Thursday, March 30, 2017

Old School Domain Level Play With B1-9 In Search of Adventure As Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaign Jump Off Point

So I was discussing B9 Castle Caldwell with some friends & someone over heard us & quickly dismissed this old school anthology module as Basic D&D tripe. Oh I beg to differ folks. Tonight we're going to go into one of the turning point modules for B/X D&D and how it relates to domain level play & the OSR. First off don't buy B9 instead buy In Search of Adventure which is an abridged version of both B9 & some of the other adventures that preceded B9 as a super module. This is really the one to get.
"THRESHOLD! The northernmost town in the Duchy - and your last stop before your adventures begin. Threshold, the gateway to mysterious castles, lost temples, deadly caves and caverns. You have heard the stories and legends, now you wish to see for yourself. This product provides a complete campaign adventure that will take beginning characters from 1st all the way to 3rd level and possibly beyond, drawn from the first nine modules of the B-series adventures." According to the Amazon review

In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology is one of the best of the Eighties products to come out because it gives a highly playable & detailed region in the style of a pseudo European campaign setting sure some stuff from the venerable adventure modules was left on the cutting room floor but the sum is greater then the parts. Here the the PC's are adventuring in someone else's domains & the anthology approach of this mega module strings it together nicely especially for sword & sorcery styles of old school play. Castle Cladwell & Beyond is in this one but its got a completely different feel to it.

"The Clearing of Castle Caldwell--A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle... but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited!  
Dungeons of Terror--A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Cadwell leads to a terrifying challenge! The Abduction of Princess Sylvia--On the eve of her wedding, the beautiful princess has been kidnapped! Can you save her in time? The Great Escape--Imprisoned in an enemy fortress, without armor or weapons, your situation seems hopeless. Yet there may be a way to freedom . . . The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent--A mystical chime of great power has been stolen?but by whom? In the wrong hands, the chime can cause untold harm! But can you find and defeat this mysterious and powerful creature?"

This adventure takes the PC's from the first level right through about maybe third or forth level in terms of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea or Adventurer, Conqueror, King by giving them a well strung together adventure resource that makes them the center of the action. They're the heroes of old as a part of this over arching plot boiler of this adventure setting. "The modules B1-B9 include: B1 In Search of the Unknown, B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, B4 The Lost City, B5 Horror on the Hill, B6 The Veiled Society, B7 Rahasia, B8 Journey to the Rock, and B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond." With a bit of work on the DM's part this anthology can be used to build out the adventure locations used in both the original adventure modules and the super modules to do Marvel Conan comic style returns after one part of the anthology is completed this was a tactic that served me well a few times when running this series of modules especially of the dungeons of the B4 The Lost City where entire dungeon sections are left blank allowing the DM to create five or more abandoned tunnels that can lead to the surface & back tie in with the B6 The Veiled Society as faction of the city setting. Why?

The entire module is build around the premise to allow rookie DM's to take PC's up class levels & have the entire module used as a viable campaign. This means that while the adventures are mostly intact it has a completely different aim then say some of the individual adventures unto themselves. In fact this allows PC's to take several of the adventure locations featured as possible domains for their parties. This is something we see today in several OSR products.
There are several reasons why In Search of Adventure  works for sword & sorcery style play:
  1. Ready made adventure location domains built into the module. 
  2. The PC's have personal adventure investment in the campaign setting location. 
  3. The whole adventure can be dropped into your favorite old school retroclone easily and it still fits quite nicely. 
  4. Lower tier encounters make this adventure ring true with beginning level parties 
  5. The module is still deadly and dangerous regardless of the starting level, this is something that many DM's I know forget. 
  6. There are several encounters that have threads that can be woven into other parts of a sword & sorcery campaign. 
  7. Loot, locks, & opportunity means that parties can carve out their own kingdoms if they're smart about it. 
  8. NPC's are deadly, devious, and dastardly - Several players I've known underestimate this adventure and it gets them every single time. 
  9. Campaign expansion opportunities, have you ever wanted to drop in weird adventure location or dungeon? This is a great anthology to use for exactly this sort of a reason. 
  10. More locations and more trouble for players  DM's should take full advantage of the dangers of domain play from their favorite rules sets when using this adventure. In fact it can easily be tied into White Plume Mountain for campaign expansion.

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