Saturday, December 31, 2016

ACK's Dwimmermount + Dark Albion Equals a Massive Campaign Setting Idea As Your Old School Campaign

Near the Black Forest of Germania people are going missing, weird relics & strange magics have been filtering into the cities of Germania, tales of monsters stalking the countryside, and now the entire region around the city of Muntberg has disappeared like it never existed!?
Tales of centuries old cults becoming active again people disappear in the night have started again. All of this is happening even as tales of the country of Avalon boiling over in civil war! People are whispering that the olden days have returned & it is all the work of that devil mountain Dwimmermount! Yes, I'm talking about crossing Dwimmermount with Dark Albion here & your right its madness in a way. But let's just go along with this thought exercise here for a moment. How did all of this come about?

Not my actual tea but one created by Nikon D70

This morning I got together with some other dungeon masters & gamers for coffee, we were talking about OSR gaming. We spoke at length about some of the challenges of using Dwimmermount with other products specifically lower fantasy and sorcery products such as Dark Albion. One of my coffee clutch pointed out an article from The Soldiers of Misfortune website which has an interesting article breaking down the War of The Roses;"Many historians consider the masses of defeated mercenaries returning from France to be one of the main causes of the Wars of the Roses. There had undoubtedly been dynastic conflicts in England before, but apart from the long feud between Queen Matilda and Stephen of Blois, there had never been such an enduring and bitter struggle for the English throne. The unemployed veterans of the Hundred Years War were the ideal reservoir for anybody looking for experienced and ruthless fighters. In addition, in recent decades the English had settled many colonists in Normandy, and these were now also returning having lost everything.

Even more dangerous were the struggles of the great magnates, trying to control the increasingly insane King Henry VI. The war in France had long served as a valve allowing the power-hungry nobles to expend some of their pent-up energy. The most dangerous contender for power, for example, Richard Duke of York - also a descendant of Edward III and thus a Plantagenet - had served several times as a commander in France. After the final English defeat at Castillon (1453) the nobility focused their energies on the struggle for power at court, many of them looking for compensation for lost estates in France."
Those bitter and unemployed veterans of the Hundred Years war are the key here. Everything here is set up for the return of these veterans to become the catylist for the events of the War of The Roses'. While Dark Albion follows the exact events of history it does not follow the actual supernatural forces that would have a lot to gain by the falling of Albion itself. This includes the Elves of Dark Albion, who have a vested interest in humanity and restoring their rightful place as Albion's rulers. Their cults have infiltrated every level of society across Dark Albion's Europe as per Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos. But what does this have to do with Dwimmermount? Centuries ago the mega dungeon was a site of a battle between the other world Eld & the Dark Albionian Elves. The Elves with their dark magics were able to drive away the mega dungeon location into the realms of Fairyland & for a time all has been right. But now with the intrigue & bloodshed happening across Europe especially Albion. The mega dungeon has returned & when the first few relics poured into Muntberg filtered through the hands of adventurers the region's fate was sealed. More & more relics have made the town  even the entire region unstable as the Aztoth pulls them back into the world of the fairy and spirits.

Landsknechts mercenaries have come to Albion to seek work but also to ask the temple of the Unconquered Sun to send inquisitors to find out what has happened. The returning of the hidden valley of Dwimmermount in the Black Forrest regions of Germania have not gone unnoticed supernaturally at all. The foul star creature's worshipers have seen signs in the sky that point to coming violence that could upset their master's heinous plans for Germania. They have sent several groups of cultists under the guise of adventurers to investigate but not one has returned. Now the temples of Albion have sent their own under guise of Landsknechts back to their homelands even as war threatens to tear Albion apart from within.

The Lancastrian army of Margaret of Anjou had ill-disciplined Scottish and French mercenaries, as well as northerners and Welshmen, in its ranks during the campaign. So the black magicians of the French are well aware of the return of the devil mountain & it's black secrets. They long for the power & possible advantages that it could give their country but they don't realize the price. For the more power & relics that adventurers, mercenaries, and others collect the further from Albion's European reality are they taken.

As events unfold around the war and its ripples that echo round Europe what role will the PC's play? Can they unravel the mysteries of
Dwimmermount or become part of its legacy of black evil & treachery?

Events in Albion will unfold around the war even as the power & foundations of  church of the Unconquered Sun are shook to the core. Such as when King Edward IV and his Yorkist troops are beseeched by a priest to stop the pursuit of their Lancastrian foes who have requested sanctuary from the abbey. Everything can change on the whims of war, the power & desperation of the factions drive such a campaign. At its heart and soul the domain level of play is determined around the events of the Rose War. A mega dungeon or adventure location such as Dwimmermount is going to be incredibly important. Rumors or legends of such a site are going to attract both the royals and their circles & the inquisitors especially if the place is next door in Germany.
This is the exact sort of thing that Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos was created for, that is the creation of factions,cults, weird happenings & more centered around the forces of Chaos within cults. Yes, a lot of this is going to fall hard on the shoulders of the dungeon master to alter the flow, tone, and more of Dwimmermount but there is a system to hand such a task. Adventurer, Conqueror, King is a perfect system to merry to such a task. Dark Albion & ACK's work very well together & I'm surprised that more folks haven't talked about it.

