Saturday, May 21, 2016

Two Great Free Old School Resources & A 1d6 Epic Random Monster Generator Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Today was a very enlightening day to say the least and also a day where I ran across two very distinct resources that could be used for old school campaign design. The first of these is an article entitled "Paradise Maps, Monk Tabloids, and Monsters A Thousand Years of Medieval Cosmology.
Basically this is an article about paradise maps and it could be used to design an Earthly paradise or Heaven on Earth a concept that dates back to the Greeks and even further back. This could be used to design out your own paradise of the gods adventure setting. Besides the article has some nifty maps in it.

Finally I was doing some research into undead in Holmes and Basic Dungeons and Dragons, back in October James Mishler released Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead
 for Labyrinth Lord
These notes provide a rare insight into the background behind the niche that the author saw. In this case a whole range of details about his design process including his blog post on the ghosts is a monster generator blog post tucked into the background. This post talks about dungeon generators spontaneously creating both life and the monsters of the dungeon itself. This was a central theme in many of the early dungeons such as those of Arduin and other early rivals of TSR. So what does this have to do with Holmes D&D? Quite a bit in point of fact. The heavy hitter monsters of epic level are the Hydra, Dragons, and Chimera as well as the Giants in no particular order of importance. In the mythological and cultural terms of legends of pop culture these are some of the guardians of the world's greatest treasures and artifacts. I'm going to be stepping far away from Tolkien here and slanting towards mythological and pulp tradition. When we look at things such as  Das Rheingold, or One Thousand and One Nights or  even the story cycles of Edgar Rice Burroughs(or any of the authors of Appendix N or beyond). We begin to see the extent of the mythological and mystic at work in the workings of  early D&D. This isn't to be taken lightly because it brings us to the idea of the spontaneous generation of life and monsters.
The mythological is the other in D&D and its horrific as well as dangerously epic in its scope. These are monsters and mayhem that take lives, court violence, and create the vector of the scope of it all in D&D. These things are utterly alien and completely at odds with the circumstances of the PC's and they guard the vaults of the Ancients, the gods, and should never be routine. These things are the 'other' this is a tradition that was echoed in Holmes and today in designers works such James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess. We can see the Gothic elements in One Thousand And One Nights quite easily;"
Haunting is used as a plot device in gothic fiction and horror fiction, as well as modern paranormal fiction. Legends about haunted houses have long appeared in literature. In particular, the Arabian Nights tale of "Ali the Cairene and the Haunted House in Baghdad" revolves around a house haunted by jinns.[62] The Nights is almost certainly the earliest surviving literature that mentions ghouls, and many of the stories in that collection involve or reference ghouls. A prime example is the story The History of Gherib and His Brother Agib (from Nights vol. 6), in which Gherib, an outcast prince, fights off a family of ravenous Ghouls and then enslaves them and converts them to Islam.[63]
Horror fiction elements are also found in "The City of Brass" tale, which revolves around a ghost town.[64]
The horrific nature of Scheherazade's situation is magnified in Stephen King's Misery, in which the protagonist is forced to write a novel to keep his captor from torturing and killing him. The influence of the Nights on modern horror fiction is certainly discernible in the work of H. P. Lovecraft. As a child, he was fascinated by the adventures recounted in the book, and he attributes some of his creations to his love of the 1001 Nights."
Now why I'm saying that because each and every adventure has its elements of the horror and the Gothic built right into it. This is something we've lost as dungeon masters and players the magick of taking Dungeons and Dragons as the ordinary and mundane. Any encounter with these types of powerhouses PC's should count their lucky stars if they live through them. There are several possible origin points of the Chimera and its ilk according to Wiki;"

Homer's brief description in the Iliad[2] is the earliest surviving literary reference: "a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle,[3] and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire."[4] Elsewhere in the Iliad, Homer attributes the rearing of Chimera to Amisodorus.[5] Hesiod's Theogony follows the Homeric description: he makes the Chimera the issue of Echidna: "She was the mother of Chimaera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay."[6] The author of the Bibliotheca concurs:[7] descriptions agree that she breathed fire. The Chimera is generally considered to have been female (see the quotation from Hesiod above) despite the mane adorning her head, the inclusion of a close mane often was depicted on lionesses, but the ears always were visible (that does not occur with depictions of male lions). Sighting the Chimera was an omen of storms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes).While there are different genealogies, in one version the Chimera mated with her brother Orthrus and was the mother of the Sphinx and the Nemean lion (others have Orthrus and their mother, Echidna, mating; most attribute all to Typhon and Echidna)."

So once again we've got an other worldly origin point and usually all it takes for a monster to be born is a minor event to spawn things and monsters of legend. To add tentacles and Lovecraftian elements as needed. For Hydra this scene from Willow always reminds me of this.

So what might a Epic Monster Generator Table look like?

1d6 Epic Monster Generator Table 
  1.  1d4 giants created from the remains of a weapon of the gods. These hill giants are mishap and very dangerously violent. They will attack anyone they can come across. 
  2. A chimera spawned from the remains of the split skull of a demon god and now guarding what remains of his treasure hoard. 1d6 orcs may result if the chimera's blood reaches the skull
  3.  A gang of outlaw 1d6 giants has been created from the split blood of a god who battled his brother these are guarding the golden coins left behind by the melee. 
  4.  A hydra was spawned by the summoning of a demon, it slayed all of the cult and now guards a weapon that they uncovered. 
  5. A dragon has been created by slaying of a god, it guards the hoard that was spawned by his passing. 
  6. A gang of giants and orcs has been created by the passing of titan of legend. They are seeking to start a kingdom of their own by enslaving locals and taking anything of value.  

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