Saturday, June 30, 2018

Some Thoughts On The Bloody & Dangerous Old School Adventure Swamp With Monster Notes For Old School Campaigns

"How long have they been following us?!" Evin voice wavered in time to hot blasting swamp wind.
"Ten hours since we escaped that wretched temple" Ajax voice was weary after avoiding a lizard gator two hours back that took their hireling Mel down into the bracken waters. "We've got another mile or so to go before we get to our contact's boat Evin & I'm not going to end up in one of those lizard men bastard's stew pots."
"You've got a plan then?""Yes I do & it involves the last of the water proof alchemy explosive powder that we got from Hod The Limper that over priced alchemist of yours"
"You'd better let me in on more details of that plan of yours fast! "
The pair heard lizardmen foot falls now & the bastards weren't trying to hide their presence now. They were close now & the mud or muck wasn't slowing them down at all. They moved through it as if they were a monstrous part of the fetid landscape around the adventurers. They began to close the noose around the adventurers now ever so slowly. "

We got knocked off line for a 12 hours or so between last night & this morning. I've had some time to do a bit of thinking about swamps in my old school campaigns especially in B/X Dungeons & Dragons,  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition, & Arduin. Bogs, swamps, & moors are the perfect place for trackless wilderness. They reek of the time long decay of things long past their prime & make challenging places for adventurers as well players.

Blackmoor, Greyhawk, & Arduin all have one very interesting advantage for the dungeon master. All of these campaign setting locations have suffered incredible magical devastation & these places are the prime areas for toxic magical poisoning. Ecological destruction by these occult forces are perfect excuses for magical monster infestation & mutant horrors. Adventurers might encounters the survivors of various former ancient city or dungeon locations. Trolls, swamp giants, basilisk, & all kings of giant creatures could encounter adventurers. Swamps, marshes, etc. are the perfect breeding ground for magical plagues, disease, & more. 

Blackmoor, Greyhawk, & Arduin have all suffered from massive magical disasters with rich dungeon pickings. Ruins are scattered across these campaign settings & relic hunting in these areas come with large sets of risks & investments by patrons for these types of expeditions.

This is a perfect setting to bring out some of the all time swamp & marsh classic old school monsters:
  1.  Bullywug tribes are the most dangerous monsters that player's PC's can encounter & yet the party might scattered the first scouting party to the four winds. The second group & so forth can start using pack tactics to harry & finish off adventurers easily. 
  2. Black Dragons are very, very, dangerous swamp dwellers who often have hordes of lizardmen worshiping them as gods. These tribes are often ones that adventurers must deal with & offer treasure to pass through their lands but what passes for treasure might surprise adventurers. Rare fish & other delicacies might be the order of the day. 
  3. Giant Crocodiles have been & are some of the best guardians for forgotten temples & other swamp based ruins. They are ruthless & efficient hunters of adventurers especially if they have divine guidance.  
  4. Swamp Hydras are incredibly dangerous & can tackle even the toughest of parties reducing them to dust easily & are some very underrated monsters in old school games. These are my go to guardians when players are expecting the Black Dragons to come into play. These are especially good around areas of former worship of forbidden gods.
  5. Shambling Mounds are the guardians of forbidden druidic groves deep in the swamp & the guardians of many kinds of natural wonders of the swamp. They have some very nasty dispositions & they regenerate as well. 
  6. Stirges swarms are the stuff of nightmares for adventurers are often used in conjunction with all kinds of former sites of cities & places cursed by the gods. Stirges can make short work of even experienced parties. 
  7. Lizardmen are the backbone of any swamp encounter & with good reason given the wide variety of tribes that are available across the old school & OSR. Arduin has a wide variety of options available to the enterprising dungeon master. 
  8. Will O Wisps have a long mythology that dungeon masters can use to enhance any swampland encounter. 
  9. Serpent Men are some of my all time favorites to stick into any swamp land encounter & they have that Lovecraft circle edge when dealing with adventurers! 
  10. The Arduin Octogorilla is my final enemy for the swamp & rarely known outside of certain circles of the OSR. These bastards are perfect monsters to stick a party of adventurers with!

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Kree Sentry For The High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure Camapign & Old School Campaigns

The alien Kree empire created billions of Sentry cybernetic life forms to guard all of their important caches of weapons, artifacts, & even spacecraft. These robotic sentries are capable of taking on many threats to their charges & should be used sparingly by dungeon masters. Kree Sentries are found through the remains of the Kree Empire & their former interstellar colonial protectorates. The sentry series are incredibly durable, resilient, & can survive for thousands of years on the barest of their self regenerating energy systems.

The Kree Supreme Intelligence may at anytime hear or see through the eyes of any Sentry unit within the ancient Kree Empire. It can act as the eyes & ears of its master across the vast interstellar gulfs.
All Sentries know how to use any & all Kree artifacts but may not be inclined to share this information with adventurers or enemies of the Kree Empire.
Alignment : Lawful 'Programming  dependent'
# Appearing 1-3 
AC: 5
% In Lair : 80%
Treasure : M or better

Powers & Abilities
Low-light vision.
Darkvision out to 60 feet.
Immunity to all mind-affecting effects abilities & magic
Immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, & necromancy
Strength As A Hill Giant & can increase  Strength all the Way To Stone Giant Strength
Regeneration as a Troll due to Nanite repair systems 
Omni Blast Beam Attack 1d8 to 2d8 damage( for Mutant Future or Gamma World systems with a 30 foot radius up to six times a day 
There is a 60% should the Supreme Intelligence deem it that it will gate in another sentry unit should the first deem that its charge or treasure cache is in danger.