While this is only a thought exercise, its one that has the gears turning in my head. I can see several of the systems of Dark Albion filling in ACK's backstory very quickly & being able to turn adventures out around the areas of  Muntberg with impunity. There are several serious hang ups to such a campaign, one of which is to be able to find experienced role players who would be willing to take on some of the challenges of this.
These include the following: 
  • Dealing with the tonal issues of  Dwimmermount's OSR game setting voice verses the low sword & powder levels of Dark Albion 
  • The campaign wide issues of Dwimmermount's doors opening in Dark Albion's setting. Not to mention the factions of the dungeon should they have influence within the setting of Dark Albion. My vote is not to have them have any at all. Dwimmermount should be a self contained adventure location. 
  • Dwimmermount would be an adventure location sponge tempting fools, idiots, and adventurers across Albion's Europe and could be a location that would take years to pin down. The War of The Roses would continue to rage onward. 
  • This sort of a campaign would require a lot of time on the DM's part and be a commitment of love. He or she would have to have a real love affair with the material and history of both Dwimmermount & Dark Albion. It could work very well and be very rewarding.
This could work very well as one hell of a great campaign setting and idea that would take years to play through. This sort of a game lends itself to the sort of a game that inquisitor PC's would love to play through.

Friday, December 30, 2016

1d20 Random Minor Finds Table From The Mega Dungeon Table For Your Old School Campaigns

There are always small items, relics, & unusual finds that turn up in the oddest places that lead adventurers onto the trails of the world spanning places of adventure. Things of odd reputations & fragments from with these places of adventure & dangerous virtue. Here then is a list of 1d20 minor finds that will lead adventurers down the rabbit hole further into the jaws of adventure & danger.

1d20 Random Minor Finds
Table From The Mega Dungeon Table

  1.  A pair of brass and red gold skeleton keys with deep etches on them and mysterious writing in high Elven. The pair is bound with animal gut & faintly hum with an aura of magick hovering about them.
  2. A dried monkey paw with something held in the sealed tight fist. Whatever it is makes the paw heavy. 
  3. Twisting and turning piece of jailer's wire made into the shape of a pretezel that twists even as you pick it up. It seems to tug in the direction of the largest structure of ruins locally. 
  4. A single slab of worked and wrought quartz in the shape of a key that glows from within with magicak power. 
  5. Two twin pieces of metal covered over in runes of the clan of local murderous goblins. The pieces a have recently been underground because of the smell of mildew & fungus clinging to them. 
  6.  A single strange twisted piece of gold on a string that floats in mid air toward the mega dungeon and its ruins. 
  7. Weirdly a caged bird always sings when its brought towards road that leads to the dungeon. 
  8. Nine pieces of radiated silver and gold coins all fused together by some intense weapon of war and destruction. The coins seem to make promises of riches and parties. 
  9. Seven rare pieces of miniature artwork that show different & dangerous monsters in scenes in the mega dungeon. They tell a story of the dungeon in its miniature pictures. One of them contains a map and a single tear or drop of gold 
  10. Hobbit leather pouch that is actually a detailed map/account of one section of the mega dungeon. The map is writ in human boil. 
  11. A silver flute made with bone and silver inlaid in with deeply etched Dwarven runes that allow one to pass magically through certain portals. 
  12. A jewel made from the infamous idol's eyes of the god of murder. The jewel wishes to go home to the mega dungeon dungeon. 
  13. A small boy's lunch box that actually contains a mini collection of items including a Spanish coin that seems to float in the air and points towards the local dungeons 
  14. Twelve copper and gold rods that all seem to be part of some ancient magic machine. They lead to a clue that cuts through the entrances of the dungeons. 
  15. A map that show's your location in relation to the dungeon. There are other unusual blips that are closing in on your position. The location seems to call your PC's. 
  16. A compass that responses to the astral winds of the mega dungeon and the deep end dire dangers of the dungeons.'
  17. A cut crystal ball that actually shows scenes from within the mega dungeon and they want you and your PC's there. 
  18. Twenty pieces of gold that are actually radiated with deep magical powers and will teleport you and your party to the center of a maze inside the mega dungeon 
  19. An animated wind up clock work like toy that actually is an automaton with the powers of a 5th level animated wizard that is actually an ex adventurer who pissed off a wizard that lives in the center of the dungeon and wants to murder the PC's 
  20. The crystal skull of a former adventurer that now houses the alien intelligence that responds only the veiled threats of female adventurer. It wishes to return to its mega dungeon home and will try to possess anyone who handles it.

Tangent Dungeons, Mega Dungeons, Or The Good, The Bad, & The Cosmic A Slightly Different Take On I7 Baltron's Beacon (1e)

So last night I've been rereading Dwimmermount (ACKS version) From Autarch & quietly watching the poll on G+ I set up about the doors of the mega dungeon swinging open upon Ancient & Accursed Terra. One does not simply have the doors to one of the most infamous OSR mega dungeons open up & suddenly the world is DOOMED! Umm no.

What if the mechanisms of Dwimmermount coming to life brought other dungeon complexes and ruins also into activation? Could ruins, complexes, dungeons, and other places of adventure suddenly become part of a world spanning cosmic event? And could classic TSR era modules be used as a part of such an old school convention style of mini or mega campaign?  I think so here's how.  Let's take a look at
I7 Baltron's Beacon for  (1e) AD&D 
The plot hook goes something like this,
"A strangely delivered advertisement has led you to a sage named Demetrios. He needs a rare component to complete a desperately needed potion. The journey to retrieve it will take you through a large, unexplored swamp to a ruined keep, the former headquarters of a vile cult that once claimed the lives of many innocent youths."This is one of the intermediate classic modules & deals with all kinds of fun such as deep wilderness exploration & lots of dungeon crawling within the Beacon itself. It doesn't take genius to pull the elements of the swampland around the beacon & the dungeons to hook them within the region of
Dwimmermount. Because the I7 is a part of  the C-series of ("Competition") &  S-series ("Special") modules its easy to have PC's go through a sort of tangent dungeon's adventure. That is a series of linked adventures as a warm up to the mini campaign that is

