Friday, December 18, 2015

Retro Review of X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield For Expert Dungeons and Dragons & Your Old School Campaigns


"A cloud of dust forms over the horizon as a titanic army of evil threatens the entire civilized world! The Master of the Desert Nomads and his legions are back, and they form the greatest threat that you have ever faced. You must persuade powerful rulers to join you cause, stave off threats to the alliance, and lead your armies to victory! "
The PC's lead diplomatic missions and armies against the Desert Nomads and their evil leader, The Master. With the Nomadic invasion of Akesoli, the Republic of Darokin prepares for war.

This module has the PC's revisiting the blood, sands, and deserts on a diplomatic mission which dips right into the deep ends of a Marvel Conan adventure blended through the lens of Mystara. This module is in fact key to the history and formation of Mystara as we know it today.  This is a module that I've got a ton of history with; the type of personal history that goes back years. This was the game module that almost broke my back as a player and DM. Its got a very epic sword and sorcery vibe to it done right. You might want to read my review and commentary on the Master of the Desert Nomads first though.
The mysterious master is back from the Desert Nomad series and he's been up to far worse then his old tricks and in point of fact is one of the major movers & shakers in the desert sands. I've had seven PC's die within this module both with the War Machine combat system and the Battle System. X10 brings the epic tides of war and then some. This is a module that pits you right in the middle of the cross hairs of some major D&D style conspiracies of political intrigue and blood shed. This module could be used with a retro clone game easily as the forces and winds of war might clash in the deserts of China or at the edges of a Roman style Empire. All the PC's would face down are blood, monsters, sand & battles for the end of an era. This module does in fact contain not one but two systems for warfare. The War Machine works very well with OD&D style games and could be easily used with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or for an AD&D or OSRIC game a dungeon master could use The Battle System. Most of this information is actually included with the module. Surely this couldn't be used for any retroclone or Astonishing Swordmens and Sorcerers of Hyperborea sword and sorcery action?

There are numerous OD&D adventure and NPC connections associated with X10, D&D classics has a very well done breakdown of all of these;""Red Arrow, Black Shield" is more than just a follow-up to X4/X5; it's a lynchpin for the entire B/X/CM adventure sequence. The players travel through many lands that were home to past adventures, and their past interactions with those places could affect diplomacy in this new adventure. If they played through the "B" sequence, that could influence the Grand Duchy of Karameikos; while saving the King of Vestland in X3: "Curse of Xanathon" (1982) will surely affect that kingdom's thoughts toward the upcoming war. Shockingly, even XL1: "Quest for the Heartstone" (1984) gets a namecheck, as the action-figure heroes from that adventure are now in charge of Ierendi. One diplomatic mission even suggests the the players emigrate to Norwold, offering a tie to CM1: "Test of the Warlords" (1984) — and the rest of the "CM" series."
Because of the war game nature and sword and sorcery background of X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield I've always considered this one of the all time essential modules for OD&D Expert Wiki has an excellent break down of why; "This module is billed as "A BATTLESYSTEM(TM) Game/War Machine Spectacular!" It uses the mass combat "War Machine" rules from the Companion Set, and the BATTLESYSTEM Fantasy Combat Supplement included with the module, as well as a large map of Mystara and strategy game tokens. There are a number of "Chase Flow Charts" used to direct encounters through an abstracted landscape as players pursue others or are pursued themselves through the streets."
The module takes place two hundred years in the future of Mystara because of the epic scope of the political ramifications to the setting of the Known World. "Because of the political ramifications of the war depicted in this module, The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and the subsequent D&D Gazetteers published in 1987 and later, state that Red Arrow, Black Shield takes place 200 years in the future." at least according to Wiki but I've played in game campaigns where the Desert Nomad adventure series and X10 were played back to back in massive epic war gaming campaigns. These took the better part of a year to complete and were part of the North West Connecticut War Gaming society's OD&D nights. Sadly the organization is no longer around. X 10 Red Arrow, Black Shield also introduced the ideas and concepts of the 'Companion Rules'; "By introducing the War Machine rules and a world-spanning political adventures, "Red Arrow, Black Shields" became de facto transition between the wilderness adventuring of the D&D Expert Set (1981, 1983) and the political adventuring of the D&D Companion Set. This sort of transition adventure was a new concept for Basic D&D. TSR would follow-up the next year with a Basic/Expert Transition called B10: "Night’s Dark Terror" (1986)." Concepts that dovetail into numerous retroclone and OD&D higher level political campaign adventure ideas. Adventurer, Conqueror King has blazed these concepts to full blown rule sets and campaign settings as well as  books of exceptional quality all of their own.

Right so just because this is one of the corner stones of the OD&D campaign world of Mystara doesn't mean that X10 can't be hijacked for your own favorite sword and sorcery campaign. Let's start with the ' Master' himself, we really have no explanation of how he came back from the dead at the end of the Desert Nomads. In the various adventures I've played the 'Master' has been a Lovecraftian sort of NPC's whose almost been one part Rasputin from Hellboy and three parts Abdul Alhazred. He was portrayed as a demented and insane messiah figure working behind the scenes throughout the Desert Nomads adventures. The Nomads themselves became agents of Chaos and horror condemned to wander across the face of eternity after entering into the service of the 'Master'. The hook for the Red Arrow, Black Shield adventure was this was his last ditch attempt to seize control of the world of Mystara. But it was not the defeat of him either. There is no reason for the Master to show up in the wastelands of Hyperborea once again in the service of his dark masters to stir the pot of chaos and horror. The cycle of damnation, undeath, and horror continues. Many have suggested in the deserts of Sharath under the shadow of the Great Obelisk.

A little secret about war games, many times the materials can be used for other scenarios, in this case the Master and his forces began to sew discord and horror in a pulpy game of OD&D Napoleonic Cairo. The desert nomads were partly responsible for the fall of Cairo and the blood shed was recently seen during a campaign of Lamentations of the Flame Princess coupled with the Realms of Crawling Chaos book from Labyrinth Lord.

So do I think that X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield? Yes I do in spades especially if your into the Expert era of D&D and the various bits of the X series. X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield has excellent maps, materials, and epic pitched materials that can be used for a wide variety of OD&D campaign applications. I think that X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield is a fundamental high level adventure that can be used for numerous campaign ideas and run as a perfect sword and sorcery pulpy adventure point!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.