Kree Sentry Units on Carcosa are there for a two fold purpose one to monitor the activities of the influence of the star gods & Great Old Ones. Two the Sentries are found among the ruins & space wrecks of the Kree Empire craft that have crashed into Carcosa. There are two Kree 'ultra Sentries' who attend the temples of two unknown gods of Law on Carcosa. These Kree Sentries have access to many advanced & dangerous weapon systems but these 'ultra Sentries' true alien purposes are unknown.

Note that this blog post is not an attempt to violate the copyright or trademark of Marvel Comics nor its trademark or copyright holders. This blog post is for educational & entertainment purposes. None of the rpg writers or designers named is any way responsible for the contents of this blog post. Artwork used without permission.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Further Readings In The World Book of Khaas, Legendary Lands of Arduin - The Human Elf Wars

"Over the pile of ancient corpses the two  warriors climbed. They found refuge in the tomb of some long forgotten Elven minor noble. The tomb was surrounded by the skeletons of some unknown race of alien marauders. The orcs passed without disturbing the trespassers even as the mad cleric & the black wizard had teleported away. The pig faced horrors dressed in a mockery of human armaments snapped & squealed to each other before checking the next tomb.
For twenty sweat pounding minutes the adventurers didn't move a muscle. Then Evin carefully looked around the dusty forgotten corner of the ruin. He signed to his blood brother after taking another swig of water. They began to examine the strange skeleton's decrepit bandoliers & they turned to powder in Ajax fingers. Amid the dust there were bits of Mythril Elven chain armor & hilts of long forgotten weapons. Then Evin picked up one of the alien skulls. A single blood soaked named flooded back into his memory, Deodanth! He looked around the tomb quickly scanning the walls for a familiar glyph. He found it & more!
Evin signed to his brother without a sound, 'Time to leave!'. The glowing glyphs of Elven script pounded magically in time to the humans hearts & that's when the howling from beyond started! The stone floor outside the tomb reverberated with the sounds of orc feet & questioning panicked pig squeals. The orcs only had moments to register the human intruders fleeing. Then they came face to face with the ectoplasmic wrath of an ancient dead noble's ghost after his blooded enemies. To their credit they stood their ground only to be drained dry by the ancient dead noble's ghostly wrath howling from the unnatural Outer Darkness!"

The Elf Human Wars in Arduin are some of the most devastating events in the history of the campaign setting by David A. Hargrave. They mark the pivotal decline of the Elven people's domination in the setting with the swiftness of a series of brutal & down right nasty military campaigns to determine the rightful rulers of Arduin. These brush fire & forest fire battles mark the end of Elven domination. The rise of humanity on the back bone of the setting & the appearance of an alien people the Elves of legend  have come to hate above all others the Deodanths! A combination of Elf & vampire with a twisted touch of something feline strained through a glass darkly. The Deodanth comes from millions of years in Earth's future through one of the numerous dimensional gate ways of Arduin to slaughter Elves! The Elves paused from om their military battles with the humans to take down these unnatural foes but the cost was very high indeed.

Deodanth (cross of Elves & Vampires) concept art from the Arduin Grimore,1977
From the hashtag deodanth here

All of this information comes from The World Book of Khaas, Legendary Lands of Arduin page 552. All of the information on this piece of Arduin history sounded very familiar to me in its tone & execution. I think that David Hargrave drew a good deal of his Human Elf War from Lord Dunsany's
The King of Elfland's Daughter. There's the same air of tragedy & high operatic drama associated with the events surrounding the Human Elf War that suits the pen of Lord Dunsany.

I also think that there was good dash of  the mythology of the
Tuath(a) Dé Danann throw into the tragic fall of the Elves of Arduin as influence on Mr. Hargrave. I think that the The World Book of Khaas, Legendary Lands of Arduin has some excellent tools for the DM to use if they want to plunder the history of Arduin for their own adventures & campaigns.

The Human Elf War has a lot of adventure potential & could be worked across a multitude of campaign settings. The Elves in Arduin have a strange & tragic history with all sorts of wrinkles for the dungeon master to  fold to their own adventures. Dungeon masters really need to customize this to their own campaigns to make it shine for them.
  1. The underworld wreckage for the empire of the Elves is a very tempting target for adventurers & outlaws. The place could be rife with artifacts & fey treasures but this is not going to sit well with the Elves of Arduin. The race is on! 
  2. Weapons & relics from the Human Elf wars turn up making things very dangerous for PC's perhaps even on other worlds the dimensional gateways & space time warps of Arduin are well known for just this sort of thing. 
  3. Undead Elven armies might surface to cause havoc for the humans after all blood feuds run deep. 
  4. Evil human necromancers might want to exploit the events of history for all kinds of evil power. 
  5. Human warrior remains from the Human Elf wats  hold the blood secret to a royal ascension to kingship in the present. An adventure party is needed to retrieve this relic of the bloody past. 
  6. A weapon of demonic power to terrible to comprehend has been unearthed. A thing of human or Elven make the powers of darkness might be unleashed at any moment!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Monsters The Old Fashioned Way In Old School Adventures - More OSR Commentary

If the dungeon sets the tone of the adventure campaign then the monsters are the flavor or should I say their the symptom of the level of corruption of the setting. Monsters are more then mere walking targets or experience waiting to happen. Monsters are the inner workings of the dungeon experience from the ground up. Their very nature suggests the wheels within wheels of the rest of the OSR or old school adventure experience.

