Thursday, June 22, 2017

Retro Commentary On Judge's Guild's Tegel Manor By Bob Bledsaw Sr. For Your Old School Campaigns

There is gonzo & then there's Tengel Manor, this is Judge's Guild unnaturalism at its finest. Created in 1979 by Bob Bledsaw Sr. this is one of his finest creations for Judge's Guild. Revised in 1980 & then expanded in '89 this sprawling 240 page ghostly extravaganzas  is one of the best examples of fun house dungeons done right. The abode of the Rump family for generations, who all have the unfortunate tendency to have first names that begin with the letter 'R' as well. Tegel Manor is an adventure location that doesn't obey time, space, or physics as we know them. Its a haunted manor in every sense of the word with one of the best maps that was done for an old school adventure.

There is room after room of weirdness & gonzo adventure encounters with two hundred and forty rooms waiting to be dumped onto the PC's. This is one of the most dangerous of the old school adventure locations with the PC's thrust right into the action. In the past I've had players win the deed to the haunted mansion in a brothel at a card table. The random encounter tables with family are done around  a family tree style & offer some the charm & deadliness of Tegel Manor. I first encountered the manor in all of its splendor in '84, when my PC wizard darkened its halls with our party. The place leaves an impression especially dying in a pool of your own blood by a giant beetle  as a ghost laughs as you bleed out.
One of the big influences on this session of Tegel Manor was definitely the original  Ghost Busters, The Adams Family television show, & The Disney Haunted Mansion ride.

At first Tegel doesn't seem like an adventure that would be run with a sword & sorcery game. Looks are deceiving because dungeon masters have been running this beauty for decades with original Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The module has a following & a couple of years ago I got a chance to run through it with some friends as both a player & co DM. The manor was place in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game world of Hyperborea near the capital. It worked out quite nicely with the PC's gaining the deed after the last of the Rump family was killed by a Clark Ashton Smith style assassin. The PC's were eager to take possession of the old family homestead. Things went South from there. There was something about the nostalgia factor that pulled in the players as much as the content.

Tegel Manor is however as much D&D DYI tool kit as it is an adventure & believe or not a perfect vehicle to do a Clark Aston Smith style adventure. This is an adventure location that has the potential to be used as a not only a straight up haunted house but as a dimensional cross over adventure. This aspect of Tegel is one which I've used numerous times to bring adventurers from one world over into another. This is most often a one way trip. There is no rhyme nor reason for some of the encounters but that's alright because Tegel has its own internal logic. You as the player just are not privy to it. The second time we ran Tegel Manor I was running a one shot with the first edition of Warriors of the Red Planet & AS&SH. During that time I was reading a lot of Ray Bradbury especially the Martian Chronicles, well we took ideas from Usher II and a few corpses of the
"Moral Climate Monitors" were found here & there. Other then that the house continued on.

Tegel Manor is incredibly flexible & able to be adapted to any number of genres from pulp to across the board cartoon humor. The tone of the module is pure gonzo all of the way and it wallows in its own sense of the weird. Monsters are incredibly dangerous and with a sense of other worldly haunted fun about the whole affair. I really love Tegel Manor because with a bit of time & investment the DM can really keep his players guessing his next move. A very handy OSR book that I used with Tegel Manor is James Mishler's  Ghosts  The Incorporeal Undead. 
This book can be used to augment some of the ghost within the halls of the manor and flesh out some of the weirdness that happens there.

Ten Ways To Exploit Judge's Guild's Tegel Manor By Bob Bledsaw Sr.
  1. Tegel Manor can act as the focal point for your old school adventures, a sort of location with a reputation in local mythology. A place where friends dare other world forces from beyond the pale. 
  2. The manor has some really heavy other dimensional locations  & there has to be many powers 
  3. There are several cursed items that can make the horror factor go up by a eleven. 
  4. The adventure is flexible enough to appeal to a wide variety of both new school and old school veterans. 
  5. Tegel Manor is gonzo enough to be used with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and yet appeal to other OSR gamers. 
  6. The sword & sorcery factor is high enough to get away with many of the basic  tropes of Tegel with little to no problem.
  7. Many of the traits of the classic Tegel manor are not well known among the OSR crowd allowing a DM to exploit this knowledge for a dangerous adventure. 
  8. Because of its weird nature almost anything can and will happen. Go with the adventure flow because there's lots of room for DYI D&D. 
  9. The Manor is going to take months to go through and the DM has plenty of levers to keep the players on their toes. 
  10. Because Tegel is so weird what the PC's might be able to get away with many things they ordinarily can't. The manor in my experience has its own way of dealing with interlupers & trespassers.  

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