Wednesday, November 8, 2017

OSR Commentary - B/X Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Waltz & Science Fantasy Campaign Construction

Many folks look at B/X Dungeons & Dragons as a basic or beginning set for the grand game of table top role playing but I have found a bit more respect rummaging through the annals of this game. Lately I find myself referring constantly back to it mixing and matching B/X with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & Adventurer, Conqueror, King with bits of Labyrinth Lord. All of this becomes wrapped around a core of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition. The whole is not always the sum of its parts as the players & campaign dictate what comes to the fore for the system from session to session as all dungeon masters have to contend with.

So I've been thinking about my 'Old Earth''s Antarctica & day dreaming about HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness but after rereading the novella for the hundredth or three hundredth time I'm convinced that there were other entities besides the shoggoths. This is a teaming brand new frontier continient that is possibly one of the most alien & dangerous places on 'Old Earth'. A place teeming with jungles, deadly sub prehistoric monsters, shoggoths, The Elder Ones, raving Tcho-Tchoid mercenary bands,and scores of inhuman ruins, temples, and alien places whose form & function is unknown.

Here I turn back to Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft where shores of Antarctica is the domain of dangerous guardians. The Dean of Science fiction Jack Williamson early in his career laid down one of the weirder & very dangerous great Old Ones seldom mentioned The Ice Entity. First found in 1937's Thrilling Wonder Stories this god thing is a left over from the war between the Great Race & the Elder Things mentioned in HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. This alien monster is both related to HP Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space & Ithaqua.
The ice entity itself is worshiped by the Gnophkehs,  along with Rhan-Tegoth & Aphoom-Zhah. It keeps the new continent free from most humans & adventurers.The entity also has ties to the new North Pole of 'Old Earth' & forms a world spanning religious cult of great evil. It may its origin out around Neptune & Uranus where many Great Old Ones originated.
Jack Williamson during his early period was heavily influenced by Weird Tales style pulps & another favorite author of mine.
"Jack Williamson's work during this early period was heavily influenced by A. Merritt,[4] author of The Metal Monster (1920) and other fantasy serials. Noting the Merritt influence, Algis Budrys described "The Metal Man" as "a story full of memorable images""

This same issue of 1937's Thrilling Wonder Stories also contains another great novella and possible creation of the Elder Things I'm speaking of the 'Brain of Venus'.  John Russell Fearn (1908–1960) isn't even known today outside of certain science fiction & pulp circles. He was one of the first British authors featured in American pulp magazines.
The Brain of Venus features what became 'the Venus Treatment' in my home AS&SH campaigns. 'The Venus treatment' is what happens when certain shoggoth & elder thing wizards & priests get a particularly strong individual's mind. They treat it with certain exotic necrotic alchemical formula preserving the thing & creating an undead guardian capable of the spells & abilities of a seventh level necromancer or evil wizard. These entities are free willed chaotically evil entities often carry out the wills of their alien masters. These things are often found in weird temples in strange basins of brine & soul literally rooted to the spot. They have an AC of 5  or more and can hurl a lightning bolt three times per day.

These 'Venus guardians' are often used to control 1d6 hosts of lesser entities around elder thing properties & holdings. These entities fight to the death with little to no regard for their own safety or well being. They are puppets acting out the wills of their twisted masters. The jungles of Anartica teem with creatures not seen for millions of years on Earth. There are darker & weirder entities that serve strange & sinister purposes. The Yzel tend the info temples & bio information storage houses of 'the Elder Ones'

They collect & collate much of the collected super science & higher alien intelligence of the Elder Ones. Speculation runs high among wizards of Old Earth that these entities are actually part of a telepathic alien higher mind system that has not been seen on Earth since the dawn of the planet. Many adventurer's brains have been turned to mush trying to 'hack' the library plant systems of the Elder Ones. Temples & buildings are covered with vast arrays of alien whorls, symbols, and etchings of the highest eldritch traditions. There are rumors of wizards sacrificing fortunes & wealth to study these forbidden places.
There is a 10% chance of a wizard going up a level or saving vs death as their body's are consumed in massive displays of other dimensional fires. Others are hunted down & gutted by shoggoths or worse during the night. The 'Elder Ones' keep their secrets well.

'Art Copyright 2017 Garrisonjames. Used by permission.' the 'Art Copyright 2017 Garrisonjames. Used by permission.'

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