Something similar to Dungeon Crawl Classics's funnel but more intimate style of play with the DM sprinkling clues hints about Dwimmermount throughout the playing of I7 Baltron's Beacon. There are several reasons why this sort of an campaign would work:
  1.  I7 Baltron's Beacon (1e) has a very limited background story for all of the NPC's of the adventure location and zero dungeon ecology for the Beacon itself. This enables the DM to fill in backstory, history, & details as needed to give all of the NPC's connections to the mega dungeon & the surrounding environs. 
  2. There's a surprising amount going on within the adventure that has the potential to be exploited by a cagey dungeon master & the whole thing is one big dungeon crawl some nice practice for Dwimmermount. The intimate style of parts of the adventure give a good contrast to the cosmic elements of the mega dungeon. This one also makes nice practice for some of the hellish adventure elements to come. 
  3. The style mirrors some of the weirdness of Dwimmermount, this was a technique I've used for several Lamentations of the Flame Princess & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 's adventure efforts. 
  4.  Adaptability is the watch word with I7 Baltron's Beacon and that's one of the adventure's strength's. Time and again this module has proven to have some solid chops to easily connect not only to the world but the setting that its shoe horned into. 
  5. Tramps, mercenaries, & thieves fill the roster for NPC's and as a DM these are a few of my favorite people especially in a sword & sorcery style adventure. 
  6. Guns & black powder won't upset the balance of I7 in the least. 
  7. NPC's who survive I7 can easily be recycled into other adventures & they've made excellent Dark Albion NPC's who can easily be apart of the action or killed as needed. 
  8. Lots of wonderful toys to play with! I7 has lots of nice bits  including pregenerated characters; a player map; and a few pictures meant to be shown to players. All of which can be slipped into Dwimmermount as a part of the meta plot. 
  9.  I7 can easily be adapted to Adventurer, Conqueror, King which handles down & dirty as well as cosmic style adventures easily. I7 doesn't have some of the classic era 'big boy' voice over the shoulder DM text & other bits that seem to dominate certain modules of that era. 
  10. Flexibility & numbers of players work well with I7 because of its nature, many players & DM's consider this a classic. Its also a good work out adventure to play and experiment with as the players deal with the issues, plot, and weirdness of I7. 
 I7 Baltron's Beacon has a lot to offer the DM because it can stand on its own or be incorporated into the greater part of your world. The materials backgrounds, subplots, and backstory can all work as a greater piece of the world shattering events that are happening around the PC's. This means that they're going to be a part of the action right out of the gate. I7 doesn't pull any punches though and if they act dumb or stupid the adventure is more then capable of pulling out the rug from under their feet and killing them. I like how easily this module fits into any world and almost seems a throw back to an earlier era of gaming even before its publication.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Re Examing Dwimmermount (ACK's version) Initial Impressions Of The Megadungeon

"It is the place where adventure begins, the ender of lives, and the legend itself. Dwimmermount (ACKS version) From Autarch is all that and more. " I wrote that in January of 2015, and its been a long while since I've returned to Dwimmermount. Well that ended today when I put up a poll on G+ letting others decide if the doors of the mega dungeon swing open within my own world of Ancient & Accursed Terra.

Its been a very long time since I've cranked up my hard drive to look into the PDF of the mega dungeon of  Dwimmermount (ACK's version). Well earlier tonight I got a chance to really look into this mega beast of a book again. Several things just jump right out at me. The first is the sheer scale of the book four hundred & eighty pages of pdf & some of the sprawling mythology of the setting that is mega dungeon. Here are a few things that jumped out at me right from the beginning:
  1. First of all there is completely different take on the Elves, Dwarves,Humans, etc. and the surroundings of Dwimmermount then what's in the ACK's main rulebook this isn't a bad thing but its got far reaching applications within a campaign world's setting. 
  2. The mega dungeon has some far reaching economic & even political reach within any campaign world its placed in. This makes the mega dungeon a major player within the world's its placed within. 
  3. Playing through this beast is going to be interesting & very dangerous. 
  4. The very nature of  Dwimmermount means that this megadungeon is going have planar gates through out's its thirteen levels and more. I also think its not out of line for time lost adventurers to make appearances as well.
  5. Thank the gods for the safe town home base for the PC's given some of the challenges that the players and their PC's are going to face. There's tons of potential here for threading plots in, out of, and around Dwimmermount
  6. The self contained nature of the setting is both a boon and a bane to a DM willing to take the adventure location into their world. There's going to be a ton of adventure and campaign material tied up within the mega dungeon. 
  7. ACK's  skill and proficiency bits are nice and are going to be very necessary if your PC's are going to solve the greater mysteries of this mega dungeon. 
  8. Several weird bits are in this that I didn't catch the first time around of reading it. There are several holes were I can add in my own little twists to the fun. 
  9. I'm going to need to open up my own home campaign to shoe horn in some of the full spectrum effects of Dwimmermount  into my own home world. 
  10. Is there enough time to take the PC's through all they need to get most of the major mysteries and details of Dwimmermount in 2017?
This book is really a tool kit for the design,feeding,  and care of the Dwimmermount setting itself. I'm going to need to spend a bit more time reading, deciding, and getting into Dwimmermount before unleashing it on my players.

