Thursday, April 20, 2017

Commentary On N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

I was talking with my systems guy about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & C1's blog entry yesterday. He was a bit put out because we're playing a lower level tier campaign at the moment involving Venger Satanis's Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence.
He was saying its not like there is a low level adventure that can really exploit the Hyperborean countryside? Well, actually there is but its not in the AS&SH line instead this is a classic AD&D adventure.
Terror by night! The village of Orlane is dying. Once a small and thriving community, Orlane has become a maze of locked doors and frightened faces. Strangers are shunned, trade has withered. Rumors flourish, growing wilder with each retelling. Terrified peasants flee their homes, abandoning their farms with no explanation. Others simply disappear. . .

No one seems to know the cause of the decay -- why are there no clues? Who skulks through the twisted shadows of the night? Who or what is behind the doom that has overtaken the village? It will take a brave and skillful band of adventurers to solve the dark riddle of Orlane!Heroes are not born their made in the pulpy fires of classic modules & this one has some really interesting twists & turns. First of all lets say that the events of N1 Against the Reptile Cult are not going to take place on the lizard coast but a bit further inland near Brigand's Bay.
The once thriving village of Orlane has an almost but not quite feeling about it akin to Innesmouth via Lovecraft with far more Robert Howard then HP Lovecraft. In the past I've gone with that sort of a feel when running this classic  & that's exactly how I'd run this classic now. Once again you've got the inhuman population exploiting the humans and that always works for motivating players.

user-friendly version of the Mainland Hyperborea map, usable by players and referees alike. You can download it now at the AS&SH  Resources Page.

Your going to need a fairly large group of players to run N1 with for AS&SH unless you as the dungeon master are willing to pare down some of the encounters, adventure elements, & other twists & turns that Douglas Niles deals out. I think it would be a shame to do so because there are so many good bits. There's also the potential for expansion for the reptile cult which I've done with N1 Against The Reptile cult when I inserted this classic adventure into Dark Albion.

Played right & this adventure can really wring out a large group of players as well as their PC's. The cult & its machinations can really run deeply through Hyperborea as a whole because of the troglodytes .
Yes these Basic D&D monsters are everywhere in D&D & yet no one seems to think that they could be far more useful as Lovecraftian horrors. I've used these guys time & again as the remains of Serpent men slaves. In fact the lizard men on the whole are actually the forth tier down on the rung of inhuman slaves to the former serpent men kings on  my version of Hyperborea. There are several key things to keep in mind here. One the adventure has be run with all of the adventure locations intact, two things turn very ugly very quickly when several key event's triggers are pulled and three this is in place a very lethal module especially in the latter half of Against the Reptile God. The town of Orlane and the adventure that surrounds it are really the stars of the adventure and because of its carefully written background its very much tied into Greyhawk's campaign setting. The DM is going to need to gut that connection or exploit it as I did with a star gate that runs over to Greyhawk. But my version of Greyhawk is a sword & sorcery driven land not that drivel that passed off as the the western Flanaess of today.

Make no mistake that the second the players find out the extent of the cult's infiltration of Orlane. Then its going to be an all or nothing situation. Dungeon masters need to be familiar with  the village and the cult's dungeon caves when all Hell breaks loose. In fact Doug Cowie reviewed the module in Imagine magazine noted that,"he was pleased with the fact that "the unknown adversaries do not tamely wait for the players to come and get them", but rather take the initiative if the players take too long in their investigation" And that's one of the key points when running N1 to take the PC's in hand & run the forces of the Reptile Cult as a thinking enemy. Don't dumb down these potential party enemies at all. Over the years I've run the cult as the inheritors of the Serpent Men's magical might & Lovecraftian tech on Hyperborea. The true serpent men see them as degenerate traitors.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, classic modules are classic for a reason and in this case its the whole package that works on many levels. Against the Cult of The Reptile God is a prime example of an old school module that delivers on many levels.

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