Saturday, June 11, 2016

Some Commentary On Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos Book and Domain Level Play

Dark Albion is now birthing into the world Cults of Chaos from Rpgpundit & Dominique Crouzet.  Rpgpundit is  running a contest to see whose going to be the reviewer to go over the material for their podcast, blog, etc on his own blog.

Domain level play goes back to OD&D and D&D wargaming roots where ninth level characters established strongholds, forts, wizard's castles, and more. This was taken to large strata as time went on as we shall see and this is where the cracks of Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos can take root as we shall see.

So I'm over there fighting and insulting tooth, nail, & claw for the chance to review this material before some other folks and its being done ala Thunderdome. All of this is in fact being done for fun and the chance to take a look at Dark Cults before the 'other guy' whomever the other guy is. But this contest has served as more then a bit of inspiration for my own obsession with domain level games especially involving cults, demons, devils, and the powers of darkness. So what does this have to do with Cults of Chaos for Dark Albion? Well in point of fact everything;"Cults of Chaos is a nearly-100 page source book that will be covering everything you need regarding Chaos in the world of Dark Albion.  You get material in there on how to design a medieval-authentic Chaos Cult from scratch, with tons of great random tables and a cult-generation system that creates unique cults from the whole gamut of Albion's sects and social classes.

You also get material on the different major chaos cult-beliefs, heresies, witchcraft, and how all of these operate. There's also a full selection of rules on mutations, on medieval-style familiars (not the friendly animal buddies of a typical D&D game, but rather a demon in animal form), planetary spirits, witch-marks, chaos artifacts, the elusive alchemical elixir of immortality, star-cults and beings from the stars, the horrifying Dark Albion elves (which from playtests will be guaranteed to put the fear into your PC party), tons and tons of random tables, and much much more (including several excellent dungeons)!"

Ever since Frank Mentzer and co. came out with the Companion and Immortal  rules for D&D domain level play and beyond in '84.  They even took it beyond in the Immortals set. Domain level  has been a part of the game ever since. All of this was later embodied & streamlined  into  the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. So what does all of this have to do with a book about cults of Chaos in a gritty dark sword and history setting like Dark Albion? 

The War Of The Roses was fought between in episodes between 1455 and 1487. This was a conflict which raged back and forth across the board of England. I hate to use Wiki but it sums it up rather nicely; "The Wars of the Roses was a series of wars for control of the throne of England. They were fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, those of Lancaster and York. They were fought in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, although there was related fighting before and after this period. The conflict resulted from social and financial troubles that followed the Hundred Years' War, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of Henry VI, which revived interest in Richard, Duke of York's claim to the throne"  Here's the important bit;" They were fought in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, although there was related fighting before and after this period."
This is the perfect time period for cults of darkness and demons to rise in the cracks of empire like weeds between a great empire. Dark Albion as a setting follows exactly the events of the War of The Roses with its own dark and twisted turn on the events of history. But there's more too it then that dear reader.

When you as a gamer & dungeon master start getting into domain level play your getting into some very dark terrority. Political assassinations, intrigue, scandals, rivalries, forced marriages, duels of honor, betrayal, love, and plenty of  Game of Thrones level sex thrown throughout. All of this happened during the War of  The Roses and afterward. this makes it the perfect breeding ground for cults, dark powers, and the PC's to bumble right into the middle of it. So how does this differ from say Barry Blatt's England Upturn'd? Well besides being a totally different period of history and with the feel of a gritty Robert Howard Solomon Kane inspiration quite a bit, the tensions are completely different and tone is one of grim and gritty alternative history in Dark Albion.

I know what your thinking about domain level play here, surely Adventurer, Conqueror, King can handle the task of handling events like these? Well in fact it does and is fully compatible with ACK's so much so that Fantastic Heroes and Witchery has a domain level system heavily influenced by ACK's built right into its backdrop. In fact ACK's is sited in the OGL material for Fantastic Heroes and Witchery.

Dark cults, demons, and politics are a perfect combination to take a game to the next level a ploy that I've used many, many, times.  The real objective in the game is the acquisition of power:  personal power, power through wealth and magic, and ultimately, political power and conquest. In other words the destiny of a nation which for the powers of darkness is way too much of a temptation not to get involved in a conflict such as the Rose War.  The truth is that I think that Adventurer, Conqueror, King will work well as a resource for either a system to run a domain level game or as a system to built upon to create some very dangerous adventures. This is going to be a wait and see proposition when I begin building my game starting next week. Cults of Chaos couldn't come out at a better time.

Demons and domain level play are a winning combination in my book because it enables high levels of play without wrecking the state of a campaign. Last night I took a look into Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea which has its own internal rules for domain levels of play and is another game that I think will in fact benefit from the release of Cults of Chaos. In fact for the better part of a year I've been following this blog which uses both AS&SH and ACK's together. 

 This has been an instrumental move in my own rethinking of my Warlords of the Outer Worlds campaign.
Let me sum up here  about Cults of Chaos:
  • If you are running an old school OD&D style campaign Cults of Chaos is going to have something for you to use in your own games.
  • Demons, cults, and dark powers are perfect domain level NPC villains to use across the chess board of history. 
  • Cults of Chaos is going to be a major release for Dark Albion and I think the quality of the product is going to be up to the standard of the original book. 
  • If you are running a sword and sorcery or pulp style OSR game this is going to be a book to get.

    Take as part and parcel Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos is going to be a must have for this dungeon master. Keep those dice rolling.

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