"Silently, Ajax crept along the corridor every sound seemed to echo around him ten times louder then he was expecting. The blood roared through his veins, the sweat poured from his neck, & the scent of death was everywhere around him. The dungeon had been breeding since he & his party were last here. He was here to find out what it was birthing. That's when he saw the first of the putrid sacs with those thrice damned to the Abyss pig faced orc bastards. The sucked at the artificial tit of the sacs & only waited to give birth now. But where there was orcs there were goblins & hundreds of the warrior things just waiting around here. He had to get back to high king David now but that wasn't going to be easy. He felt a vivid rut of fear run up his back but his training kicked in now. Gripping his dagger he turned the corner without a sound. The balls of his feet pivoting automatically as his other hand lay on his short sword hilt. That's when he heard the first of the unnatural pig like squeals. "

Let's be clear straight out of the gate that the monsters in original Dungeons & Dragons right through the Basic & Expert edition are trying to kill your PC straight out of the gate. Their programmed to do exactly that. Its the very reason for their existence & their core point in an adventure. They're the vector cells that are the embodiment of the chaos of a dungeon or ruin adventure settings.

Dungeons & Dragons was/is not a game for the faint of heart & it plugs into the primal fears of the unknown in a very light way. The same way that a good piece of pulp fiction or mythology does. It stirs the imagination & pulls the player into the immersive experience in a far more subtle way then even the best video games can. The social aspect of the game balances the player's exceptions with actual play. The monsters are a key aspect of the evils & dark forces within the game. Their there to grab the players because they are the 'alien other'.

"Then the whole mass of the dark fluid began to rise, and far more quickly than the suvana-juice runs from my pen, it poured over the rim of the basin like a torrent of black quicksilver, taking as it reached the floor an undulant ophidian form which immediately developed more than a dozen short legs. What unimaginable horror of protoplastic life, what loathly spawn of the primordial slime had come forth to confront us, we did not pause to consider or conjecture. The monstrosity was too awful to permit of even a brief contemplation; also, its intentions were too plainly hostile, and it gave evidence of anthropophagic inclinations; for it slithered toward us with an unbelievable speed and celerity of motion, opening as it came a toothless mouth of amazing capacity. As it gaped upon us, revealing a tongue that uncoiled like a long serpent, its jaws widened with the same extreme elasticity that accompanied all its other movements."

As I've said in the last blog entry monsters are the nervous system, immune system, & hand of the gods. There is often far more to chaotic movements of them in the dungeon then first appears & they will move the influence of evil across the campaign setting. They are & represent chaos in all of its many horrid facets. Make no mistake
Gary Gygax and David Arneson knew exactly what they were doing with the monsters of Dungeons & Dragons. For these things are the fulcrum around which everything gets pulled. Monsters jobs in dungeons are not only the guard the whole concept but to expand the dungeon's influence of evil & corruption as well. Think about the Caves of Chaos from Gygax's Keep On The Borderland.

Nothing says Gygax like a Hobbit with a cut down polearm.
Erm Halfling.

The caves of chaos are the well spring of evil within the adventure. The whole affair of the Keep can & should be linked up to Mentzer & Gygax's Temple of Elemental Evil. I've run Keep on The Borderlands numerous times but it works especially well when running an Inquisition style investigation  game. Yes I'm going to mention Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion & Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos here as well as Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
Time & again I've run Keep & studied the adventure for its holistic approach to dungeon design & monster placement. 
The theme of the cult of chaos & evil runs straight through Keep on The Borderland. Yet it hints at the far more mythological & occult roots of the Cult of Elemental Evil within the adventure. The monsters within the adventure scream for side quests & adventures to clean out the chaos infecting the countryside.

As soon as this blog entry is posted I'm going to get the usual nostalgia commentary about Keep On The Borderland. Forget the
nostalgia & pay attention to the monster & adventure guidelines that Gygax laid down. Video game developers & companies have been for years & minting it ripping off the formula. That formula works across the board for monster placement. The dungeon & adventure based in The Keep on The Borderlands is gold because it allows the players a domain platform of operation. It shows the intelligence of the evil of the chaos within the adventure. Because its designing the corruption of the entire adventure environment around it. Sure the humanoid placement is completely unnatural because everything about a dungeon is unnatural! Monsters are the agents of chaos & unnatural evil. They are by their very nature horror unbound & they don't adhere to the rules of nature or man.
Six Ways That Monsters Can Be Used In Unusual Ways In The Dungeon : 
  1. Corrupt the humans around your adventure turning them into the dungeon population. Yes, I've seen this a thousand times but it still shocks players time & again. 
  2. Monster generators are perfect ways of bringing home that Tolkein or Lovecraft vibe while providing a perfect opportunity to add another layer of weird with another opportunity for guardian monster placement. 
  3. Ruining nature is a good way of pissing off a player of a cleric or druid within a game. Monsters made from the ordinary animals are perfect opportunities of messing with these PC types & killing them off if the players are not paying attention. 
  4. Monsters as traps is one of the oldest old school tricks & it still works especially with cults. For some reason players don't expect cults to have monsters who are treasures or traps or all of the above. 
  5. There are several monsters that make excellent NPC mid range agents of chaos in B/X D&D style games such as medusa. These monsters don't get talked about as the perfect agents for a cult or other black wizard.  Monsters like these are the perfect ambush monster. 
  6. Monsters as the heads of their own cannibal cults is another excellent vehicle for side quests & can show the true nature of the roots of evil in a campaign. Simple and yet highly effective as a group adventure NPC foil.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Dungeon Setting As A Cancer In An Old School Campaign - OSR Commentary

William Blake At Death's Door

"The long, silent, ancient hallways snaked their way through the underworld gloom & seemed more alive then they had any right to be. Both adventurers pressed on through these strange spaces as blocks of wet stone seemed to press down on them. Back forty yards they had lost Ernie to something nameless black & dreadful to behold. Ernie was a hired hand & a skilled man of many talents but the thing had sucked off his head & drained the body dry. Fire of the darkest pits had driven it back as the cold flames licked the edges of the monster's existence away. But now the two adventurers & blood brothers raced to catch up with the dark wizard Shaz The Bold & Himmer Hiam  priest of The Black Sun. These two had succession of hired hands to help with the recovery effort but they were trying to translate a piece of the coffin top which had been carved with thousands of weird workings. These were the language of the para elemental rulers lost for two thousand years now. They heard the first of the screams when they rounded the corner & saw the smoke like thing enveloping the body of Jerrod the mason!"