The Dwimmermount (ACK's version) of the megadungeon is available right over here

A Twist In The Dark - The Impact of The Mega Dungeon In Old School Campaigns Through Actual Play

'They're all around us' 'I think they're coming out of the walls', these were two of the statements from our group during last night's game with a bunch of us jade & experienced dungeon masters. Yeah, I went back for further punishment in my own kitchen sink game setting. Tom was running through my Ancient & Accursed Terra setting set  in his 1600's African inspired setting that's a spin off of the main setting. We knew there was an Umber Hulk in the mine. The tunnels twisted down into the Earth & miners were coming up dead by the boat load. There was a large reward for the capture or murder of the beast. Well you can read about it here
There were still artifacts coming out of the nearby mountains of gold, precious metals, etc. but where were these coming from?  But according to rumors heard in the company taverns & store from the miners & the scuttlebutt things were changing. I grabbed a 6th level  thief (specialist) by the name of Michael Mc Cready from one of the other DM's & got Tom's approval.

So down, down into the Earth we went & we had all of our usual tools of the trade including pick axes & we went really deep into the unexplored regions of the twisting tunnels. It was really hot & several of us found the Umber Hulks tracks and several freshly cut tunnels hollowed out into the rock. We readied our blunderbuss & pistols while watching the Earth around us. We walked right into the tunnels, everyone was on tender hooks. And nothing!?

We examined the sides of the tunnels & there were the beast's claw marks along with bits of slime left from the long claws of the monsters but the tunnels went lower into the Earth. We found a finger, the occasional tooth, or other remains but then the trap was sprung on us. It started with our lamps. One by one they began to wink out; then there was this roiling cloying smell of brimstone & ozone that filled the tunnel as an unnatural darkness filled the space. We didn't know what it was but we began to run as two of our number went down & guns went off. My PC caught a knife blade & started into the beady eyes of something inhuman, monstrous, and very dangerous! I did manage to wound it with a very lucky roll! In the unnatural darkness we got turned around and fell quite literally down another side tunnel! And now we were deep crap as a party because we found ourselves quite bad circumstances. We were in a series of artificially worked up tunnels, we were in their realm.. Christ could we even get back to the surface?

We knew were in deep crap because at any moment they could come pouring out of any shadows or hidden bits of rock or anything else. So we began to trace our way back along the walls not making a sound in the darkness if possible. Even the fighters were quiet now. These were not men at all. Not even human as we knew them, they had been down here for thousands of years in the darkness & had been changed by it. And that's when my PC stumbled upon 'it', a small metal object not much more four inches long & unnaturally very sharp. These items my PC would later on learn had been enchanted with powerful magics.

Image from Welcome Images

We made it back to the surface after another two hours of nail biting play. And during smoke break I was a bit pissed! There are several reasons for this; Tom was using my own dungeon master  techniques against me. Let me explain I don't like to use Drow from the Fiend Folio especially in sword & sorcery or sword & black powder games. They've become far too standardized with Dungeons & Dragons three point five & Pathfinder even becoming a PC race. This is fine for those folks who play those systems. So in my games I've used Dark Creepers & Dark Stalkers from the Fiend Folio from AD&D first edition  to replace the Drow. One of Tom's PC's was killed by a dark creeper back in a 2013 game I ran. What Tom has done is to take the Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters to fill out the Dark Creeper  settlements we were going to run into.

This also meant something else, it meant that Tom had introduced  in a back handed method the ACK's version of Dwimmermount into Ancient & Accursed Terra!? You've got to understand that for the last two years I've been hemming about introducing this megadungeon into my world. The opening of this mega dungeon becomes a central theme to campaign setting. This has the importance of Undermountain in the Forgotten Realms or Temple of Elemental Evil in Grayhawk or the Temple of the Frog from Blackmoor. Once Dwimmermount opens it means a whole different set of parameters for a campaign.

Tom being Tom smiled evilly as we wrapped up our little foray into the recesses of his homebrew and there were several things that I took away from this game:

  • Tom's contribution to my upcoming game is going to alter the destiny and flow of the campaign setting. The elements of  Dwimmermount have already been let loose & the other DM's knew about some of those before we began play. 
  • Dwimmermount is going to impact the societal & economic fabric of the world setting around it. There will be multiple world entries throughout Ancient & Accursed Terra setting. This is something that many traditional old school DM's have done with mega dungeons throughout my years of playing.

     Now that Dwimmermount has been introduced into my world is it going to be the only megadungeon? Will there be more? Is there enough room for Slumbering Ursine Dunes, Misty Isles of the Eld, Strange Stars & how will this impact my wanting to use OSR materials ? Mega Dungeon ecologies are funny things  & there's got to be enough room to wring the DYI impact of the materials. There's lots to consider but its very exciting at the same time. There's lots of implications. 

    So I'm I really mad? Umm no but it was a fun game & there's lots of things to think about now folks.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monsters & Manuals - The Care & Feeding of Dungeons In Old School Campaigns

 I have to laugh at something I heard around the table when it came to 'monsters' in the dungeon. We had a bunch of very experienced & jaded players who were all dungeon masters in their own right. They run their own home grown campaigns & so have become a bit jaded at being on the other side of the screen. That all changed over the holiday when we got together. Its essential to play and get in time on both sides of the screen. Here's why.
Suddenly we were a group of adventurers again huddled in a tavern looking desperately for work, money, and to simply survive against an alien world. This was a sword & sorcery setting, there were lots of weird humans, cut throats, workers, & strange types. It wasn't just about breaking into a dungeon, it was about playing at the setting.

By the time we had gotten into the dungeon's ruin's were already knee deep in three plot hooks & looking into the deep end of some dire circumstances. The dungeon master's description dripped with details, the exotic sights & sounds had NPC's drifting through that would later on become important. The lack of Elves, Dwarves, etc. told us everything we needed to know & this wasn't a world inspired by Tolkien or Robert Howard or Lovecraft. This was a home brew world set on the edge of a crumbling empire where the lost, the desperate, the outlaw, & even the stupid all went as the last stop before death.

