Friday, August 31, 2018

OSR Commentary - Skyships, Bruce Heard, Champions of Mystara,the OSR, & Beyond

"Developed from the original Dragon Magazine series, Champions of Mystara is a major compilation of the Princess Ark adventures, a magical flying ship that explores the World of Mystara. Discover the heroes of this legendary skyship, their deadly foes, and their wondrous ships. Packed with background information and adventure ideas, this set allows DMs and players to run a long-lasting, globe-trotting campaign based on a unique flying ship. Champions of Mystara goes an extra step and also provides experienced players with new rules on magical flying ship construction, operation, and movement. As a final gift, this set offers a Gazetteer developing the region west of the Known World, from the burning lands of Sind to the mysterious jungles of the Serpent Peninsula. A make-your-own world guide finally helps DMs expand the horizons of their favorite campaign world. "

Known as Bruce Heard's last voyage  on his impressive streak on 'The Known World' as developer Champions of Mystara remains one of my favorites of the "D&D Challenger" series for Black Basic or Mentzer Dungeons & Dragons.
It all started with the world  map from the  D&D Master Rules (1985) & it grew into a whole project to discredit that map by following the exploits of the  journal of Prince Haldemar of Haaken & his incredible sky ship The Princess Ark. Man I really used to look forward to Dragon Magazine to find the latest entries in the journals of Prince Haldemar. The box set Champanions of Mystara was packed with everything a dungeon master would need to run a campaign with a sky ship both in Mystara or their own home campaign setting. There's the infamous conversion rules for taking sky ships into the Spelljammer campaign setting. That being said I've been looking into possibly incorporating skyships into my own home campaign. Bruce Heard would later on find success again with the CAL1 Calidar, In Stranger Skies series of products 
Both of those books are for the Pathfinder & Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 style systems that being said they are very nice books. Yes I'm an OSR guy telling you to get one of the better 3rd party Pathfinder game series of campaign books & think that  CAL1 Calidar, In Stranger Skies series of products is a good marriage of both Heard's world building & design chops in one book.

While you can't specifically publish anything for Mystara except as fan reference for BECMI cyclopedia Dungeons & Dragons there is another option on the table. Once again Dark Dungeons from
Gurbintroll Games
is there with my skyship solution! Not only are there skyships but unlike Spelljammer these ships can hop the planes with easy. They've got all of the OSR rules laid out and that means that technically you could run the  CAL1 Calidar, In Stranger Skies series of products using this rules set with a bit of imagination. 

So why graviate toward a Pathfinder product with
Calidar, In Stranger Skies (2014)? Because Bruce Heard is someone I've met at GenCon back in 2006 after he revisited Mystara with
"Bruce Heard returned to the Voyages of the Princess Ark to write a 36th entry, which appeared in Dragon #344 (June 2006)."  More recently he tried to return to Mystara with Wizard's of the Coast's permission but that fell through according to the Champions of Mystara Drivethrurpg entry;

"Bruce Heard queried Wizards of the Coast to see if he could license Mystara and continues his Voyages of the Princess Ark. He was told that "any arrangement regarding Mystara was out of the question at this time" and that there "was no interest in anything involving a transfer of rights, a sale, a license agreement, a permission to publish, or any other option--as a matter of policy". He considered trying to write a Princess Ark without the setting details, but decided that would irrevocably damage it. So instead he created a new world in the style of Mystara and the Princess Ark. This new setting's first book was Calidar, In Stranger Skies (2014)."

So how do Skyships relate to OSR settings?! They can & should have a lot of impact on OSR campaigns. First of all the Europe of Lamentations of the Flame Princess might have such ships being built by renegade wizards who have the coffers of Europe on the chain. I came across a fan made Spelljammer set of rules for LoFP with a download copy of the rules. 


I can totally see the world of Dark Albion having had sky ships before the toll of the Hundred Years war empties the coffers of Europe perhaps as a remnant of the late Roman Empire or as the remains of some aspect of the Elves of that setting. But perhaps the Greys of that setting don't want to see the humans once again gain the knowledge to bring their ships into the skies of Albion.

Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos contains a huge section about these cults & their dire influence upon humanity in that setting. I could also write more extensively about the horrors of these things in the Lion & Dragon game but that's another blog entry on its own.
This brings me up the influence of Clark Ashton Smith & the skies of Hyperborea within Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I've gone into the swaths of material that CAS wrote about & their lots of evidence within his stories of the Hyperboreans having the ability to build, maintain, & create whole fleets of skyships & void ships! Both
"The Anthropophagi of Xambaala" &
"The Beasts of Kraggoth Manor" adventures have the whole cloth lost wreckage of the Hyperboreans feel about them. I would suspect that there could be one or more skyships lurking in the wastes of Hyperborea or the depths of space around that world.

The blistering hot sands of the diamond desert holds more secrets then man has dreamt of. Hyperborea holds its secrets very well! Adventurers sent after the remains of a skyship better beware the incredible horrors lurking below those sands.

Another possible OSR location to salvage the hull of a skyship is Venger Satanist's multidimensional island adventure known as the 
The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. I've had any number of adventure groups lose space craft, sky ships, & dimension hopping ships to the dark forces of Lovecraftian horror that rule that time haunted place!

The one location in Mystara that seems to be totally ignored for sky ship hull salvage is waters surrounding X1 The Isle of Dread. There's massive weather issues, magnetic & magical disturbances, & even sky borne horrors that surround the waters of that infamous island yet I've only heard about salvaging off the waters or the beaches of the isle within Spelljammer circles.

