Sunday, December 30, 2018

Double Death In The Desert - OSR Play Session Report Two

" The Earth is striking a blow against the Martian invaders with the 1964 military expedition back to the launch point city  for the 1895 invasion of Earth. Strange radio transmissions & weird lights were seen on the Martian surface after the Atomic War of 1960. The Earth is united in its commitment to destroy any trace of the Invaders!'

In our last game the players have been attacked have by Grey saucers & they overcame these saucers but it cost them. Now this session they were meeting some of the local Red Martian tribesmen.But outside of the city they were attacked  the Grey's  
Chupacabra guard dogs! 
Artist LeCire

After a lengthy battle the PC's were able to destroy the guard dogs & gain access to the wasteland tunnels beneath the old launch site city. They wandered through the countless tunnels & finally found a power crystal along with samples of growing Red Weed . The weed was of a slightly different variety then some the party's American patrons had on Earth. They also encountered two different Invader robots but these didn't pay them the slightest interest. But they made their way to the surface in an unexpected move?! Once they reached the surface they started to zig zag for a maintenance facility & I rolled up a Martian tripod for a random encounter! The party had been getting some help from a Red Martian scout from a Earth  sympathetic Martian tribe. 

As a dungeon master I figured that they'd run away. Martian tripods are nothing to trifle with!?! Instead they stood & fought the giant war machine & within ten minutes I knew that things were going to go very badly! The dice started to work against them & even with seven players the fate points started to be spent! Twenty minutes in & it was over with a heat ray blasting the party & vaporizing them! So yeah it was a total party kill tonight.

So yeah I grabbed this whole holiday from my bag of tricks. I used The Best of The Dragon Issue#1 & #2 especially the article 
 Deserted Cities of Mars By James M Ward . Then I grabbed HG Wells & Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars. The system we used was Amazing Adventures! rpg & the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters 

Gods of Hell & Murder - Thoughts on the Ecology Of The Devil King Thasaidon 'ruler of the Seven Hells' & 'Lord of All Turpitudes'

"Thasaidon, lord of seven hells
Wherein the single Serpent dwells,
With volumes drawn from pit to pit
Through fire and darkness infinite —
Thasaidon, sun of nether skies,
Thine ancient evil never dies,
For aye thy somber fulgors flame
On sunken worlds that have no name,
Man's heart enthrones thee, still supreme,
Though the false sorcerers blaspheme.
The Song of Xeethra"
'The Dark Eidolon' (1935) by Clark Ashton Smith

Persia Parade shield sipar

Deep within the forsaken deserts of Zothique lay abandoned cities & half forgotten temple complexes to 
Thasaidon one of the last devil kings of Hell. The bloated red sun of Earth holds sway over all Zothique,  Thasaidon holds court with the souls of black magicians & wizards from Aramoan to  Zul-Bha-Sair. But where did this devil king come from?! The cold Outer Blackness or is he something far more sinister & familiar. He figures most prominently in 'The Dark Eidolon' (1935) by Clark Ashton Smith. Thasaidon is a devil king  of business & black magick. He's in the business of the souls of mankind especially magicians & on Zothique business is very good. In  'The Dark Eidolon' we are given the internal view point between Namirrha Thasidon's pet arch wizard & the Devil King;

