Thursday, February 18, 2016

Commentary On Using B4 The Lost City by Tom Moldvay For Your Old School Campaigns

"Lost in the desert! The only hope for survival is a ruined city rising out of the sands. Food, water, and wealth await heroic adventurers inside an ancient pyramid ruled by a strange race of masked beings."
One of my all time favorite OD&D modules is B4 The Lost City by Tom Moldvay.

I got together with some friends today to discuss last night's game with the Gibbering Tower and they reminded me today that I used B4 as a campaign source for an Empire of the Petal Throne game back in the early 2000's. Wiki has a pretty good breakdown of the principal plot of the module;"The module is described as a low-level scenario, in which the only hope of the player characters' survival can be found in a ruined city slowly rising out of the sands.[3] The adventure is set inside a huge step pyramid, with the lower pyramid only sketched out and the city itself described with a list of the major areas and a map. The adventure’s main villain is Zargon, a giant one-eyed monster and his minions. The entire double pyramid, not including the city, contains over 100 rooms."

Basically in Empire of the Petal Throne rpg  the PC's are thrown into the exploration of the world of Tékumel and its dungeon like environments on a far distant space colony world that has fallen into an alien  Dark Age after the failing of its interstellar empire and the planet's exile into a pocket universe. There are very die hard fans of Empire of the Petal Throne which remains a cultclassic game. I was playing with two such fans back then and they knew each and every source book, adventure, article,etc. which came out for the game. There was a simple solution for vexing such players, the world of Tékumel wasn't the only world and star system that was tucked away into a pocket dimension. Enter B4 The Lost City by Tom Moldvay, here was the perfect adventure to create a mini campaign using a brand new adventure location that the DM could fill in as needed. "Centuries ago, Cynidicea was the capital of a rich and fertile kingdom. Its people reclaimed much land from the desert, especially during the reign of King Alexander—the last and greatest king of Cynidicea. Upon King Alexander's death, a huge pyramid was raised in his honor. This pyramid was the largest and most important building in the city. "
I simply used the
Cynidiceans and the lost city as another pocket universe location that the adventurers had stumbled into and Zargon as another planar demon god to deal with.

This same formula could be used to have the city appearing across space and time under the guidience of Zargon the city's alien Lovecraftian demonic god. This allows the city, its factions, and adventure opportunities to appear even in a post apocalyptic or science fantasy campaign quite easily. 
One thing that I've really come to respect about the The Lost City adventure is the tightness of the design, the clever way that the whole adventure handles its sword & sorcery elements and how easy it is to modify it for use with other retroclone systems. I can and have easily slipped this adventure into the wastelands of Gamma World or some other post apocalyptic campaign world. With the release of Blackmoor for OD&D this past month on Drivethrurpg the fact that B4 was incorporated into Mystara ages ago all kinds of possibilities are opened up for other PC options and campaign setting expansions. Given the idea that perhaps the Cynidiceans gone beyond Blackmoor and reached out into the various alternative Prime Material planes and dimensions. There is a full range of resources regarding this rather mysterious lost D&D race. There's a thread on Dragon's foot that has some pretty nice ideas about using them as a PC race  here.

And there's also a full history of the Cynidiceans in the Mystara version of Darkmoor that incorporates in B4 The Lost City adventure timeline into that setting's history.

Another idea that comes to mind is incorporating the various locations and science fantasy technologies of Blackmoor into The Lost City for an almost counterpoint or weird crossover adventure setting with S3 Expediation to the Barrier Peaks for all kinds of science fantasy mayhem. Another more recent adventure that could be easily slipped into such a campaign's background is the Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes for the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system. Given B4 The Lost City's desert setting it makes certain amount of sense and continues the sword and sorcery science fantasy themes.

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