We had heard rumors of some ruins that had yielded treasures beyond imagination and this town had grown over night. Men had practically come on ships and then deserted them in the port's bay but operations were shut down and now they were desperate to restart but the cruel deaths had them wondering. Something was in the mine killing the men. We signed up with the mine owners as a part of the lynch mob that was going down into the mines. The DM had made a twisting bunch of weird tunnels on a map. We ventured into the darkness & kept track of our torches. Then we heard the first scream and it echoed off the walls. The second was followed by the first, on the ground we found a few scattered gold coins leading off into a side tunnel. One of our number was transfixed by the beast's stare & simply stared off as his guts were torn out!
And that's when we saw it! Our guns went off & for a brief moment the entire scene was illuminated! Then the monster closed and we died!

Yes that was this holiday's brief encounter with an Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Umber hulk in my friend Tom's 1600's African inspired setting that's a spin off from Accursed & Ancient Terra. What did I learn? Well its essential to sometimes get out from behind the screen and actually play. The second thing is too go back and look at the iconic monsters of AD&D & for that matter even the retroclones to use them in new ways. Yes we died rather badly but that really wasn't the point to the game. It was to take a look at how Tom was setting up his adventures & the spins that he was putting to them. Once again a very valuable lesson at the cost of a PC but the lesson will stay with me.

Right now I still have no idea what's happening under Tom's boom town or why there is an Umber hulk killing adventurers, and miners. Seems I might have to go back to find out!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ecology Of The Bloody,Bloody, Arduin Manticore For Your Old School Campaigns

'Child seek not the Manticore nor the gateways & nexuses it comes from. Seek not the planes it frequents nor the places it calls home. Look not into its blue liquid eyes or ask for its terrible wisdom for it is a wilde & dangerous hate of olden times. It is evil incarnate & not to be trusted.'
Pliues The Elder Star Mage

'Good evening ladies & gentlemen welcome to tonight's lecture. Tonight we will be talking about one of the most dangerous creatures to stalk the stars & old Earth. I speak tonight of the Manticore one of the most underscored menaces to come out of the nexuses' The whole curtain parted & the crowd gathered in the auditorium caught its collective breath. Dr.Idrani minister of xeno-biology & ecology waited for the murmur of the crowd to die down as the force field held & the monster beyond was revealed. 'You are all perfectly safe our guest has agreed to be here & is at easy I can assure you all.' The human like head looked out into the crowd with sardonic wit, a hint of a devil may care attitude, & just a wisp of madness at the edges of its blue eyes. It was perfectly in control of its situation & the wings flexed lazily as the lights came up dramatically around it.
'Behold the Arduin manticore Anbruis of the mountain kingdom of the country of Scruisi who has graciously agreed to be here with us tonight. This noble monster's ancestors fought along side the titans & among themselves trace their royal linage all the way back to Tiamat the mother of monsters & dragons. Our guest has the body of a red lion, a noble but alien like head with those piercing blue eyes. There are also three rows of incredible sharklike teeth & of course the tell tale deep trumpeting rumbling like voice.' 'Of course you notice the black wings which are totally unlike a bat's but closer to certain demonic specimens' This is because our guest is a creature of the arcane world & considerably infused with the very raw stuff of magick itself enabling it too not only fly but defy the laws of nature herself.' 'The stinger is a marvel of dark demonic design a thing of horror able to pierce light metals & hurl bolts of cartilage like bone envenomed over distance of 30 or 40 feet.'

Almost on cue a roar seems to fill the auditorium from someplace deep within the bowels of the monster  Anbruis. The doctor chuckled to himself & began again, 'Our guest tonight is not of the horned variety of manticore which among their own kind denotes a subspecies touched by madness for their service & worship of the forbidden gods & devils. Even among their own kind which has a taste for human flesh these things are considered psychopathic killers & mad stricken monsters. For they not only kill their own prides but any thing or anyone they come across. They can & will track a man for weeks or months just for the sheer pleasure of the hunt & kill.' 

'Our guest tonight is not such a creature at all & devours his prey whole leaving not one trace or scrap behind. He leaves no leaves no clothes, bones, or possessions of the prey for he is not a messy eater.'Our guest tonight is distantly related to the royal satyral, a legendary creature with "the body of a lion, the tail and horns of an antelope, and the face of an old man" who were the royal magical advisors & hunters to the Titans.' Several of the crowd rankled at that remark which the doctor let pass. 'Moving on. Anbruis is an accomplished expert in linguistics, puzzles, & principal applications  higher metaphysical arcane theory. He is able to think 'side ways' comparable to a human mind because of his semi demonic linage. Because of this ancestry he and his kinde are immune to the gaze of the Medusa, the touch of ghouls, & even his own venom.' 'These developments were artificial in nature & given to these noble monsters as part of a program of warfare! These creatures are not merely murders & stalkers of lonely places as the legends would have us believe! They are weapons of murder from a time before time!'
 'So why is Anbruis here among us? Because he wishes to open diplomatic relations between us and his kingdom' 'I will have quiet among you! You have come here tonight for entertainment, and for my findings!' The beast behind the force cage stirs at the words and its eyes dart among the crowd piercing the audience in their seats with its gaze! 'Ask yourselves what would scare a creature of primal chaos in its veins to open relations with us. What scares a monster able to see in the night, smell the colour of your hair, eyes, clothing and able to tear through metal with its claws?'