"Before the black-armored image there hung seven silver lamps, wrought in the form of horses' skulls, with flames issuing changeably in blue and purple and crimson from their eye-sockets. Wild and lurid was their light, and the face of the demon, peering from under his crested helmet, was filled with malign, equivocal shadows that shifted and changed eternally. And sitting in his serpent-carven chair, Namirrha regarded the statue grimly, with a deep-furrowed frown between his eyes: for he had asked a certain thing of Thasaidon, and the fiend, replying through the statue, had refused him. And rebellion was in the heart of Namirrha, grown mad with pride, and deeming himself the lord of all sorcerers and a ruler by his own right among the princes of devildom. So, after long pondering, he repeated his request in a bold and haughty voice, like one who addresses an equal rather than the all-formidable suzerain to whom he had sworn a fatal fealty.
"I have helped you heretofore in all things," said the image, with stony and sonorous accents that were echoed metallically in the seven silver lamps. "Yea, the undying worms of fire and darkness have come forth like an army at your summons, and the wings of nether genii have risen to occlude the sun when you called them. But, verily, I will not aid you in this vengeance you have planned: for the emperor Zotulla has done me no wrong and has served me well though unwittingly; and the people of Xylac, by reason of their turpitudes, are not the least of my terrestial worshippers. Therefore, Namirrha, it were well for you to live in peace with Zotulla, and well to forget this olden wrong that was done to the beggar-boy Narthos. For the ways of destiny are strange, and the workings of its laws sometimes hidden; and truly, if the hooves of Zotulla's palfrey had not spurned you and trodden you under, your life had been otherwise, and the name and renown of Namirrha had still slept in oblivion as a dream undreamed. Yea, you would tarry still as a beggar in Ummaos, content with a beggar's guerdon, and would never have fared forth to become the pupil of the wise and learned Ouphaloc; and I, Thasaidon, would have lost the lordliest of all necromancers who have accepted my service and my bond. Think well, Namirrha, and ponder these matters: for both of us, it would seem, are indebted to Zotulla in all gratitude for the trampling he gave you.""

Let's look at the ramifications of this conversation for a moment. Thasaidon is considered the 'Lord of All Turpitudes' among his royal titles of Hell. He's telling one of the most powerful black magicians of his generation  to give up his revenge against the king  Zotulla. One of the most powerful lawful evil devil kings is telling his summoner to give up this fool's errand. That's the gravity of the situation in  
'The Dark Eidolon' . But who is Thasaidon himself? His identity is tied up in his titles Thasaidon is the 'ruler of the Seven Hells' & 'Lord of All Turpitudes'
Terpitudes is defined by the 
Merriam-Webster dictionary
"The word is often heard in the phrase "moral turpitude," an expression used in law to designate an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. A criminal offense that involves "moral turpitude" is considered wrong or evil by moral standards. "
In Dungeons & Dragons there are the Nine Hells but sometime millions of years in the far future world of Zothique two of those planes are destroyed. Asmodeus is not only defeated but absorbed by 
Thasaidon. He emerges from the Chaos of this war to take his rightful place as one of the patron gods of Zothique. 

How do I know this because 
Thasaidon is the 'Prince of All Moral Turpitude' & ruler of the Seven Hells. These are the planes of Hell  that emerge at the end of Revelation & after the Horsemen have been released on Earth. 
"Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
— Revelation 6:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)"
One by one the armies of Hell consume themselves & each other after the Fall of Man. Two of the planes of Hell burn away into the Outer Darkness. Asmodeus is the last to fall in battle & from his ashes will emerge Thasaidon. Each of Hell's sins is taken over by Thasaidon & he literally takes on the titles & reignments of Hell. 

This war makes the Blood War look like 'Sunny Brook' farm & the struggle is epic. The souls of all mankind across the planes are at stake. And what's left is a very different landscape of Hell. The devil king of Zothique is a very different beast from Asmodeus & after the reforging of Asmodeus's ruby staff into the iron mace Hell becomes a very different place. This has happened many times in the past & the cycle will continue. 
The cults of 
 Thasaidon have begun to spread among the outer fringes of the world today because of the prophecies that have been revealed among certain esoteric seers. These cults are violent & very dangerous. They should only be tackled by the most experienced of adventurers. There cliques of these cults that have emerged on Hyperborea as well but many consider these to be ancient relics of a bygone age today. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Carnal Appetites Of The Death God - Thoughts on the Ecology Of 'The Ghoul' & Nature of Mordiggian

"Mordiggian is the god of Zul-Bha-Sair," said the innkeeper with unctuous solemnity. "He has been the god from years that are lost to man's memory in shadow deeper than the subterranes of his black temple. There is no other god in Zul-Bha-Sair. And all who die within the walls of the city are sacred to Mordiggian. Even the kings and the optimates, at death, are delivered into the hands of his muffled priests. It is the law and the custom. A little while, and the priests will come for your bride."

The Charnel God

Clark Ashton Smith

Scattered across the face of Zothique pyramid ruins dedicated to Mordiggian lay half forgotten in the buried mad sands. The treasures of a million worlds are sacrificed for eternity to the death god. Mummified priests sup with tribes of ghouls in the sacred halls of death & entropy. Pity the poor necromancer who breaks into these crypts & incurs the wraith of the Great Ghoul. 

