from the deodands of Jack Vance's Dying Earth. Despite not being particularly popular, they've since appeared in the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991) and the 3e Fiend Folio (2003).
On the other hand, the most successful outer races of the new book were likely the celestials and the modrons. The celestials are very scattered in Monster Manual II and definitely aren't called angels. They appear under separate entries for devas, planetars, and solars. In later editions they'd be grouped as aasimon or as celestials. The modrons appear in much the same form that they'd be seen throughout Planescape and other D&D books.
The Inner Planes also got a little attention with a set of para-elementals (ice, smoke, magma, and ooze) and one quasi-elemental (lightning). The para-elemental planes were of course where two elemental planes overlapped, as had been introduced in Deities & Demigods (1980). The quasi-elemental planes were a newer concept, marking the overlapping of an elemental plane with either the positive or negative material plane. Gygax had explained this very recently in Dragon #73 (May 1983)."

Now at first this doesn't seem like its all that important piece of information but the Monster Manual II affected things across the board when it came to classic campaign settings such as Greyhawk & much later on Mystara. Everyone seems to forget that one of the classic components of a memorable adventure is how your PC died. ERm I mean having meaningful encounters with monsters both violent & benign. Seriously what the Monster Manual II did was to expand & codify many of Gary Gygax's creations from both his home game campaign & the pages of Dragon magazine. The modrons also appeared in the Monster Manual II & they really haven't changed or been radically altered but remain gamer favorites.

In Dragon #73 (May 1983) Mr. Gygax had introduced the para elemental planes & in the Monster Manual II  their incredibly dangerous  para-elementals (ice, smoke, magma, and ooze) along with  one quasi-elemental (lightning). All of these are perfectly suited to use with the Fiend Folio's Evil Elemental Princes as followers. 'The evil archomentals are collectively known as the Princes of Elemental Evil. The five most famous include:

'Cryonax: Prince of Evil Cold Creatures
Imix: Prince of Evil Fire Creatures
Ogrémoch: Prince of Evil Earth Creatures
Olhydra: Princess of Evil Water Creatures
Yan-C-Bin: Prince of Evil Air Creatures'

The nice part about this is that none of this is tied down particularly to the 'Planescape' setting giving the DM the latitude to create their own take on these powerful planar entities. BTW you can thank Jeff Grub for the creation of the archomentals background.

Using the Monster Manual II for the OSR isn't all that tricky at all.  I've used the Fiend Folio's Evil Elemental Princes & the Monster Manual II para elementals in a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics as spiritual patrons for a elemental focused black  wizard NPC villain. Any of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons OSR style focused retroclone can use many of the creatures & monsters from the MMII with out any issue. 

Many of the Sword & Sorcery retroclones such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea have a great excuse to include many of the planar monsters from the Monster Manual II. Some dark wizard summons some horror from another plane & the countryside becomes the target for all kinds of problems. A more recent and better excuse is that a Hyperborean mechanism from before the Green Death  activates & summons some horror from the MMII & its up to the party to send it to the great beyond once again. The Monster Manual II & AS&SH go together like Peanut butter & jelly.
But what about using the Monster Manual II with other OSR systems? Well here's ten reasons to grab this book & dust it off: 
  1. Many fifth edition gamers who are delving into the OSR for the first time are not even aware of this book's existence giving you the DM free reign to add in all kinds of mayhem & monsters to your adventures. 
  2. Demons & Devil NPC's are the perfect agents to cause the players all kinds of adventure & campaign horror. 
  3. Many of the monsters from the MMII can be ported over to Mutant Future or your favorite post apocalyptic setting. 
  4. Memorable monsters make memorial campaigns & the MMII has them in spades 
  5. The encounter tables can be used in almost any campaign setting. 
  6. Many of the MMII monsters can be used for planar encounters & this is one of the book's hidden strengths. 
  7. The shadow dragon is one of the monster underrated planar villains of all times but use it wisely. 
  8. Behirs are not to be underestimated but can be used as an adventure unto themselves. 
  9. Modron can pop up just about anywhere & sew all kinds of confusion for adventurers. 
  10. Monster Manual II encounters should be switched out frequently to sew the seeds of doubt & fear in players.