Thursday, December 17, 2015

Retro Review X12 Skarda's Mirror By Aaron Allston For OD&D & Your Old School Campaigns

Want a mid level side adventure to challenge your PC's? Have them pass through a magical mirror to save victims who are trapped in a "pocket universe" within the mirror; the hard part is getting back out again!

"It's mirror of life trapping, isn't it?

Well, yes and no. People go in, and they don't come out. Nor can you talk with anyone inside. Somehow, that's not quite the way you remember those mirrors work.

This Skarda fellow showed up a few years ago with a band of raiders, and no one in the land has been safe since then. Whole villages have disappeared into this Skarda's mirror. Your band is approached by relatives of one of the victims?and adventurer like yourselves.

You have to get into that mirror of whatever-it-is, find this man, and get him out in one piece. The reward is more that adequate. Only problem is, no one out here can tell you what to expect once you get in? or even how to get there."
Welcome to  X12 Skarda's Mirror By Aaron Allston an adventure  intended for use with the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set and Companion Set rules.The module includes pregenerated player characters and players' aids.


So begins one of the more dangerous and challenging mid range modules  for PC's. Skarda's Mirror is one of my favorite mid level modules to throw PC's into, I've specifically used this module over the years because its the second appearance of Karameikos. My version of Karameikos is not the official version at all. Treasure hunt, Night's Dark Terror, Skarda's Mirror, and a few of the UK series made up a campaign set in Karameikos that was based around pulp driven Slavic & Russian mythology rather then a the official Known World setting. Skarda's Mirror emulates certain Slavic mythological conceits about magic mirrors and draws on those traditions in my campaigns making Skarda's Mirror a great add on for a pulpy sword and sorcery setting.
There are three reasons to use X12 for a sword and sorcery style campaign :

  • The adventure presents a good solidly grounded side adventure that has dimensional and planar travel for a mid level party. It touches on many of the Appendix N Michael Morecock style of themes without ripping off those dark fantasy sources. 
  • X12 is flexible enough for a DYI sword and sorcery campaign and can be easily be used for a wide variety of retroclone systems without wrecking your campaigns. 
  •  X12 Skarda's Mirror By Aaron Allston presents an adventure that will actually challenge a party and draw the PC's deep into the adventure's internal world and its workings.

This module is great as a mid range adventure that you can throw PC's into because it contains some plot elements that can easily be transported over to an Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea game. Once again Wiki has a fairly good breakdown of the adventure's plot;"The wizard Skarda and his band of raiders once terrorized the rural settlements of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, kidnapping everyone and taking their treasure. By chance, he was discovered by famous adventurer Lord Retameron in Specularum. In the aftermath of the raid, Skarda (alias Mallek) was left trapped in his burning house. A search of the wreckage found papers describing his role in the raids and outlining a coup against the Duke, and a magical mirror of great power. Retameron kept the mirror and brought it to his tower. One night, both he and his wife Halia gazed into the mirror and disappeared, and in their place appeared large baboon-like creatures with huge teeth that attacked everyone in sight" The plot reads something like a cross between a Michael Morecock novel and a dark European fairy tale and that's exactly how I've run it in the past. There's a good deal of investigation work, fair bit of dimensional travel, puzzles, and dealing with the a  bit of exploration.
Another dark adventure element is the popping up of the kingdom of
Specularum and the wizard  Skarda whose journals popped up from time to time in D&D adventures dropping dark magickal hints and secrets of the wizard's delving into the forbidden places and dark secrets of the Outer Darkness. The wizard's connection with the factions and assassins of the Veiled Society have been a source of endless hand wringing over the years for players.

At the time when I was running X12, I was devouring a ton of sword & sorcery, so I warped those trapped within the bounds of the magic mirror and mixed them up with odd bits of Russian mythology giving the warriors a pathetic undead sort of state and the places within the mirror some very Silent Hill like style aspects. For a game such as Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, I'd take the wizard and his dark forces and pull them more into the plot of  Hyperborea by making them trapped within the mirror since the time of the Green Death. Then with a bit of rework, I'd tie them into some of the plot lines and adventure hooks left within the Beneath The Comet adventure. You find out more of my opinion on that one right over here.

Notes about X12's Immortals role for Hyperborea
Because there is a tie in with the Immortals of the Known world, I changed up the gods and their agents within Hyperborea to be a bit more Morecockian and hands on with their agents because of the plot elements of  the Immortal from the Sphere of Thought. This actually dove tails into the New Big Dragon Games
BASIC PSIONICS HANDBOOK which is actually my preferred psionic system for AS&SH.

So I'm talking about X12 and one of the changes that I would make is to have the army of
The wizard Skarda and his band of raiders a real and very dangerous threat to Hyperborea or your old school campaign setting. Also because of the dark fairy tale nature of X12 I'd tie the whole thing in with a Red and Pleasant Land because the Romanian feel of the piece. It just gives X12 that little extra push into Lamentations of the Flame Princess territory. Actually the entire adventure could easily be ported over to the Romania border towns of the Fifteenth century with little issue giving this an alternative history tie in. Because of the wars of history the wizard Skarda and his band of raiders become a real danger riding out of the bounds of myth and legend sweeping into the world as a scourge of blood and violence upon a campaign unleashing horror upon an unsuspecting world.

 X12 Skarda's Mirror could also be used as a Dungeon Crawl Classics one off adventure and has many of the elements that I've seen presented in that gaming system's adventures. An isolated setting, challenging and deadly monsters, some puzzle solving, and having to think your way out of a situation while the death rate around you is high.

This isn't a perfect module but its well worth downloading and is one of the lesser known mid level adventures making a solid way of introducing a side trek into the Other world and having some very dangerous elements show up within your campaigns. X12 Skarda's Mirror By Aaron Allston is well worth downloading and presents a great mid level adventure that can be used for a wide variety of applications in a campaign as an OSR resource.

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