Millions of years in the far future of Zothique there is only one god of death left under the bloated red sun. It has many titles 
 "The Great Ghoul", "The Charnel God", and "The Worm that Doth Corrupt"are only  a few of this god's many titles. Mordiggian is the 'worm that doth corrupt'. One of the last alien god things that came after the Ragnarok  end of Earth's gods to suck & feed  through the bones of Earth's last gods. It is the patron father of ghouls & death saint of  the inhabitants of Zul-Bha-Sair".  In that city his purple clad silver masked mysterious priests gather all of the dead across the face of Zothique for him to feed upon. They can not nor will not they be denied their sacred duty to feed their carnal god. 

 The tribes of ghouls trace their origins back beyond  the first Ice Age of Earth  Mordiggian itself dwelt within the Dreamlands. For thousands of years the ghouls dwelt there but then the 'End of the Gods' & the Ragnarok itself signaled for the stars to be right.
The very nature of ghouls are closely tied with humanity's genetics. Every race, colour, & creed on Earth have the potential to become our own monsters. Cannibalism, violence, & entropy are a part of the key.  The final part is  Mordiggian itself. The god is closely tied to the trans cosmic cycles of Earth's ages of resurrection & destruction.

Ghoul tribes came back to Earth & took over vast swaths of the human population in the ancient past & the far future.  "
The Cult of Mordiggian is ancient, dating back (according to the Ghouls) to the "Beginning of Days" when the Ghouls were said to have learned the secrets of Black Magic and were thus cast out of Midian, "Ghoul Heaven". These tribes & cults have wormed their way among humanity for as long as there have been humans.
"These figures were seldom completely human, but often approached humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast. The texture of the majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness.... Occasionally the things were shown leaping through open windows at night, or squatting on the chests of sleepers, worrying at their throats. One canvas showed a ring of them baying about a hanged witch on Gallows Hill, whose dead face held a close kinship to theirs....

"...It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn't even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic- not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn't the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet- none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness...."
— HPL, "Pickman's Model"

Accounts of ghouls go back beyond the days of Mnar,Ib, Sarnath, Illarnek, Thraa, Kadatheron.
"In the Arabic folklore, the ghūl is said to dwell in cemeteries and other uninhabited places. A male ghoul is referred to as ghūl while the female is called ghulah.[5] A source identified the Arabic ghoul as a female creature who is sometimes called Mother Ghoul (umm ghūla) or a relational term such as Aunt Ghoul.[6] She is portrayed in many tales luring hapless characters, who are usually men, into her home where she can eat them.[6]
Some state that a ghoul is a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead,[7] then taking the form of the person most recently eaten. One of the narratives identified a ghoul named Ghul-I-Beaban, a particularly monstrous character believed to be inhabiting the wilderness of Afghanistan and Iran"
The dire corner of insanity & occult horror has been deep occult  connection between vampires, ghouls, & Elves. When the ghouls were first created by  Mordiggian the Elves of Earth during the Ages of Magick tolerated their tribes. They provided a useful service by disposing of the corpses of humans & monsters. But then the Ghouls learnt the secrets of Black Magic & shape shifting. Their numbers increased dangerously in the eyes of the tribes of the Sun & Moon. 
War broke out between the nations of Elves & the tribes of the Moon. The campaign to exterminate or pare back the number of ghouls. What we think of certain monstrous ghoul abilities such as their 'paralyzing touch' is actually the entropic energies of their god Mordiggian.
What we think of as the classic Dungeons & Dragons ghoul is actually an adaption of a type of disposable shock troop & occult bio weapon left behind thousands of years ago. This plague was picked up & twisted by the demon god Orcus. Both the nations  of Elves & their various gods dwell in Earth's Dreamlands along with their ancient brothers of war the ghouls. But its 
Mordiggian who continues its promises of the legacy of the ghoul race as a whole. 

Ghoul from the Monster Manual AD&D first edition
Artwork used without permission copyright
 Wizards of the Coast.

