Wednesday, October 11, 2017

OSR Commentary On L1 The Secret Of Bone Hill By Lenard Lakofka For Your Old School Campaigns

Danger lurks in the Lendore Isles. Bands of evil creatures prowl the hills overlooking the town of Restenford, seeking unwary victims. Now you have come to this sleepy little village looking for adventure and excitement. You seek to fathom the unexplored reaches of Bone Hill and unlock the mysteries of Restenford.So I was having a debate about L1 The Secret of Bone Hill with a friend of mine. This is one those modules that is more setting book then module. Originally designed for AD&D first edition its one of those modules with a history steeped in the changes that were happening at TSR in 1981 ;'The Secret of Bone Hill is an adventure module written by Lenard Lakofka for the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and published by TSR in 1981. It is designed for novice and intermediate players with characters of levels 2-4.' This is a weird beast of a module because its more of a campaign primer then simply adventure. What makes it unique is just how detailed the wilderness areas are. The town of Restenford is its own rather unique adventure location with lots of tidbits & mini locations.

Restenford a small town that has secrets and many of them are deadly cue Lovecraft music here. Over the years I've come to respect & use 'The Secret of Bone Hill' adventure many times. I've known Lenard Lakofka name since I was a kid because of his work in the hobby of  wargaming. 'The Secret of Bone Hill' was an adventure location from his own home campaign which later on became part of his own Lenore Isles campaign it was run for the Nystul family from approximately 1978-1985. Think of Restenford as sort of Lovecraftian 'Payton Place' where during the day everything looks normal enough but then the undead come out to play and well things get interesting for the PC's. L1 is also a low level & very friendly for dungeon masters who want to introduce the environs of Restenford.  Warning this is a module that your going to have to invest in as a dungeon master. Its a dangerous second level module to start with.  There are also hints in the rumors table that original inhabitants of Restenford are not the original ones.  This brings up all kinds of possibilities for a DM whose willing to go several extra miles to take a good module and turn it into a great one. All of this can be tied back into Greyhawk as Gary Gygax has given the Lenore Islands a place within the confines of the iconic historical TSR campaign.
"The introduction of Lakofka's Lendore Isle to Greyhawk marked one of the first and largest additions to the campaign world by someone other than Gary Gygax. Lendore Isle had previously been set in Lakofka's own campaign world, part of a game that he ran primarily for the Nystul family from approximately 1978-1985. When Gygax was drawing up the maps for the World of Greyhawk Folio (1980), he offered to give Lakofka's island a place in his own setting, and thus the Greyhawk Lendore Isle were born."

But for the DM willing to take some time and really sink into the deep end of campaigning I suggest a visit to The Restenford Project blog. There all kinds of neat little resources for the taking.
When getting into the feel & take of the Lenore Isles a dungeon master should really look into the wiki entry on them. The fact is that the Lenore Islands have a completely different take on them then other classic era TSR adventures. According  to the  Wiki entry;"
In the Dungeons and Dragons World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the Lendore Isles, also known as the Spindrift Isles, are a collection of five large islands in the Solnor Ocean, just off the eastern coast of the former Great Kingdom. This portion of the World of Greyhawk served as the base of Len Lakofka's campaign, and is the setting of the L series of modules authored by Lakofka: L1 The Secret of Bone Hill,[1] L2 The Assassin's Knot,[2] and L3 Deep Dwarven Delve.[3] Lendore Island began the inclusion of material from an author other than Gygax or Rob Kuntz to become incorporated into the Greyhawk setting.[4] Previously unpublished materials from Lakofka's gaming sessions in the late 1970s and early 1980s were released in an article in issue 5 (August 2005) of the Footprints e-zine.[5] Additional material, originally intended for release in L3 Deep Dwarven Delve was released by Lakofka in an article in issue 9 (December 2006) of Footprints.[6] In 2006, Lakofka announced on the Pen & Paper website that he will be releasing L4 and L5 through the Dragonsfoot website, introducing additional material and adventures set in the Lendore Isles.[7] A subsequent threaded discussion on the Dragonsfoot forum gave the title of L4 as "Devilspawn".[8] Both L4 and L5 are now available on Dragonsfoot.[citation needed] L4 is indeed titled "Devilspawn", and includes a second book, "The Lendore Isle Companion". L5 is a three-book set: "The Kroten Campaign Guide", "The Kroten Adventures", and "The Kroten Campaign Companion", plus a separate Map Pack."
You really have to read 'L4 Devilspawn' for the sheer brilliance of insanity that this adventure lays down. The Lenore Islands are way on the high fantasy side for my take. But all of the Restenford stuff is worth getting in my opinion from Dragon's foot & its free. Especially the map pack too.
So let's get back to the Sword & Sorcery end of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill. For using this adventure with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & first off the elves are going to have to be changed to Hyperboreans. The second thing is that in the past I've used Restenford as a stand in for the town of  Saltmarsh from U1 'The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.' There's a thread of corruption and depravity going all the way back to the founding of the castle in U3. This means that the land itself is corrupt & gives reason why the humanoids & wolves exist. There might be a mechanism generating these two by means of spontaneous dungeon life form generation first created by James Mishler 
One of the things I've done running The Secret of Bone Hill is to strengthen the ties between the Deep Ones and the wizard of the tower.That's straight up but let's talk about the undead which are really the key to Bone Hill. Not only are they dangerous & deadly but they lead straight into L2 The Assassins Knot. The wholly own the night in Bonehill & several 'new' types are described. The dungeons & its environs can easily be made to function as a sort 'Weird Tales', Clark Ashton Smith adventure pivot point.

Now let's talk about a monster who hints at far more danger bubbling below the surface of L1 'the spectator' looking like it belongs in a Big Trouble From Little China comic book. The spectator is a key monster that hints at powerful wizards who have made the town of Restenford & Bonehill their home. According to the wiki entry on the Spectator;"A spectator is an extraplanar relative of the beholder with four eyestalks. Somewhat mild and even-tempered, spectators have even been known to form friendships with other creatures, a trait that no other beholderkin or true beholder ever displays."  Somewhat mild & even tempered hints at an advisor or perhaps even a corrupter role for the 'spectator'. What sorts of sins and secrets has this monster seen? Perhaps it could even become a familiar to one of the PC's opening further doorways for adventure.

Is L1 The Secret Of Bone Hill By Lenard Lakofka a great module? Umm no its more of an introduction/source book  to the world of 'the Lenore Islands'. But it has the potential with the right combination of players & dungeon masters to a great campaign starter. The module can become a jump off point for all kinds of 'Weird Tales' style adventures with many of the resources out on the internet. As a mini sand box Bone Hill is not only a flexible frame work but can give you as the DM everything you need to continue your adventures within a nasty, dangerous & dark fantastic frame work of adventure.

I hope you make your saves & keep em rolling.
More to come!

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