Wilhelm Schubert van Ehrenberg Dungeon Interior.

Yesterday I wrote about the Labryth Lord retro clone system yesterday & it generated a lot of interest, ideas, commentary, & more. That's fantastic & I'm glad that the game is getting more time in the lime light that it deserves. But I want to get back to ruins, dungeons, & adventure locations. These places come in two styles made & created. The dungeon in the classic original Dungeons & Dragons game is a fixed point of adventure & mystery. As the years have rolled on its become so much more & reinvented over & over again numerous times. But I've had a theory about dungeons for years & its that dungeons are an alien beach head from weird space time into our home reality.
Old school game dungeons by their very nature are filled with chaotically evil beings & monsters. Things straight out of legend & mythology filtered through the imaginations of Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson.
There is something very primal about these monsters & the very nature of them sends a clear message of the Dark Forces they represent within the game of original Dungeons & Dragons. Make no mistake here I'm not talking occult or Satanic Panic bull here.
No I'm stating that dungeons are down right weird & strange because they're 'the alien other' in the Dungeons & Dragons game. Dungeons represent the temporary safety valve for the dark forces to gather from the other side into our reality. Dungeons & ruins are invasion points for these invasive monsters & the gauging zones for them as well. Their testing near humans & human forces for invasion. We've seen the clinches time & again in Sword & Sorcery literature with nihilism themes. And we've seen it in high fantasy as well. 

The dungeon is a beach head into our reality & it brings with it monsters. Ruins are dungeons waiting to happen as the smaller monsters appear followed in their wake by the larger & larger ones. These forces of Chaos come because of the self renewing food & fuel source 'us'. We're the crop & the welcome mat all in one juicy bite size package. As the cancer of the dungeon grows & changes it brings with it devils, demons, & monsters by the score.

Nalfeshnee from here for Labyrinth Lord!

Eventually within about three or four thousand years or more, the dungeon or ruins become a portal to the Underworld, Hell, The Abyss or simply elsewhere.  Dungeons it seems are a part of the unnatural cycle of gods, demons, & the other.
"The last ruby had been secured, and Quanga was about to turn his attention to the lesser jewels that adorned the king's garments in curious patterns and signs of astrological or hieratic significance. Then, amid their preoccupation, he and Hoom Feethos were startled by a loud and splintering crash that ended with myriad tinklings as of broken glass. Turning, they saw that a huge icicle had fallen from the cavern-dome; and its point, as if aimed unerringly, had cloven the skull of Eibur Tsanth, who lay amid the debris of shattered ice with the sharp end of the fragment deeply embedded in his oozing brain. He had died, instantly, without knowledge of his doom.
The accident, it seemed, was a perfectly natural one, such as might occur in summer from a slight melting of the immense pendant; but, amid their consternation, Quanga and Hoom Feethos were compelled to take note of certain circumstances that were far from normal or explicable. During the removal of the rubies, on which their attention had been centered so exclusively, the chamber had narrowed to half of its former width, and had also closed down from above, till the hanging icicles were almost upon them, like the champing teeth of some tremendous mouth. The place had darkened, and the light was such as might filter into arctic seas beneath heavy floes. The incline of the cave had grown steeper, as if it were pitching into bottomless depths. Far up -- incredibly far — the two men beheld the tiny entrance, which seemed no bigger than the mouth of a fox's hole.
For an instant, they were stupefied. The changes of the cavern could admit of no natural explanation; and the Hyperboreans felt the clammy surge of all the superstitious terrors that they had formerly disclaimed. No longer could they deny the conscious, animate malevolence, the diabolic powers of bale imputed to the ice in old legends."

It doesn't matter if these places become mega dungeons after centuries. They continue to grow in power & malevolence upon the campaign world & setting. They're fueled by myth & legend as well as the violence of their smaller  monster types. You can see this in Arduin's adventures by David A. Hargrave over & over again but it was Arneson who did it first in Blackmoor.

Both Blackmoor & Greyhawk are perfect examples of the types of devastation that dungeons can wreck on a setting. Greyhawk brings the dungeon location as cancer into to focus with numerous adventure locations where the forces of evil & chaos are just about ready to topple civilization.Adventurers & heroes are the immune system for fantasy campaigns. Two readily apparent OSR campaigns where this comes into play are Glynn Seal's Midderlands

 & Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion

Six ways of using these types adventure locations within old school campaigns:
  1. Smaller micro dungeons might be only the beginning where the PC's don't know the danger that dungeon locations pose & how they can grow & change. 
  2. There could be occult power & supernatural advantages to the creation of dungeons for black wizards who gain favors with the dark forces. 
  3. Dungeons themselves might gain alien sentience after they grow to a certain size creating all kinds of problems for the world they inhabit. 
  4. Dungeon ecologies might up point the fact that invasive monsters might be gearing up for all out invasions 
  5. The forces of evil might employ adventurers to eliminate dungeons because of the competition factor alone. 
  6. Treasures might in fact be merely 'fishing lurers' to spread the chaotic cancer of the dungeon else where.

    Note some of this commentary came about from reading through the dungeon ecology of the Secrets of the Nether City Kickstarter updates. This is looking really good!