The hundreds or thousands of species & sub species of ghouls are actually the adaptation of the god Mordiggian for its children.  The survival & quasi immortality of the carnal eaters of the dead is both its spiritual promise & salvation. No matter the circumstances the ghoul race will survive. Make no mistake that Mordiggian is a alien god of Chaos & its very nature is that of the demonic outsider. The last of Earth's god's deaths provides the entropic & occult energies that Mordiggian needs for its children.

Faramarz kills the shah of demons (ghuls), from the Shah Nameh, 10th century Persian epic of the Kings Asian Collection 

"The Great Ghoul" is literally father & umm ghūla for its children. Its cult has been with us for thousands of years & will be in the millions of years that follow. Its witches walk among us now & its priests tend our grave yards even to this day. Ghul-I-Beaban is his unholy pope who tends the silver masked leaders of the cult who wait beyond the threshold of Earth. It leads his bishops & priests in their unholy rites in praise of his master for Earth's far future 'Salvation' in the Dreamlands. There is a deep connection between Mordiggian & 
But the fate of mankind has happened many times across the planes & this is only one more reflection; 
"The Vanir god Njörðr is mentioned in relation to Ragnarök in stanza 39 of the poem Vafþrúðnismál. In the poem, Odin, disguised as Gagnráðr, faces off with the wise jötunn Vafþrúðnir in a battle of wits. Vafþrúðnismál references Njörðr's status as a hostage during the earlier Æsir–Vanir War, and that he will "come back home among the wise Vanir" at "the doom of men."[25]
In stanza 44, Odin poses the question to Vafþrúðnir as to who of mankind will survive the "famous" Fimbulwinter ("Mighty Winter"[26]). Vafþrúðnir responds in stanza 45 that those survivors will be Líf and Lífþrasir,[27] and that they will hide in the forest of Hoddmímis holt, that they will consume the morning dew, and will produce generations of offspring. In stanza 46, Odin asks what sun will come into the sky after Fenrir has consumed the sun that exists. Vafþrúðnir responds that Sól will bear a daughter before Fenrir assails her, and that after Ragnarök this daughter will continue her mother's path.[28]
In stanza 51, Vafþrúðnir states that, after Surtr's flames have been sated, Odin's sons Víðarr and Váli will live in the temples of the gods, and that Thor's sons Móði and Magni will possess the hammer Mjolnir. In stanza 52, the disguised Odin asks the jötunn about Odin's own fate. Vafþrúðnir responds that "the wolf" will consume Odin, and that Víðarr will avenge him by sundering its cold jaws in battle. Odin ends the duel with one final question: what did Odin say to his son before preparing his funeral pyre? With this, Vafþrúðnir realizes that he is dealing with none other than Odin, whom he refers to as "the wisest of beings," adding that Odin alone could know this.[29] Odin's message has been interpreted as a promise of resurrection to Baldr after Ragnarök"

In the end it will be Mordiggian & the his ghouls who will feed on the flesh of Baldr & his godly ilk at the end when the sun rises over Zothique.

References: The 
Cultes des Goules
De Vermis Mysteriis

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

OSR Module Redux - EX1 Dungeonland (1e) By Gary Gygax For Old School Campaign Use

"As adventurers, you may think you have seen everything: certainly your skills have brought you through unimaginable dangers. But now you suddenly find yourself in a place unlike any through which you have traveled: astounding, dangerous, and even amusing things confront you as you journey, both indoors and outdoors, through unique and wondrous realm of Dungeonland. "
Let's get the basics out of the way right off the bat & use the EX1 Dungeonland Wiki entry to get the very basics of the module out of the way; "Dungeonland (EX1) is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&Droleplaying game, written by Gary Gygax for use with the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules. It is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with the various characters from the book translated into AD&D terms" Personally I think its one of Gary Gygax's more inventive & interesting modules. 

