Saturday, June 18, 2016

Further Thoughts On The Demon Stones By MonkeyBlood Design For Swords & Wizardry And Your Old School Campaigns

This morning I was rooting around all kinds of internet sites yesterday for an upcoming game looming next week and I saw a brand new copy of  The Demon Stones in my email 'in box' from Monkey Blood Design.


So I'm getting ready to get together an OSR style campaign and The Demon Stones is one of those adventures that originally came out for Pathfinder but works much better as a Swords and Wizardry title. Or it could even be used as a far grittier swords and sorcery adventure But why? Well, because it has some elements that one finds in the TSR U.K. style of adventures. The grim grittiness is there, the unexpected twists and plays on popular grim fantasy elements, and an understanding of the U.K. Hammer style aesthetic without being overtly pretentious. All of this comes together with a bang and holds the interest of the DM and the players.
We get an overcoming wave of HP Lovecraft's the Colour Out Of Space mixed in with the grit and grim of a typical White Dwarf adventure circa 1980, you know the good ones that could be played over and over again.

The Demon Stones has action packed bits but its more of an investigative and atmospheric adventure with heavy horror overtones. There's lots of well thought out and fully fleshed NPC's sprinkled throughout the adventure. Here the horror is on a more one to one personal level with lots of weirdness happening both around the adventure locations and within the adventure itself. The maps and cartography are very nicely done and echo the old school UK flavor of the Demon Stones. And this is what makes the Demon Stones work for campaign drag and drop, the Demon Stones is an entire mini location into itself within the adventure and that framework makes it appealing for sword and sorcery. Sure, there's plenty of high fantasy D&D bits scattered throughout but I think it works better within the confines of its own setting skin.

There are several reasons why the Demon Stones is going to be useful for campaign design in a sword and sorcery campaign setting:
  • The NPC's are incredibly well drawn out and further the plot of the adventure and not they're own existence which the players don't care about. They give the adventure an on the ground and 'its happening now' feel to the Demon Stones. 
  • On the whole there's an element of cosmic horror and Lovecraftian atmosphere that appeals to me as a DM. Not so much that this is an impossible adventure ala Call of Cthulhu. But a Hammer feel where the PC's can make an actual difference to the goings on. 
  • Within the context of a campaign this adventure can quietly sit on the back burner of a region or area only to explode and become the main focus of a campaign unexpectedly.  That cosmic horror element lends itself quite nicely too this sort of an angle.

So how could the Demon Stones be used within an on going campaign?
Well from reading it over I can see several types of campaigns and styles being used with it:
  1. The Demon Stones could work as an investigative horror adventure centered around a remote backwater area, this situation would appeal to a Lamentations of the Flame Princess gambit. There is enough meat here to keep a game going easily for a month or two.
  2. As an inquisitor or clerical heavy investigative campaign adventure in which the stars align or the gods move the PC's into the path of the events of the Demon Stones. 
  3. Pure Lovecraftian horror, The Demon Stones has the material to take on a full horror style adventure. This makes it work on a number of levels needed to feed the appetites of horror and depravity within the confines of an old school or OSR style game. 
  4. The Demon Stones could be welded onto an existing campaign to take a high fantasy setting into the dark path of horror as well. This option could easily dark up and move a campaign into the realms of investigative horror. 
  5. It could with a ton of work be converted into a Dark Ages Cthulhu adventure. 
  6. The Demon Stones could be a jump off point for an entire campaign using the elements that the adventure brings to the table and bridged into a far more sinister vein of things. 
  7. This adventure could string a party into other sinister mysteries of the regions mentioned in the Demon Stones. The NPC's are strong enough to provide a DM cover to build many minor adventures in the regions that adventure talks about. Elements of Celtic mythology might provide fodder in that direction. 
  8. Minor plot points and hooks scattered throughout the Demon Stones could motivate a party to stay and build upon their reputations after the events of the adventure within the area. 
  9. Technically with a lot of work the DM could set the Demon Stones up as a bridge into the TSR U.K. modules with a bit of slight of hand adventure gap writing. The NPC's of the Demon Stones have the material built right into them. 
  10. Because of the investigative  horror nature of the Demon Stones other adventure module events can hover in the background of the events and an entire campaign can unfold ala a layer cake to reveal an entire campaign right before the players eyes if the adventure is used correctly.
    All in all  think that the Demon Stones  is a fine addition to the OSR market and a perfect vehicle to build an entire campaign upon. There's lots and lots of potential for using the elements of the adventure for fully realized campaigning and for bringing PC's into the thick of the events of the adventure.
    For my full review of the adventure go right here

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