Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Preparing An Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Veterans Campaign Using Spellbook Games Journey through Malebolge Book One Part I


GRAB Spellbook Games Journey
through Malebolge Book One HERE

There are times when the forces of Hell will not be put at bay and this weekend is going to be one of those times!  What was wrought ten years ago will be unleashed once again. The forces of Hell seek out the adventurers and Outlaws known as Callahan's Crew to drag one of their number down into the depths!
Once upon a time there was a group of adventurers who reached tenth level and after braving the depths of Hell managed to escape their shackles of damnation. This was of course after cutting a deal with a seemingly minor demon a life time ago in '96. Well,Hell doesn't wait and it claimed the soul of  the wizard Titrus Mire and dragged him off to the depths. Now his friends have to brave e depths of the darkness to either bring their friend back or set their friend's soul free from the clutches of damnation itself!

“Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I shall endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

This is a veteran PC game using characters from a party of adventurers who found themselves in Judge's Guild's Inferno module. They escaped when their wizard made a pact with a minor demon named Azbenon lord of the Seven Darks. As good as his word they did indeed escape but the cuts that the demon made on the wizard's flesh bled and he was damned whisked off to Hell itself. But things have changed as I'm now using Spellbook Games
Journey through Malebolge Book One

“Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice. ”
― Dante Alighieri,
The Divine Comedy

  So what's really happening here and what is a Veterans campaign? Well, when I began to approach this campaign after so long I began with contacting the players who are coming home this weekend knowing that these PC's were used in home campaigns to establish their own settings and begin leading other bands of adventurers. The matter of
Azbenon lord of the Seven Darks was brought up by one of my players But then I began to do some research into Journey through Malebolge Book One
and this one is a nasty piece of work. But why use this version of Hell for an AD&D game? There are several reasons right out of the gate. The first is because this is a far more expansive and dangerous version of the classic Hell that sticks very close to the original Dante literature.And its down right weird and nasty, it also happens to line up exactly with the situations that the PC's found themselves in originally. There's a nasty sort of honesty about this version of Hell. A sort of aura of evil hangs over every single entry and drips down through the situation even the dark woodland entry is a character unto itself:

"Every 300 to 400 yards the Adventurers pass the ruined remnants of stone buildings, mostly consisting of
piles of cubic stones, empty rectangular foundations, and one-story pieces of stone walls standing
alone. Many appear to have been set afire at some past time. If characters use spells or prayers
to determine alignment, these ruins have an aura of goodness associated with them. If characters closely examine, or dig into, the remains of these buildings they find unidentifiable bones, broken wood from furniture, small household objects, and various small twisted metal pieces"

Evil here is both subtle and brutal in its depiction and its not meant to be an easy place to adventure at all. This really is a place for veteran adventurers who might stand chance of survival and might even be able to return to the DM's regular campaign world.

This is not a book that takes the road map approach but the type of adventure setting that not only emulates but build upon itself one horror at a time while at the same time leading the adventurers deeper into its infernal mysteries and misery all of the while using
information that  is provided about important denizens of each Circle, the sins and torments, weather, specific rules pertaining to the physical challenges faced by mortals in crossing each Circle, and random encounters. This is Hell in every sense of the word and a world unto itself. The maps are professional and well done, the encounter lists are written so that DM can actually use them and interlock them with his own campaign setting. What makes this a nice OSR adventure setting material is the set up that Spellbook Games uses for their material its easily adaptable to OSR gaming:"
Journey through Malebolge is written for the Spellbook Games RPG rule set, ‘Portal to Adventure,’ but is usable essentially ‘as is’ with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or any similar rule set with very little adaptation. A Games Master using Dungeons and Dragons versions 3.x, 4, or 5, or any similar rules, will require additional preparations." Does it live up to this style of promise? Yes it does as a matter of fact. All of the classic adventure locations from the source material are here and more;"
an area of Gehenna above the Great Pit, the Gates of Hell, and Outer Hell, consisting of Circle Zero through the Fifth Circle.  More than thirty encounter areas are described, including the Shining Hill, Vile Forest, Gates of Hell, Noble Castle, the River Archeron, Cave of Tantalassus, Minos’ Palace, the Garden of Succubi, Cerberus’ barn, and the treasure caves of Plutus, the swamp Styx, Phelgyas’ Tower, the Walls of Dis, and the City of Burning Tombs." Yeah they're all here and more. The magick items are both vile and deadly as well as cursed but there are reasons why and explanations of their existence within the confines of Hell as its defined by Journey through Malebolge Book One
But Hell isn't simply a location of horror and degradition well it is but there is also the fact that the demons and devils are not simply another experience point on the PC's character sheet. These are demons & monsters willing to engage the PC's in conversations and able to show them the ten cent tour of the horrors of Hell. They might toss them into the Pit if it suits them. This is a Hell setting that has its roots in classic literature and the pulp era of horror equally and it draws deeply from both settings. This makes it a perfectly dangerous place for adventurers in equal measure.

 One  Thing Leads To Another

This is not a setting to take lightly and its evil is neither comforting nor easy to deal with on any level of play but it sure is damn fun. The PC's are going to be in for an expansive and hard time dealing with the horrors and degradation of the setting on multiple levels of play. Each and everything is keyed to doing them harm on some level from minor inconvenience to major NPC encounters & if your thinking that this is going to simply be a matter of killing X and Y for its treasure & experience points your going to be joining the damned here on a permanent basis.
 I've had lots and lots of experience playing in
Geoff Dale's version of Hell and it's really nice to see this beast of a setting getting its due and expansion. But I will caution those using this setting to use either high level PC's or very experienced players because you're going to need a stack of character sheets. One wrong move means that your PC is going to be dealing with the fall out from a stupid decision. This setting doesn't kill PC's but bad decisions will cost you in PC's lives and time in the setting's circles. I do strongly recommend Spellbook Games Journey through Malebolge Book One.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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