Monday, June 25, 2018

More Love Of Goblinoid Games Labyrinth Lord & More OSR Commentary

I have a well known & abiding love for B/X Dungeons & Dragons. The game is one of the many reincarnations of original Dungeons & Dragons. So for the last couple of weeks I've been off  to the side of the OSR watching the progression of the Advanced Edition Companion kickstarter.
 The kickstarter  funded in ten hours & there's a evolutionary processing happening with the game. The comments section on the retroclone table top game has been very interesting as well as encouraging. The player fandom for the the Advanced Edition Companion for LL has been in place for a long time but it hasn't been very vocal.

The low down on what the kickstarter for the Advanced Edition Companion does  and if this edition replaces the old was answered right on page one of the kickstater. It doesn't it combines both Labyrinth Lord & the Advanced Edition Companion into one package; 
  1. This is not a new game.
  2. This is simply a combined book.
  3. You will still be able to separate "basic" from "advanced" game options.
  4. Much interior art will carry over from the original books, but new interior art will be featured in addition.
  5. This combined book does not replace the current separate books. Those books will remain in print. 
 This is important because it means I don't have to keep buying endless reference books & add ons. This was one of the draws for me for original & B/X Dungeons & Dragons even though there is a ton of supporting product  for both games out in the rpg retail wilderness.

The reason is because the OSR player fandom moves from the B/X Dungeons & Dragons community over here & back to there depends upon the fan's OSR product attention focus.
This kickstarter funded in ten hours meaning that the players of Labyrinth Lord's system have been hungering for this retroclone game system  straight out of the gate for years. You get a complete set of rules that allows players & dungeon masters to create,&  play adventures for characters up to the 20th level. That's it, meat & potatoes style old school adventures with  Dungeons & Dragons renamed. This is the way to experience the original Moldvay/Cook without buying the original Basic and Expert books!
You can get both 
Labyrinth Lord: Revised Edition (no-art version)  Advanced Edition Companion (Labyrinth Lord, no-art version)for free without the artwork
Personally I prefer the 'Godzilla' dragon cover with the party of adventurers  who are going to get their asses fried or parley with the dragon on this LL cover.

The fact that the Advanced Edition Companion is fully compatible with Arduin & other old school  systems & adventures  is high on my priority list for getting into LL when I first entered into the OSR. The fact is that LL was made exclusively for this very reason & more;"Goblinoid Games was the first retro-clone publisher to both make most content open under the OGL and create a free trademark license with few restrictions. The material contained in the LL rules is available to others with few restrictions, allowing fans and other publishers alike to create their own derivative material for use with the system"
This is why I've always been using LL at my table for reference, play, and more. Labyrinth Lord  was made by the creators for dungeon masters & players who in turn can become writers/designers &  creators.

Next time dungeons & ruins why their really there & what sinister purpose do they serve.
Stay tuned & keep em rolling!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Some OSR Ideas & Thoughts About The Lure & Lust of Hoards, Treasures, & Artifacts

"I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasures of Commoriom and be tempted thereby."The Tale of Satampra Zeiros by  Clark Ashton Smith

Once again I was looking over some of the Grenadier advertising literature that I've collected over the years. The mid point product line of miniatures for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures & figures were all over the table top in '83.

Grenadier models Inc. were the go to line for serious AD&D players in my neck of Connecticut & my uncle often took me right down into the bowels of West Hartford. The sunny, quite small town New England bowels that looked like they came straight off of a Norman Rockwell painting at the time. My young mind was on the 'game' & what the dungeon master had cooked up for us that week. But what it was really about was treasure & the "gold stuff". But what the hell is treasure & where's it come from? Why is it valued by monsters, evil forces, & vile villains. Why are people risking their lives, their souls, & even their sanity in the pursue of this material? Like I said yesterday there are places that man wasn't supposed to go & yet dungeons call to these fools.
Dungeons are created & not build but that's another blog entry. Treasure defines the Dungeons & Dragons & marks the souls of adventurers with experience. Why!? Because there's a supernatural or occult aura about treasure similar to 'gold fever'. Just give an adventurer a taste of the favors, social position, & mental wealth that treasure can bring & their hooked. If they're really lucky then they retire & operate through proxy adventurers & hirelings. Treasure itself is a left over from the 'old world' or the cycle of ages preceding the 'current age'.
"Now Commoriom, as all the world knows, was deserted many hundred years ago because of the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion, who foretold an undescribed and abominable doom for all mortal beings who should dare to tarry within its environs. Some say that this doom was a pestilence that would have come from the northern waste by the paths of the jungle tribes; others, that it was a form of madness; at any rate, no one, neither king nor priest nor merchant nor laborer nor thief, remained in Commoriom to abide its arrival, but all departed in a single migration to found at the distance of a day's journey the new capital, Uzuldaroum. And strange tales are told, of horrors and terrors not to be faced or overcome by man, that haunt forevermore the shrines and mausoleums and palaces of Commoriom."

The Tale of Satampra Zeiros by  Clark Ashton Smith

But this isn't the only explanation about treasure & it goes much deeper into the gut of adventurers. The fact is that treasure is the root & spoke around which all of the dealings of Dungeons & Dragons adventures & campaigns revolve. I've a few thoughts as to why, how, & where these treasures come from & why they seem closely tied in with adventurers:

  1. Treasures are part of the spoils of war between the forces of light & darkness or Chaos & Law. That is to say that natural order of these multifaceted conflicts across the ages creates treasures.Many times this is to fuel the war machines for both sides & war costs money, time, & the spoils of conflict. The aura of fortunes lost & won gets imbued into these articles.  
  2. Monsters & alien  forces come to see that these items & artifacts have value to humanity & their gods. Since the dawn of time these forces have aped both the gods & man giving these items places within their own evolution. The occult forces of magick & chaos divines this as the cycles of ages continue. This has reinforced the aura & allure of these objects. 
  3. Old gods die & the cycle of adventure continues leading the gods to creature new treasures & artifacts so that they have material anchors into the world of men & monsters. 
  4. Supernatural auras change men & women in subtle ways maturing them, radically changing their life outlook, greed has its hooks in adventurers hearts & minds. Greed is the motivator for treasures & experience is the best teachers. Greed & lust for treasure is the engine for adventure! 
  5. Thieves move treasure & artifacts to spread the allure of these objects for the same reasons that magpies & crows are attracted to shiny objects. The occult power of these treasures grows & changes calling to monsters & men alike. This is the germ of dungeons & ruins of power. 
  6. Treasure equals power & wizards know this better then anyone. It is liquid asset for the making of war & campaigns for adventure. Wizards & dragons know the power of gold & treasure much of which comes from the elemental plane of Earth. The world of men & wizards is very different but the ability to move or wreck the economies of nations is true power. Power enough for the gods to notice & power enough for kings to murder wizards. 
  7. Treasure & the supernatural are tied together like the ecologies of nature. These hoards call for guardians & monsters of chaos for they are drawn like moths to the flame. 
  8. The aura of lust & greed is so strong around some treasures & hoards that it can call the forces of chaos or even open doors to Hell itself. These guardians are the worst of the lot & require their own blog entry. 

As I said yesterday I think that treasure has far deeper meanings & is closely tied in with war & violence. Why? Because these same supernatural auras never entirely leave these objects especially in old school campaigns. Can I prove my point here? We played in a long running hybrid AD&D,OD&D, & B/X campaign based on the
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) opera cycle throughout the Eighties and Nineties. All of the above was taken from this old school campaign. Next time hirelings, thieves,tramps, & alchemists.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Some Thoughts On the Adventurers Lifestyle & Thier Place Within A Campaign Society

Looking through old Grenadier Models  advertisements for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures. These adds are full of memory & nostalgia for the middle part of the D&D product line for me. These miniatures held a lot of imagination & possibilities for the dungeon master's imagination.

My thoughts often turn to what types of men & women become adventurers. Desperate men & women trying their hand in the game of delving into the darkness of half forgotten tombs, places of legend, & possibly forgotten civilizations in some back water wilderness. These are places mankind wasn't supposed to journey into.
Here are six reasons why I think that adventurers are on the prowl  in ruins & dungeons:
  1. Adventurers are going to be lower echelon men & women of society  who crave adventure, quick cash, & the brotherhood  that the dungeon delve  life brings. The promising  lure of exploration & exploitation. 
  2. Adventurers have to be a dreg caste of society unto themselves looked upon the same way as actors, performers, and veterans of wars were in Europe. Directionless yet a necessary evil of society with back door admission into academia & governmental positions such as espionage. 
  3. Reputations of of the adventurer life style has to have legendary status within urban & polite society. Many boys & girls dream of it the same way that they might of war but the realities are vastly different. Bards are partially responsible for keeping these sorts of things alive among the populace. 
  4. The line between hireling & adventurer is a fuzzy thing at best in society. Many down & out adventurers & outlaws become hirelings but drift into the adventurer life style based on opportunity & circumstance. 
  5. Retired adventurers are often tomorrow's patrons living vicariously through others but exploiting the class & careers of others as needed. The cycle keeps the wheels greased based on the ploys. But monsters often become adventurers as wars & conflict create more ruins. These ruins are exploited by the forces of darkness. 
  6. The life of adventurer is a very dangerous one & circumstances often force disgraced nobles & mercenaries to try their hand at it. Again warfare & conflict the opportunity for the life of an adventurer to be inflicted upon a PC.

    Can one leave the adventurer life entirely? I'm reminded of late Roman Empire soldiers & generals talking about war campaigns. The marks that these left upon them & their lives is something that has an echo for me as a dungeon master. Do adventurers ever really leave the life behind them?
    Where do the hoards that are in the dungeon come from? Again I think that the treasure in dungeons are closely tied in with war & it has far deeper meaning than we usually know once its retrieved. We'll get into that in another blog entry coming up.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Six More Ways To Get The Most Out of David A. Hargrave's Arduin Grimoires For Your Old School Games

So the usual controversies have been brewing in OSR land & pretty much I'm getting back into reading through the original Dungeons & Dragons along side David A. Hargrave's  Arduin Grimoires again. This is going to be about the fifth or sixth time I've tripped through The Arduin Grimoire, Welcome to Skull Tower, and The Runes Of Doom.

The best way of handling this material is to look at the modularity Arduin systems. Then decide what your players want & need for the campaign setting. The rules set has a certain familiarity to those gamers who have delved into Arduin at their leisure. Gamers & dungeon masters know that a  complete, viable, and playable Old School game system is found in the original Arduin books. Accessing that system can seem daunting at times.


Don't get intimidated by the Arduin books or material, deciding what to use is the key to bringing the old school flavor into the game for the players.

So here are six ways of bringing more Arduin into your adventures;