'Hear me man things & you who have profited from trade with Arduin, something is coming. Though I rule a kingdom with one hundred prides of lampago warriors & two hundred satyral night hunters something has been stalking my kingdoms & killing my mercenary warriors. My advisors tell me it is a power from beyond the old days, my wizard's sight has been obscured, & even my world walkers fear certain doorways. So I'm here now to seek you out, should my kingdom fall yours is next.'

'Speak with your elders & rulers flesh that walks. Tell them of my warning, look deeply into my face things that fought me in the desert sands & have slain my kin. Tell them of the blood on my claws and the horror that is in my heart that has killed my mate whist I slept next to her even as it took my child across from us. Tomorrow I meet with your leaders & I have agreed to this spectacle to satisfy your morbid curiosity of my countenance. This show is over now' The auditorium filled with a billowing darkness that snuffed out lights, caused panic in the crowd, it was followed by screams from various points in the crowd itself.  'There is no reason to panic ladies & gentlemen, everything is under control!' The doctor's voice seemed unsteady but then the lights came back up of their own violation but various lords & ladies were struck down & dead around the auditorium. Never one to led an opportunity go Anbruis had struck with curses & spells against those who had struck against him & his desert nation in the past. He had delivered his warning & departed.
But what of his cryptic warning? Dr.Idrani minister of xeno-biology & ecology quickly smiled nastily as he quickly wiped his piercing liquid blue eyes over his spectacles. Would the flesh things head the warning in time? Only time would tell.

  So what is happening here?! An intelligent Manticore ruler of a small desert kingdom someplace near Ancient & Accursed Terra's version of Persia? In a word? Yes! This was made possible by using
the Arduin Eternal Bestiary & Treasures book along with Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters pdf  from Autarch  which enabled me to quickly sketch out the desert country of Scruisi. I'll have more details on that when my game starts.

The Arduin Manticore has been taken from the Arduin Eternal Bestiary and Treasures book available right HERE. All ecology & supposition is by me but details on the country of Scruisi has been created from the ACK's Lairs & Encounters book available here

The Thief Dies At Eleven In A Christmas Slaughter - Christmas "Villains of the Undercity" Actual Play

So just before the Christmas holiday I was able to get in some gaming with my buddy Steve & his brothers. I took my third level thief Endraca 'The Nibble Fingered'.  It was a nice get together to see everyone, there were about six people playing.
Jason was playing Ho'ward 4th level barbarian/fighter

Joella Jason's wife had her Wizard Thu's 'The Wise' 5th level 
Robert's 3'rd level Fighter Bi 'The Bloody Handed One'
Steve's brother Mike was playing his 5th level Fighter  "Skippy"
Steven's other brother Robert was playing our other 4th level thief Jordon 'The Jerky Ross' Hazanini 
And the stakes were stacked against us in Mark Taormino's  Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #3: Villains of the Undercity" module. Yup that's right we were getting sucked down into the depths of the module that I helped to promote way back when. Yes this is going to get worse from here folks.

We got through the tavern encounters alright, made it through several of the minor encounters with various NPC's as if it was a bit shady & then got into some of the under works of one minor dungeon. Apparently Steve has been reading this blog because several of the encounters were changed around & modified by his twisted DM's brain. Here's the thing about Villains of the Undercity, its a mix of urban, dungeon crawl, NPC driven plot, and lots of
Taormino's & crew's weirdness. So my PC is picking a lock after I checked for traps & no problem. As a player I should have known that this was too easy.

The door slowly opens & I see a darkened room thick with dust, dust covers, & furniture covered over along with boxes and what not. Check for traps again after throwing a few copper coins into the room. Nothing, take my trusty ten foot pole &  probe the floor & nothing once again. So far so good, then the second thief comes up behind my PC. I signal to him to stop by the door as I enter deeper into the room. Once again there's nothing but the smell of must not fungus or anything rotten just must. I started on one side of the room again checking for traps, and probing a bit with the end of my pole waiting for anything moving hand on my throwing dagger. The adrenaline is surging through my PC's temples & the rest of the party is hanging back as the second thief enters a wee bit behind me. I check box number one some sundries and supplies (catalog those for later.Checked for traps first), box number two has gun powder & shot (put that to the side), & box number three is a long coffin like affair covered over in a black cloth. I begin checking for traps & fail my roll (I don't know this). The coffin box bursts apart & I come face to face with two of the meanest pair of eyes I've ever seen! The smell of ozone fills the room & that's when I get the full picture! A Rawborg from Carcosa!   I still had the drop on the thing so I decided to take one for the team here & attacked!  They scattered and ran! I bought them enough time to escape! My PC died & died very badly.

So what's happening here? Well way back in 2012 I was running a series of Lamentations of the Flame Princess/OD&D games using Crypts & Things 1st edition. It was highly successful but I had killed Steve's character and in fact TPK'ed the entire party with these things.

I chuckled & made the players promise to get my ashes back to the spider temple for resurrection. I later on spoke with Steve about this & the rest of his players after the game wrapped up. His plan was to get the ball rolling with adventure & then around New Years to take us through the Secret Machines of the Star Spawn. In the meantime he's watching the Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #4: Vault of the Dwarven King  Which he thinks we might be ready as PC's by the time this adventure hits the stands. He's only got four days to go.

The rest of the players finished the module & I've yet to find out how it turned out. That being said I've been given a lot to think about for my own home game at the hobby shop coming up. Steve might be a bastard dungeon master but he's one of my oldest friends and you've only got four days to get in on the Kickstarter action.