Hoping everyone had a brilliant Christmas holiday or whatever your celebrating. I've been doing a lot of thinking about demi planes or specifically those associated with EX1 & EX2 for Dungeons & Dragons. EX1 Dungeonland by Gary Gygax is intimately tied in with Castle Greyhawk. It has a reputation for both deadliness & a sense of whimsy. But this is one of those module series with a quietly underlying fairytale madness to both modules laced with lots of Gary Gygax's warped sense of humor.  But its the idea that both EX1 "Dungeonland" & 
EX2: "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" exist as both mini campaign & as demi planes tied to Castle Greyhawk. But where else are these module's tied to?! This question came up over the Christmas holiday speaking with friends. Reading through the EX1 Dungeonland product description on Drivethru rpg we get a solid history of the module's background in Gary Gygax's home game ( maybe it seems that there are some doubts about this but let's go with it. Read the comments section the module's Drivethrurpg entry.); "About Castle Greyhawk. Gary Gygax probably created Castle Greyhawk in late 1972, taking the idea of exploring dungeons beneath a castle from Dave Arneson's own Castle Blackmoor. Castle Greyhawk was thus perhaps the first actual D&D adventure location - which makes it all the more surprising that in the decade afterward, Gygax never produced a Castle Greyhawk supplement for TSR.
He offered hints of Castle Greyhawk's contents as early as Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), when he mentioned the dungeon's "living room" and the fact that the dungeons contained a fountain of endless snakes. However, it wasn't until Gygax produced the World of Greyhawk Folio (1980) that he finally committed to detailing D&D's primordial dungeon, saying in The Dragon #35 (March 1980) that he was now hoping to produce "a huge map of the City of Greyhawk, modules based on the original Castle Greyhawk, and a series of offerings which depict the Elemental Planes of Greyhawk."
None of those ever come about. However, before he was forced to leave TSR, Gygax did manage to produce three adventures based on "demiplanes" - which were strange places that you could get to from Castle Greyhawk. EX1: "Dungeonland" (1983) and EX2: "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror"(1983) detailed the first of them."

So the official Castle Greyhawk is dust & rubble in the worlds of TSR. But I'm not at all concerned about that instead I'm more interested in what happens to the demi plane of Dungeonland. We know that Mystara & Blackmoor have adventure elements of "Alice in Wonderland"  & Edgar Allen Poe in their background. The fact that both of these worlds might be connected to the demi plane of dreams is out there floating on the internet. Be damned if I can find it this morning but its out there.

 What if Dungeonland got a bit more aggressive? What if this dreamland wanted out & got a bit greedy for its own sense of self preservation. After all the barrel entrance to the realm was destroyed in Castle Greyhawk. If the realm of Dungeonland was a subrealm of Fairy or Fairyland then its quirky & deadliness makes a whole lot of sense. This is right in line with some of the themes of Edgar Allen Poe & even Clark Ashton Smith. The idea of the decaying dream realm becoming parasitic.
"By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space—out of Time.
Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters—lone and dead,—
Their still waters—still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.
By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains—near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the grey woods,—by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy,—
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven.
For the heart whose woes are legion
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'Tis—oh 'tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not—dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule."

The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe
Volume II. Poems and Tales

EX1 & EX2 are very high level adventures & have some quietly nasty surprises in store for the PC's & it makes sense. This demi plane is going to have to fight for existence among the myriad of planes. But Dungeonland isn't a place that ticks with the horrors of an 'in your face monster'. No this is the demi plane that feels like a fever dream happening all around your PC's. Its just as deadly but has the patience to take its time with the PC's & this is 'Alice in Wonderland' translated by the lens of Gary Gygax. There are some seriously dangerous NPC's to hand pick from these modules to get the motifs just so. Imagine PC's encountering these NPC's in a dark alley in their own home campaign & the confuse it would create. A slightly charred barrel lays at the back of the alley innocently. I've got some more twisted ideas about EX2 The Land Beyond The Magic Mirror. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Martian Massacre - OSR Play Session Report One

"The Earth is striking a blow back against the Martian invaders who have ravaged the Earth for years now. There are ghost cities of ancient Martian technologies but now there have been strange radio transmissions & after the Atomic War of 1960. The Earth has united to strike a blow against the invaders before another inter system war becomes a reality! "

The year is the far future of Nineteen Sixty Four & a crack team of commandos is landing on the far side of Mars to scout out on of the last staging areas of the so called '54 Invasion'. Mars is now in its closest orbit since the last invasion of 1897. Three 'abandoned cities' have been targeted by the strike team of adventurers!
We've got seven players in The Amazing Adventures! Rpg  from last night's Mars game! The rocket plane was constructed in deep orbit & our mentalist began the task of keeping watch on the psi scanners.