  1. You are not David A. Hargrave & you don't have to run Arudin as he would. Gasp, yes that's right you don't have to bend over backwards to try & fill the shoes of another dungeon master. One of the keys to Arduin or even Gary Gygax's material is the accessibility of it. Find your rhythm & flow as a dungeon master when reading Arduin & then apply it as necessary. The players will often without realizing it give you the yard stick needed during conversation & play. 
  2. Adjust the weirdness & gonzo level as the game dictates. I can't stress this enough. There's a solid set of actual playable races, PC classes, etc. within these systems. Let the players guide the game through actual play & not 'adventure' script writing. 
  3. There's a lot of give & take within the Arduin magic systems so apply it as it comes when the wizard players start delving into it. Don't get discouraged & there's nothing wrong with going back to D&D's Vancian  spell system. 
  4. Monsters can be extremely lethal from Arduin because this system was from a time when it was players vs dungeon master. If the players want to play this way & I've been in a few of these games then more power too them. 
  5. Arduin systems are best used before & during actual play. The Arduin system & books are fun. They can & should be shared with players to get the most fun & utility out of them. 
  6. Arduin dungeons have a lot to offer but take them sparingly when mixing them with published TSR modules. There are two different approaches to game design when looking at the Arduin dungeons vs the classic TSR modules. The modules are formulaic in some regards & the Arduin dungeons are competition convention  modules unto themselves.In fact in many ways they form the basis for the competition or tournament style adventures. I've learned a lot from reading, studying, going through tournament modules. There's a lot of good stuff hiding within the Arduin adventures & dungeons.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Operation Middenlands - Marrying Jason Sholtis Operation Unfathomable & Monkey Blood Design's Middenlands Setting

So I've been thinking about the Advanced Labyrinth Lord  Kickstarter & playing around with using Swords & Wizardry adventures & settings with it. I read about Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design's bad news tonight; "Okay, so my pickup truck failed its MOT test.To get it through, the running total is now at £920 GBP. Holy shit! I've never had a failure that bad... and I need my truck.

It turns out this year was the wrong year to go freelance.
If anyone wants to empty their wallet buying MonkeyBlood Design stuff, or commission me (although I'm tied up for a few weeks at the moment), or just share this around, please feel free to do so and thank you in advance!"

But this also got me thinking about Glynn's Midderlands mini sand box setting which is really weird because its for Swords & Wizardry. But it takes very little to convert on the fly from one OSR system to other.
Part of the idea of the Midderlands mini setting is that the deeper down you go the further you get into the green tinged Gloomium & primal chaos of the setting. This idea of primal chaos also got me thinking of Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable.

Seal's Midderlands has a completely different feel then Shotlis setting. The Midderlands is completely fantasy United Kingdom on acid with splashes of dark fantasy scattered throughout. While Sholtis's setting that has a mix of dark fantasy comic book meets high weirdness with touches of Lovecraft & they had  a dungeon setting love child. Operation Unfathomable is weird & bizarre OSR adventure.
There would seem to be very little in common between the two product's settings except for the fact that both have a miasma of chaos madness  tinged in the center of their respective underground worlds. 
Its in the dungeon underworld where the two settings can be completely hooked up. The Middenlands could be an isolated & comparatively idyllically stationed backwater of a campaign world. The rest of the world however is a stinking mire of  dark fantasy typical an old school or OSR game Europe.
There are a few ways that marrying these two settings can easily & painlessly done in my mind:

  1. The Operation Unfathomable world elements are on the other side of the campaign world. It takes a mounted expedition or two too get to the high weirdness. 
  2. The dungeon underworlds of both the Middenlands & Operation are deeply connected because of the strain of primal chaos seething through the core of the campaign world. 
  3. The solar system of this campaign world is of great importance to certain alien  factions in both  settings. They've been at war for a very long time & neither side wants to give up. 
  4. Neither of these worlds is cosmically important but the wheels were set in motion billions of years ago. The chess board has to be played out. 
  5. Glynn Seal's Demon Stones adventure   has several setting design options for bringing in Gloomium Outer Darkness goodness right out of a clear blue sky into a campaign. 
  6.  Lots of Operation Unfathomable's factions are ripe to exploit the chaos laden goodness of Gloomium especially those bastard mushroom scientists of Sholtis. 
  7.  The human race in both settings is completely & utterly expendable in the face of some of the factions in both books. They really do need heroes & adventurers to survive. 
  8.   There's something very uniquely unsettling about the thought that in some libarary in the Middenland  is a  book & map from a failed expedition to the dungeons of Operation Unfathomable. Mounting an expedition would take lots & lots of money, time, treasure, ships, resources, etc. The PC's are perhaps going to be a part of a much larger operation.
  9. The natives of  Operation Unfathomable are not friendly & should they become aware of the Middenlands Europe, then all bets could be off for those poor people. Or maybe they are aware of these folks & they don't care because their completely & utterly unimportant to their alien plans. 
  10. I keep thinking of a campaign world where the world is much weirder & far more dangerous then the provincial fantasy Europeans think it is. The expansion of the West into the lands of Operation are going to be an eye opening experience.
Stefan Poag's artwork from the Operation Unfathomable book  quickly illustrates the exact sort of a situation that I'm speaking of.
The above illustration shows an ‘Underworld ranger’ discharging his lightning pistol at a perfidious mind-bat while another ranger reels from the psychic attack they have already suffered — all creatures and situations from the dark corners of Sholtis’ fertile imagination."

I really can stop thinking about marrying this up with the back story of Henchmen Abuse's the Anomalous Subsurface Environment  ASE1 & ASE2&3 world.  Everything is completely in place for a massive campaign world. The factions, the science fantasy high weirdness, the world churning events, etc.
The whole affair would be massive undertaking with three or more dungeon masters handling the gonzo & completely dangerously insane world affair. This is why I'd run the whole thing with
Labyrinth Lord.
 The question is are the adventurers of the Midderlands mini sand box setting ready for the high weirdness awaiting them in the greater world or underworld?!

Highcastle Guard
Under the command of Sir Hestel Vinethorn of Brignorth.

I think that both OSR settings have a lot of campaign milage to offer the players & the dungeon master. This is a sweet little chaos laden campaign affair that could have players coming back to the table for many years to come!
 Next time back to Arduin on the blog tomorrow!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

1d12 Random High Level Stone Age Supernatural & Occult Encounter Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Ajax scanned the horizon for a something, he wasn't sure why his palms felt weird. Those strange dreams had started again. There was nothing on the horizon & then suddenly out of the heat they appeared. Haggard, dressed in rags, & surrounded by a buzzing of flies a group of twelve subhuman warriors moved weirdly down the old game trail.
Ajax woke Evin with a start,'They're here about three hours ride away. We've got to get the horses, & break camp quickly'. 

