Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

Introduction Down
Passed The Gates Of Hell

“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people”
― Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

 Last night I got together with friends from Otis Massachusetts to go to a screening of Captain America Civil War and to discuss my upcoming Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Veteran game where we take the PC's straight down into Journey through Malebolge Book Two From  Spellbook Games. 
A friend of which has a copy printed out from Drivethrurpg. So over dinner we discussed the fate of the  the wizard Titrus Mire whose sacrifice allowed a party of adventurers to reach tenth level and a campaign to end back in '96. But now the gates of Hell were hollowing for the souls of his friends and we're coming up upon the season when they must once again take to the road paved with good intentions of suffer a fate worse then death. You can read the entire affair in part one right here


“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people”
― Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

So what's taking so damn long if you'll pardon the pun?
This is a veteran PC game using characters from a party of adventurers who found themselves in Judge's Guild's Inferno module. They reached tenth level and  their wizard made a pact with a minor demon named Azbenon lord of the Seven Darks. Now the demon has been sending dreams of the opening a certain door and the screams of the damned have been tormenting our heroes for months. At least that's the idea.  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 themselves. The mini campaign has been delayed because I'm rereading bits and pieces of the Divine Comedy itself and then there's the matter of going over my notes for the adventure and end of the campaign.

 Staring Into The Depths
Of The Abyss

There are three things to know about
Journey through Malebolge Book Two From Spellbook If you are expecting the Hell of Dragon magazine and AD&D 1st edition  you can forget it. This is a series of products that doesn't pull any punches and its very close with some modifications to the original sources & most of all its deadly as sin. That's not to say that it can't be navigated by a group of cagey and literate players but this is a series that can be very nasty on the PC's.

Journey through Malebolge Book Two picks right up from book one one in the series and casts light on circles six through eight in extreme detail. When we're talking circles here I want to get across the scale of these settings, these are mini campaign settings that could take years to deal with. The circles and locations are very well laid out what you get is:

  "the middle area of Hell, the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circles, including more than thirty-five encounters.  The major locations include the River of Blood, Chiron’s Hall, Wood of Suicides, Harpy tribal trees, dens of Infernal Hounds, the Harpodrome, the Oasis of Ezrabah, the Hidden Stairs, Geryon’s Treasure Cave, and the Alchemist Keep.  The important denizens include Chiron Lord of the Centaurs of Hell, the Grand Matriarch of the Harpies of Hell, Kemmelnesses, the Diabolic Earl Geryon,  Bonifaec, and Nimrod of the Nephilim."  But not only that but you get details of the setting right down to weather and more;"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."  As I said this is a very, very, dangerous and challenging setting and PC's are going to die at least a few times here. These are gaming locations that live up their hype and a literate as well as intelligent group of players is going to be challenged. This is hence why these books shouldn't be taken lightly. 

So how does this live up to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition game ethos and how hard is this going to be deal with? Well in actual practice its not. Spell Book games very cleverly and backhandedly got around the OGL and actually the books are easily converted over to your favorite old school system here's how.

This role-playing game Adventure describes the environs
of the Hell of the Devils, situated on the Infernal
Plane, Gehenna. It is generally based on the descriptions
of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) by
Dante Alighieri, and updates, expands, and completes
the 1980 Judges Guild module, Inferno. This game product
is intended for use by a Games Master as a role playing
game scenario, and contains the information necessary
to guide the actions of a party of adventurers as
they travel through the Inferno and its environs. It is not
intended for reference or use by players, particularly
during game sessions. This game module is not intended
to be a stand alone product. Reference is made throughout,
to a variety of unique monsters, spells, prayers, and
enchanted objects. It is assumed the Games Master has
descriptions of these standard creatures, magic, and objects
available, or has created their own information.
The intended descriptions are found in the following
references, all available from Spellbook Games: Gehenna
Primer, Codicil of Maladies, Inferno: Bestiary,
and Inferno: Treasury. In addition, this volume is intended
to be used in close conjunction with Inferno:
Journey through Malebolge, Books One, Three, and
Denizens, which together form the whole of Journey
through Malebolge.
This Adventure is written using the Spellbook Games
RPG rule set, Portal to Adventure. Little to no conversion
is required for use with the Advanced Dungeons
and Dragons rule set or any similar rules. Extensive advance
conversion effort will be required by the Games
Master to use this Adventure with the Dungeons and
Dragons Revision 3.x or Revision 4 rule sets, or any
similar game system.

Actually its not as big of a problem as a dungeon master might think Spellbook games has done a killer job of mapping out not only the environs of Hell but the sections as necessary and they are very dangerous. Hell is brutal, nasty, and very, very, dangerous in a twisted dark fantasy sort of way of epic proportions. Think of the 1985 film Legend's set pieces and production for imagery that we're talking about here.

Does Journey through Malebolge Book Two live up to its infernal and damned reputation among gamers? Its really hard to say but it sure is damn good fun. This would definitely be a great setting to play and romp in. The ideas and themes that this book lays out for the dungeon master are much darker then I was expecting without crossing the lines of weirdness that other material that I've seen deals with. What the product does do is live up to the middle depths of Hell as described in the Divine Comedy with plenty of room for a dungeon master to leave their thumb print on the setting and location but we'll get into that in book three in one week the next time I get together with my fellow friends and players.
Below is another classic art piece on the journey into Hell from Dante and I can tell you without a doubt that each and everything depicted is in Journey through Malebolge Book Two.

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