I'm not at all upset about my PC dying, its given me a lot to think about. The fact is that perhaps Steve's right & need to return to my roots of this blog & resurrect parts of my old campaigns. Taking into account some of the stuff we talk about over the weekend there's a lot to digest.
You can support Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #4: Vault of the Dwarven King HERE!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Frankengaming Adventure Construction 101 - Commentary On B2 The Keep On The Borderland & T1 The Village of Hommlet

Over the holidays has been a bit of an education & how the OSR's elements fit together, or not. First of all a DM's job is mediate, work through how the parts & pieces fit together. The real stars of the show are the players, they are both cast as well as the glue that holds the whole event that we call play is put together. But its knowing what fits into and how you set the whole adventure set up together.
You are your own old school revolution &  there's never been a perfect old school or new school role playing system or adventure. First of all decide on a base system for me over the last couple of years is an old school system such as B/X with touches of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition usual with overlays of an OSR system such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. This means as a  dungeon master I've got my system backed up for judgements, quick calls,etc. This is my method and your milage may vary & none of this is a perfect fit there's nothing seamless about this.

So let's take one of my all time favorites to use 'the Keep on The Borderlands' is one of the classics & proves a nice base for the PC's to start at to then advance over to the 'Village of Hommlet'. The PC's can base themselves there before investigating the series of caverns in the nearby hills teeming with monsters which can tie into the cult of elemental evil. With DCC & AD&D what I did was to merry the keep as a part of a funnel where the PC's are part of an attack on the keep but survived. The PC's late on ventured into the Caves of Chaos and dealt with the various tribes of  kobolds, orcs, goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, all being generated by various monster generators left over from from the cult's ancient activities. They've been started again by the forces of the Caverns of Chaos under orders from the Temple of Elemental evil. A long tunnel system connects the Caves of Chaos to the Moat House from the Village of Hommlet.

Another thing I did was to take the PC's into the  Moathouse dungeon  to strip the PC's of equipment, spells, torches, etc. which they had to return to the keep for provisions. The prices are outrageous there & then levy a tax on top of all of it because its wartime after all. By the time the PC's got to the Village of Hommlet they were penniless and desperate need of money & treasure but they were tough customers so it all worked out. By intersecting all of these old school ideas & adventures a small corner of a campaign world comes together quickly and easily. Once the PC's reached the Village they didn't go back to the keep but in fact they did once they cleaned house on the dungeons and environs with B2.

So one of the players who knew everything there was to know about B2 made a snide remark about one of the boss monsters from The Keep of The Borderlands. Well I've got the cure for that folks, my copy of the Lusus Naturae hardback by Rafael Chandler, best known  for the Teratic Tome and the wonderful artist Gennifer Bone  came out. Towards the back of the book is an appendix for generating unique, powerful, and weird monsters. Well given the nature of the elemental evil cult I put together a monster on the fly which the players weren't expecting at all guarding the Caves of Chaos.

Then I took the traditional orcs, gnolls, etc. and mixed in some other powers and abilities for some minor but very dangerous foes. This same style of tactic could easily work with Hubris or your own favorite OSR product. Let me turn this in another OSR direction, I took the exact same set up and twisted it around for a Dark Albion mini campaign. Here I added in more detail with Dark Albion's Cult's of Chaos.

The players wanted more details on the religions & practices of my version of the cult of elemental evil. I didn't have ton of time because of medical appointments and what not for my dad. So a quick series of rolls on several of the charts in Dark Albion & bang the background was filled in. Its worth noting several of the changes that happened between these two campaigns:
  • There was black powder weapons involved right from the get go. The set up was that the keep was on the German border. The players were involved as undercover inquisitors and the whole thing played out very well. 
  • One of the patrons of the adventurers was a Jon Dee style German magus of considerable talent. The idea of the lone Roman/Britannia outpost blends very well with B2. I used the Lamentations of the Flame Princess summon spell mini monster generator to add even more weird turns to the elemental 'demons' of Dark Albion's NPC's 
  • The damn adventure turned into a mini campaign because of the fact that the players got into it but the game broke up because of my father's health concerns.
The point is that with a simple flip of perspective these modules are classic and timeless in some respects because of how adaptive they are with a bit of imagination. Anything can be bleak or it can become quite nice depending upon how the DM and the players want to make them.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Hmelatharchuro - The Fishermen From Space For The Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg System & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

They have many names & over the countless centuries the Hmelatharchuro have been casting their adamantium nets across many worlds. They are powerful demonic jinn belonging to the evil courts of air & water respectively. They are vain but highly alien creatures who came to dominate weird realms between the planes of air & water after the Rebellion of Heaven. They are very sensitive about  their appearance and bored with immortality  began to gather the most intelligent and strongest specimens from the human race throughout history to serve them on their Islands of Lost Souls.

These islands  are protected by  never-ending storms which prevented the Fishermen's prisoners from escaping and mysteriously also from aging. The Fishermen themselves in the island's volcanoes and only leave their volcanoes to hunt for more captives which are trade to various otherworldly and alien beings. These islands of the lost are artificial freaks of natures balanced between the quasi elemental planes but being able to touch a wide variety of otherworldly & temporal locations. A treasure of a million worlds has been lost upon these islands worthless to their damned & immortal inhabitants. The Hmelatharchuro dwell within a maze of tunnels & chamber like rooms within their volcano lairs sustaining themselves on the hot gases & weird radiations of their alien environment only emerging to hunt throughout time and space for more captives for their sick collections and trades.