'Right' Evin knew better then to run afoul of his blood brother's hunches. He drank the last of his Traesian cold tea & the ate his rations as he packed.
'Leave nothing behind, not a trace brother, for they belong to something else. I'd swear they were part spirit.', Ajax was nervous which made Evin even more wary. His sword felt heavy by his side for the second time this morning. The first was when his blood brother woke him. The air seemed heavy & pregnant with deadly possibilities. 

Adventurers on the road in Stone Age areas can run into the unexpected & the unexplained. There are those beings who cross the paths of adventurers that can alter their lives forever. These encounters are tinged with destiny & more then some horror. Adventurers should be very wary when encountering these wanderers of the wastelands.

These wanderers are hold outs, possible mutants, & others cast out from their various tribes for taboo reasons. There is more then a little fear surrounding these beings, for animals & monsters of 2 hit dice or less a low level fear spell surrounds these beings. There is a 20% chance when encountering them that this aura is active. Animals, small children, old people, & even other hardened adventurers will try to flee from these beings.

Encounters with such beings often seem to be surrounded by destiny & fate. There is a 10% chance that such encounters may be seen as life altering signs by shamans,wizards, clerics  & other tribal leaders.

1d12 Random High Level Stone Age Supernatural & Occult Encounter Table 

  1. Small cave man warrior has a spirit of hunger bound into his flesh. Anyone who who sees him will try to drive him away! Anyone attacking, pushing, or even taunting him with physical action will release the evil vrock spirit within his flesh.
    This vrock is a nasty spirit of chaos & evil. It has all of the standard powers & three times per day anyone within a 2o yard radius can be sent  into a  berserk state with hunger. Any PC's within the zone of evil must save vs spells or try to consume strangers, friends, or relatives. As they do this horrid act they will chant the dead gods spell of evil which has a 5% chance of summoning more of these horrors. Killing the poor possessed fool has a 60% chance of freeing the spirit to take possession of another. The demon spirit is then free to take on 1d4 more victims of its evil. An 8th level shaman can bind the demon to the flesh of another in a dangerous rite. The demon will be harmlessly bound into the living flesh of such a person.
  2. 1d6 strange tattooed  4th level warriors tainted with the 'plague of the ages' wanders from place to place seeking a good & honorable death. Those who engage them will age 1d20 years & become tainted with the occult power of entropy. Unless a save vs spell is made the weird entropic energies will infect PC's after 1d10 minutes. They will be slightly out of sink with normal reality making it difficult to understand them. These beings will no longer have to eat and food will turn to ash in their mouths.
  3. The Thin Ones there will be 1d8 of these warriors. These strange beings appear as normal cave men but in actuality they are beings whose outer form masks the alien hell worms within. Each one contains a larva as per the Monster Manual AD&D first edition. These things are small enough to force their way into the mouths of their victims. The victim is now under the control of the worm. These beings are damned souls who have escaped from the previous incarnation of the world & now seek to cause mayhem & chaos wherever they go. 
  4. A 7th level Stone Age black wizard who has fallen afoul of the Dark Forces now wanders with 1d8 warriors looking for the demon who has escaped him with his black soul. He is mad & very dangerous, he will promise anything to get the soul back but also is psychotically murderous. 
  5. A cave man whose eyes have been replaced by entropic eye implants he's escaped his master. This being can see into many alternative dimensions & worlds but also eleven possible futures. Once per day the eyes can create a blast with 2d6 points of damage in a twenty foot radius. His black wizard master will do anything to get this poor sap back.
  6. 1d6 undead foot soldiers of a black wizardess that seeks her dead husband. These undead are well preserved & can move around in daylight. They have the abilities of mummies and can lay a minor curse on those who displease them. 
  7. A lone cave man with 1d10 mutations that is caught between realities. The poor fool will infect anyone he comes across should he touch them unless a save vs spell is made. There are 1d6 versions of him that split from the main cave man after 3 rounds. These can be found with a 50 foot radius of the main person. They will reassemble after 5 rounds. This thing mostly whines, screams, & grunts.
  8. A 6th level fighter & hunter killed 1d8 years ago now a brutal undead killing machine that seeks someone but whom is unknown. The thing goes out of its way to slay anyone that crosses its path. The thing can and will regenerate as a troll. Its supernatural agenda is unknown. 
  9. A type III demon bound into the flesh of six cavemen that seeks to make war for eternity. This evil hive mind entity is a chaotic mess of a mercenary that will serve any black wizard able to meet its disgusting price. The cave men each have a small portion of the demon's abilities and are bounty hunters for black wizards of all stripes. These beings are cruel & very murderous. 
  10. A cave man that is actually a supernatural android for some unknown alien intelligence. This being is a cold & cruel hunter able to track anyone across miles of unknown territory. This thing seeks some unknown relic & yet will plunder any dungeon for treasure only to destroy it in frustration. The thing sometimes has 1d10 evil minions it recruits by implanting strange cybernetic occult implants. 
  11. An ancient alien bound into the flesh of a tribe of cave men seeks to find its missing relatives but its having a hard time. The alien takes the form of an infectious yellow mold like life form & its on a one man mission of murder & mayhem. There 1d8 yellow musk zombies that it uses as shock troops & a black alien vegetable wizard whose actually a form of yellow musk plant that works for it. 
  12. A whole tribe of cave people who are actually a fully functional cult of the demon god Orcus on a holy mission. They seek an ancient shrine while they pose as traders & merchants but they can't hide the unholy aura of evil that overhangs them.