Friday, April 28, 2017

A Clark Ashton Smith Spin On David Cook's I1 Dwellers In The Forbidden City For Your Old School Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns

"Somewhere in the heart of the steaming jungle lies the answer to the whispered tales - rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Here a brave party might find riches and wonders - or death! Is your party brave enough to face the terrors of the unknown and find the Forbidden City!?"Welcome back to the Saturday edition of Swords & Stitchery, so last night I shut down the internet & settled in to read I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City. David Cook delves deeply into the pulpy pot of his imagination for I1. There has been a suggestion from a friend of mine that the dungeon master could add in Dwellers of the Forbidden City as a level of B4 The Lost City. There also been games that I've played in which Dwellers of the Forbidden City became an addition to Isle of Dread. This allows dungeon masters to complete the island hopping campaign adventure idea. So why is I1 so loved?
 Well because its a good old fashioned deadly middle ground adventure for characters level four to seven to really cut loose and get into the pulpy thick of the adventure. I've heard some bellowing from certain old school players about this adventure being very dangerous & dark for encounters for their PC's. There is actually a reason for this folks. According to the Wizards of the Coast entry on I1;"
the I-series of adventures was (mostly) unconnected. Instead, it featured adventures for characters of a certain level: intermediate. The result was one of TSR's longest-running series, containing fourteen books published from 1981-1988, covering Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, and including modules originating at TSR UK, the RPGA, and the Hickmans' DayStar West Media. Over time, the intermediate adventures supported levels 4-10, roughly matching Basic D&D's expert level.
The I series was later supplemented by the N (novice) series (1982-87) and the H (high-level) series (1985-88). By the end of the 80s, however, the N, I, and H codes were all fading away, to be replaced by the next big thing: modules focused on specific settings."
That's right I1 was the first module to focus on a specific PC level & if your PC survives it congrats. Because it was a module originally designed for mid level convention play. "Dwellers of the Forbidden City was first used in Dungeons & Dragons tournament play at the Origins Game Fair in 1980" 

Cook leans heavily on the Fiend Folio first edition  to fill out the roster of monsters here including: giant bloodworm, the bullywugs, the pan lung, the yellow musk creeper, and the yellow musk zombie.The encounters and factions here are mean, dangerous and link up in a type of weird sword and sorcery adventure that pits PC's against horrid  odds. With one of the themes being the dangerous snake cult of the yuan-ti. " The adventure was instrumental in introducing the yuan-ti as a new species of antagonists.[3] Much like the drow from the Queen of the Spiders Series, the yuan-ti have been featured in a number of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Edition books for the D&D game, and are one of the few species that Wizards of the Coast did not keep open for the Open Game License"
BUHAHAHA  sorry because this hasn't kept dungeon masters for the better part of thirty years from simply changing them to Robert Howard's serpent men and then using them in their sword & sorcery home campaigns. And this is one of the reasons why Dwellers In The Forbidden City is so beloved its dangerous and very adaptable for old school play. The dangerous spreading corruption of I1 has been something I used for years to really get the player's blood going. They try to stamp it out and yet it never seems to go away. I've also mated it up with X6 Quagmire many times. 
Now that being said  Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius site has a complete rundown of the mating of X6 Quagmire with Dwellers of The Forbidden City. 
Its a very well organized article and lays out all of the basics the dungeon master needs. 
Personally I would also add in a tribe or two of Robert Howard Picts to try and murder the PC's or to act as NPC hirelings. The number of factions of the player characters can recruit allies from the various power groups and factions within the city, namely the bugbears, mongrelmen, and bullywugs,are not to be trusted and a more human group seems to get more mileage from the players in my experience. The various factions & monsters some of which are straight out the AD&D 1st edition Fiend Folio remind me of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess
The Forgotten Fane has many parts & pieces that can act as reflections of the lost empire of another age. The plot & adventure itself acting as a valve to pull PC's deeper into the mysterious & dangerous elements of a forgotten age.
  There are several key parts of Forgotten Fane that can easily be adapted into I1 Dwellers In The Forbidden City as major adventure points for old school play. Tread carefully with these because your going to need PC's robust enough to survive in the machinations of I1 especially if using AS&SH. So is there a Clark Ashton Smith connection here in I1 Dwellers In The Forbidden City? Actually possibly one that I've done in the past is to connect I1 with Zothique. How? Well by taking a boy like the one named Xeethra from the Clark Ashton Smith story and turning him into an NPC with information critical to the location of The Forbidden City. In fact the entire run of the Forgotten Fane/Quagmire/Dwellers In The Forbidden City mash up mini campaign could be set on Zothique. This might be a fragment of a far future Old Earth. Only the boy's mind & soul holds the answers to that long lost world piece of an ancient empire.

Like the boy the PC's no matter what they do will be stained by the old school corruption that runs through I1 The Dwellers of The Forbidden City. This sort of a campaign might take years to play through.

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