Out of no place we were attacked by Greys saucers! We responded back with a quick series of blasts from the particle beam cannon banks but we took it hard & began our orbit to come into a controlled descent instead of a full on crash!

We were able to set down near some of the canals but tried to keep to the mossy lowlands where there were tribal allies. But we didn't know anything about the Greys!!? They had taken over the facilities of the invaders for some unknown reason. We broke out laser rifles & side arms & began the trek to the abandon city. We sent out a quick radio burst to our Red martian allies & rolled well.

Artist's conception of the Mars Excursion Module (MEM) proposed in a NASA Study in 1964. Dixon, Franklin P. (June 12, 1964). "Summary Presentation: Study of a Manned Mars Excursion Module

We saw two Grey scout craft & began to zig zag across the landscape hoping to avoid them at all costs. Dodging anything & everything to hide from them.  We rolled well but ended up camping  under the watchful eye of

Mars as Seen from Deimos by Howard Russell Butler, oil on canvas, Princeton University

The first of our raiders found a city underground entrance & were attacked by the Grey's 

Chupacabra guard dogs! There were eight of em & they came at us with a vengeance & attacked with psi blasts & claws! We lost two of our number to the face eating bastards!


We had to end early because I had work in the morning & so did two of our players. The source for this Christmas Eve, Eve, game came from The Best of Dragon Magazine Volume 1 Deserted Cities of Barsoom By James M Ward. The system we used was Amazing Adventures! rpg & the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters 

Recently I've reread Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars & fell in love all over again with Barsoom. So many of the science fiction elements of Barsoom.
But what does the old Martian Invaders city from HG Wells War of the Worlds hold? 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

OSR Review & Commentary On The Swords & Wizardry Adventure Behind The Walls By John Large From MonkeyBlood Design

"The adventure takes place in the north of Havenland, near to the Scrottish borders by the Kelderwater lake (see Hex M09 of The Haven Isles map).
Ebeneezer Garbett, a local farmer from the mushroom-filled valley village of Otterdale, returned to the hamlet with tales of riches he had found. Now, no-one has seen him since, and he villagers are becoming ill with a strange fungal infection."

Set within the Midderlands Behind The Wall by John Large is an adventure with  Scrottish fungi weirdness happening around the party as they run into legacy of  the ruins of an ancient Goman fortification recently. And this is a well put together but deadly adventure centered around the events of the  farm stead of Ebeneezer Garbett & his ill dealings with the Mullach Dubh. This fungi is a mould that grows on the dead, absorbing their memories and re-animating their bodies into a terrible half-life. But this isn't a simple face down the zombie hordes adventure.
Instead this is a thinking man's adventure where the player's PC's are going to be dealing with the slightly off kilter weirdness of the Goman empire of the Midderlands. And some of the horrors of the alien invasion like take over of the Mullach Dubh.
The layout & artwork are top notch & the cartography is of course up to Monkey Blood Design standards.
"This adventure is intended for low level play and can be scaled up or down accordingly. It should work best with 4× Level 1-4 player characters." Now according to the read through I had this is a fairly low level adventure but you should have four or more players with PC's from the Midderlands. The adventure Behind The Wall by John Large is very hex location based & has a solid quality about it.

If you like the Midderlands then you're going to love
Behind The Wall by John Large. It has that same White Dwarf magazine old school quality about it. The humor is right center point but this is still a take down aspect to it that will slaughter your PCs. This is a really flexible & customizable for your own old school or OSR games especially Swords & Wizardry.
Really comes down to the random tables & ideas scattered through out the product & it makes good use of them. Behind The Wall by John Large retains the charm & deadliness of the Midderlands line.

Played wrong &
Behind The Wall by John Large will slaughter PC's without remorse & not even give the party a second glance. This is a solidly done adventure that does what it sets out to do. The events in the villages of Behind The Wall will challenge & possibly kill a novice group of players. But will vex even the most jaded experienced gamers. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Winter Solitice In Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique - Clark Ashton Smith Inspired Actual Play Session Report II

Ambitious of their solitary reign,
Whose many-pointed brilliance fills the sky,
The silver moon doth rise in majesty,
And with her splendor shares the stars' domain.
Now as she takes her lucent course on high,
Her light doth shroud all things in mystery
And subtle glamour. As of realms unknown
It seems—a radiance from worlds that lie
Beyond our ken, and glimpsed in dreams alone.
And in those rays is tender witchery             vb,
Which softly doth erase the scars of day,
And with a pallid beauty touches all.
The Moon's light is a painter's brush, and she
An artist skilled who doth the world array,
In silence, with a white, enchanted pall. 