The Hmelatharchuro
% in Lair : 50%
Dungeon Encounter: Solitary
Wilderness Encounter Solitary
Alignment: Chaotic 
Movement: 90'(30')
Fly:240' (80') Dexterity: 14
Armor Class: 6 
Hit Dice:10***
Attacks: 1 Fist 
Damage 2d8 
Save: F15
Treasure Type: R,N
Fishermen From Space are an intelligent & demonic elemental alien beings. They may only be affected by magic, magical weapons, & relics of super science. They have special magical abilities usable three times per day confusion as per the clerical spell (cast as a 6th level cleric), create temporary objects of metal (the softer the metal the longer it lasts, gold lasts twenty four hours whist iron lasts one round, create illusions as per the spell phantasmal force but includes both sight & sound with an effect that is permanent  until touched or dispelled). The Hmelatharchuro can make themselves invisible & make a wall of flame. They can also become a pillar of storm able to cast lightning bolts within 60 feet of themselves or become a pillar of flame that inflicts 1d8 points of damage each round  to anyone coming within five feet and it ignites combustible materials.
The Hmelatharchuro are children of storm & any water affecting spells will act as a slow spell on them. Certain esoteric rituals can dissolve them but most often these spells are held within ancient books of black magick held by certain Lovecraftian cults & schools of lost Atlantis. The Hmelatharchuro loath both Jinn and Efreeti with equal measure and will not tolerate their presence.

Many kingdoms loath these monsters with a passion because they are known as dynastic ruiners. Because they steal as well as collect the best & brightest whole generations of gentry, royalty, not to mention the very best minds of civilized kingdoms are lost to these mad collectors. Those who live upon their demi domain elemental islands for hundreds or thousands of years can not leave and turn to dust if taken from their domains or these monsters are slain.

The Fisherman of space is a public domain monster and first appeared in Weird Thrillers # 2 (1951)  & has been adapted by me for my upcoming weird pulp sword & black powder setting Ancient & Accursed Terra.

Free OSR Adventure Two Step From Dragon's Foot - Beneath Black Towen And Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep By John Turcotte For Your Old School Campaign


This is another great adventure to put on the table, Beneath The Towen gets the groove of old school AD&D 1st edition adventure or for OSRIC. The adventure pits the PC's right in the sights of 'Dark Forces'. threatening the world of Song. It contains everything you need to run a mini campaign in the old school world introduced in 'Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep'. John Turcotte creates this world with abandoned in this module. Though it can easily be adapted to any retroclone campaign system. Everything is laid out for the players in the introduction. 
"This module is the second in the Her Dark Majesty series, the first being Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep. It is not necessary to play the first module to run this adventure; each installment may be played independently of the others if the DM chooses. If your players have already completed Jarls, then their characters are already considered heroes of the Land of Song. Yngvar approaches them again to seek out the source of this growing menace. The Clans are indeed threatened. Kirsi, the most powerful of Her Dark Majesty’s servants to escape the wrath of the Clans, has retaken Black Towen. Already, she is rallying evil forces beneath the banner of her mistress. The heroes must strike a blow against the dark host before it can muster against the already weakened clans. The party should be between 6 and 8 in number. If there are fewer or more player characters, the DM must adjust the encounters contained herein accordingly. The Jarl can outfit the adventurers with whatever reasonable and necessary provisions they may need for the journey"
The plot builds upon itself as each encounter is played out by the PC's and it echoes many early adventures from the heyday of AD&D. But this time its got gritty sword and sorcery undercurrent to the adventure's action. The tag line even reads like something out of the early 80's Dungeon Hobby shop catalog.
The PC's will be facing murderous humanoid tribes, new monsters, plenty of dungeon crawling action and danger at every turn. Did I mention strange horrific elements playing in the background. 
Once again evil threatens The Land Of Song and heroes must be found. An adventure for characters of level 4-6.
This is a product of the early OSR from 2005,but that being said some adventures are timeless and tap on that sword & sorcery vein. Even with the various demi races in the background,this adventure taps all the right buttons with its encounters and monsters. Beneath Black Towen is a very nice piece of old school build up and gives a nice pacing to itself and is a solid installment in the Jarl saga. This isn't a bad little entry into the Dragon's foot free adventures line.
With the right group of players this adventure can be used to both introduce the World of Song and as a stepping stone for a Dragon Foot style of AD&D or OSRIC campaign adventures for your players. Or it can be used independently as a part of your own world and easily adapted as a puzzle piece of fortune and glory.

Beneath Black Towen
& Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep
For Your Old School Campaigns

Beneath Black Towen is a full on dungeon romp and crawl that hits the high notes of a stepping stone adventure with new monsters, adventure elements,spells,and all of the trimmings for either a convention set up or as part of a one shot adventure.
But really this isn't the only possibilities with this adventure. The PC's can easily be used as part of a back handed whip around by introducing the elements of '
Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep ' to the party. Keep some extra PC's on hand because there is a bit of that deadly ultra violence in this one as well. 

Dark forces threaten everything that the PC's hold dear,the perfect motivator for the heroes to get involved in the world of Song. Even though Beneath Black Towen can played as a stand alone. I believe that the module gains a completely different depth of campaign substance with the addition of Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep. These two adventures can be used to simulate a Dark Albion or Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea campaign. The almost 'Game of Thrones' level of succession, intrigue, dungeon crawling, and adventure elements add just the right amount of nastiness to push the players & their PC's.
Where the Fallen Jarls Sleep is one part dungeon crawl and two part source pack for the World of Song. It also contains a whole bunch of world elements of Song. There's whole pack of trouble heading your PC's way. And that's what this adventure does,it stacks the odds against the player characters and expects to not simply kill the monsters and collect the treasure but act as heroes inside of a sword and sorcery adventure. The adventure pulls deeply from the pulp traditions of sword and sorcery but with a gritty high fantasy asthetic so often found in AD&D. Grab both of them for something a bit different and these modules are solid free material,perfect for an evening's entertainment as well as more.