Moonlight  (1910)
by Clark Ashton Smith

The OSR sometimes seems like a trap waiting to be sprung & Steve's session last night was no exception. Let's get the obvious out of the way, my PC is very dead & very much not coming back. Resurrection is out of the question at this point. I had taken my share of the treasure & established a laboratory in the capital of Zothique. But I kept one particular fist sized gem with an inner green glow. The green glow will become more important in a moment. As I began to probe the gem the the glow began to intensify. I had a hireling doing the job but my PC was supervising. And that's when I heard the demon's voice in my head.
A lot of what Steve used in last night's game was from the  Zothique D20 Guide hosted on the  The Eldritch Dark website. This particular demon was a thrall of Thasaidon  the ruler of the Seven Hells & so it was doubly ironic as the gem dissolved into an acidic chlorine gas! The demon's laughter echoing throughout the character's hall.

Steve's version of Zothique based on Rodney Mathews fantastic artwork.
Used without permission no breech of trademark or copyright is intended.

Like I said last time
Steve based a lot of his adventure's look & vision on the late Seventies & Eighties artwork of Rodney Matthews

But most of the rest of this session consisted of me grabbing my next character & various party members trying to outrun the demon's vengeance. Some did but no one escaped unscathed. Various items of the necromancer's treasure turned into poison insect swarms, armored knights, & horrid monsters straight out of nightmare.  I grabbed my next wizard Philip of The White Hall who had traveled to Zothique from the sack of Alexandria (1365). He was retracing the steps of another wizard of his order. More on that in a second.

Meanwhile the rest of the party had run afoul of a nasty NPC cleric of Thasaidon  the ruler of the Seven Hells who was Hell bent on sacrificing our main thief.  Dumont 'the six fingered wonder' was to be the main dish for Al'suruith the skull dweller but I mainaged to fire ball the bandits that had kidnapped Dumont. Dan Daring the gun fighter had found my PC picking through the remains of my other PC's laboratory.  He hired me on the spot & off we went for the rest of the night. The order of Thasaidon was hot on our trail & we used our old allies Frad' Count of a Thousand Falcons bandit tribe/thieves guild to smuggle us out of the city at sunset. Our new mentalist Miyu & her bodyguard/pugilist Trouble Thompson    played expertly by Sandra & her husband let us know that something or someone was trailing us already.
Father Calihan our pistol packing cleric/priest had brought along his Buffalo rifle & spotted four riders on alien beasts trailing us. He managed to hit one with a blessed bullet & one of the the demonic ghoul riders went down! But there would be others! Probably many others knowing Steve our dungeon master! Had obtained another thieve called Renny from the house of the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) back in the capital city. I didn't know that Steve's brother Billy was coming to the game so this was a bit of a shock. Billy's PC was human but with some fairy blood in his background & he had a very bad feeling about the oasis we were heading too. 

We were dogged every step of the way & something wasn't right!?  I made the Voorish Sign as it had been taught by my order & found the invisible bastard thing made from the essence of the Outer Darkness & blood of the priest of Thasaidon. Steve had reached into our collective childhoods & grabbed the Homunculus from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

The entire party went into 'panic mode' and only the fast thinking of Sandra & her husband managed to kill the thing. She fried it with pyrokinesis  but her husband's PC was hit by an arrow. It was only a nick. The bastards knew where we were though! So we & our hosts rode all night to an alternative local under the alien moons of this far future world millions of years in the future!
I didn't get home until four A.M. but it was worth the efforts but for the moment we're safe. But for how long?! Tune in for next week's game.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Clark Ashton Smith's Wizards & The Mysteries of X2 Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville) By Tom Moldvay

Supreme with night, what high mysteriarch—
The undreamt-of god beyond the trinal noon
Of elder suns empyreal—past the moon
Circling some wild world outmost in the dark—
Lays on me this unfathomed wish to hark
What central sea with plume-plucked midnight strewn,
Plangent to what enormous plenilune
That lifts in silence, hinderless and stark ?

The brazen empire of the bournless waste,
The unstayed dominions of the brazen sky—
These I desire, and all things wide and deep;
And, lifted past the level years, would taste
The cup of an Olympian ecstasy,
Titanic dream, and Cyclopean sleep.
Desire of Vastness  (1922)
by Clark Ashton Smith

Once again I've been gone for the day yesterday but as I've said on line with social media the Christmas season is my busiest time of year. But its also afforded me the luxury of doing some heavy thinking about Clark Ashton Smith & Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber. Specifically I've been thinking about the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville). Let's start off this blog entry with the understanding that Clark Ashton Smith's wizards are different. Even though Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) never appeared in the body of CAS's work he still operates on the same rules of conduct as other CAS wizards.

While they are alive these wizards are some of the most cunning & cagey foes that PC's can encounter. Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) is driven by two traits common to the wizards of Clark Ashton Smith his sumpreme arrogance & his desire for revenge against his family. His curse is just like Namirrha from CAS's Dark Eidolon, The (1935), its all consuming & bridge's space, time, & even history. But the real question is what was Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) like when he was alive?! The all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb from the Xiccarph cycle maybe a good example to go by. When the CAS's wizard's are alive in their lives & have their demonic pacts, sorcerous knowledge, & arcane might backing them they are forces of nature to be reckoned with. Yes I know that this is the world of Averoigne.
But power like the Amber's family doesn't come cheap. Wizards of Clark Ashton Smith's variety love their arrogance & madness which  play into their theatricality. The Death of Malygris,  (1933) has this theatricality & revenge motif ramped up to eleven.
While these wizards are alive demons & ancient god things give them arcane  power on a grand cosmic scale but the reaper is not to be denied. In other words CAS's wizards have a cycle of power: their ascension to magickal power, the use of that power for twenty to fifty years or more, & their last reality altering curse or work. I think in my mind Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) when he was alive was a working wizard & scholar. He fits right into the world of Averoigne & he's cunning as well as very cagey combined with his sense of whimsical humor makes him very dangerous.
There's a sort of contrast between the wizards of Clark Ashton Smith & Jack Vance. They both have similar qualities & according to the List of Dying Earth Characters entry on Wiki;
"The most powerful wizards of the 21st Aeon of the Dying Earth are banded together in an association, and mostly reside in the territories of Ascolais and Almery. Unlike other wizards of the Dying Earth, such as Turjan and Mazirian, these wizards possess nearly godlike power. With little effort, they can travel to the distant past or the furthest reaches of the universe, freeze time (a popular dirty trick), prolong their lives for eons, change their shape and appearance, summon useful objects, and call forth numerous spells of protection, destruction, investigation, or simple amusement and experimentation. Much of their power comes from their ability to bind and control potent genie-like beings called sandestins, while they also derive power from their large stores of magical relics"

The all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb from the Xiccarph cycle could & would rub elbows with Vance's contempory wizards. They probably play the usual sorcerous games of blood, & dust across time, space, & the cosmos.  But don't count Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) out of such games! On the contrary in his youth he was probably able to hold his own against any one of Vance's fop wizards. These wizards are borderline villains in many ways whose antics across space & time could endanger the innocent.
Zothique for instance boasts some of the most dangerous wizards to hail from a future world millions of years in Earth's future. Any dealings with these wizards could result in the PC's getting into circumstance way over their pay grade & heads. Death, desolation, decay & decadence always mark CAS's work. This makes Zothique the perfect place to encounter Michael Morcock's Elric & Moonglum  on some arcane errand.

Elric from
Deities & Demigods AD&D first edition

But the PC's will be lucky to make it out of any situation involving Elric alive. In the past any encounters with the white wolf resulted in player's PC's actually leaving the campaign area. And yes Elric has appeared in the world of Averoigne
Death is never denied in Clark Ashton Smith's cycles & may be cheated for a little while but never denied. Even undeath offers no rest for the wicked in Clark Ashton Smith's universe. The prospect of death offers an end to suffering but not for adventure.