X1 The Isle Of Dread is this catch all location for many lost ships in many of the campaigns I've played in over the years. So much so that in one of the campaigns I've played in a wizard specifically has a set of adventurers go back to the island to recover the hull of an expensive ship. We'll not talk about the fact that our party crashed the ship in question.

Ten advantages of Skyships in Old School Campaigns
  1. Skyships give the DM an option for running players through modules that might not seem related. The skyships provide the adventures with a solid plot device & prime excuse to gather treasure. 
  2. These creations take the equivalent of the gross national product of a country or two to maintain.  They can be upgraded to Spelljammers rather easily. 
  3. Skyships can propel adventurers in a whole new campaign direction. 
  4. Dungeon masters have to realize the fact that sky ships can break campaigns backs rather quickly as well as make campaigns work. 
  5. Skyships provide unique encounter opportunities on a number of levels. 
  6. Skyships can be the perfect & seemingly safe mobile headquarters for adventurers
  7. Exploring the campaign world  in style & comfort in a leather clad skyship 
  8. Skyships are the perfect excuse to introduce new magic items, spells, & NPC's to finish of the party. 
  9. Skyships are the perfect way to liquid every last penny the PC's will have or make. 
  10. Sky tolls from kingdoms the PC's visit can help motivate adventurers to go back into the dungeon!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

OSR Campaign Commentary And D&D Monster Ecology - The Cancer From Below In The Hollow World - Part II

"Unseen horror in a tropical primeval  paradise as your actions are not your own! Your thoughts can not be trusted, & there's a growing lurking horror of something alien within your thoughts guiding you while your will seems to be sucked away! Your unseen masters have come to call! "

Alright last time we got together gentle I spoke about the growing cancer that manifests in the Hollow Earth setting for BECMI Dungeons & Dragons in Mystara. Well, that's only a part the Kopru cancer that once ruled a good section of the world's ocean islands of Mystara. In the Hollow World they rule entire continental empires & they have a few holdings above on the surface world especially the  X1 The Isle of Dread location.

Not only is this a central location but with its connection to the Elemental Plane of Water its a perfect launch point continue their covert war with the Mind erm Brain Lashers & Aboliths. These races have had an on going war for eons! But surely the Kopru are no match for the sheer malice & malignacy of the Brain Lashers or the Abolith?! Well in point of fact the Kopru can control thousands of humans & demi humans with their mind altering abilities. You can see the Lovecraftian danger of the the Kopru in this unofficial fifth editition fan update of the race I stumbled across.
But its really X1 The Isle of Dread adventure that's the key to some of the alien  operations of Kopru.
If you accept the cannon of  Issue No. 114 of Dungeon magazine which saw the Isle of Dread's incarnation into the Greyhawk setting!

We get some really nasty details & updates;
"Issue No. 114 of Dungeon magazine features an update on the Isle of Dread as a Greyhawk setting, a remake-sequel to The Isle of Dread entitled Torrents of Dread,[12] and a poster-style map of the island, as well some smaller surrounding islands.[4]
In this update, the island was located in the Densac Gulf, a region bordered by the Azure Sea to the north, the Pearl Sea to the south, the Amedio Jungle to the west, and Hepmonaland to the east. This large expanse of ocean contains several island chains, one of which is the Isle of Dread itself. The update details a kopru plot that destroyed the city of the original Olman settlers through the power of a giant black pearl imbued with the influence of Demogorgon, the demonic god of the kopru. The isle has become a mad collection of kopru, other aquatic races, demonic beings, dinosaurs, and savage Olman natives."

There are some really weird & very alien qualities about the Kopru:
  • They are neutral evil yet they worship Demogorgon a chaotic evil god but I suspect they worship a vast array of weird Lovecraftian gods. 
  • Their biology is very specifically geared to their environment meaning that their home plane is very tropical & deadly in nature. 
  • They cause ruin & chaos where their found across the multiverse & they are truly one of the more alien monsters in Basic Dungeons & Dragons. 
  • The Kopru are universally hated by almost every player I've talked with. They make excellent background adventure masters. 
  • In OSR games the Kopru are still pursuing their slow conquest & war. Many races hate them with a vengeance & destroy them wherever their found.
  • In Dark Albion they'd be chaotic horrors who would be outright warred upon & their followers exterminated without mercy.

So what are they doing in the Hallow World ?! Well, the Kopru are a neutral evil race who worship a Chaotic Evil demon god. They're origins I would suspect are strongly connected with many of the other alien Lovecraftian eldritch abomination gods we've seen as fans of Dungeons & Dragons . That means that we might see hundreds of cells of Kopru headed Lovecraftian  cults across the multiverse.
But what is their real agenda? Next time we dive into the deep end of the Kopru's operations & their enemies!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

OSR Commentary - Shadows & Nightmares of Gary Gygax's Ex 1 'Dungeon Land' & Ex2 The Land Beyond The Magic Mirror.


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


Edgar Allen Poe's version of the dreamlands seen in his poetry & darker short story collections plug straight into the horrors of alien weirdness lurking at the edges of Basic Dungeons & Dragons. So tonight I've been toying with the demi plane of nightmare
  which is strongly connected with the Mystara setting for the Basic Dungeons & Dragons Rule Cyclopedia. In my home games its one of the most dangerous demi planes where  neh-thalggu, diaboli, feyrs, nagpas, & maelephants dwell as well as being one of the zones of the night hags. Its a demi plane where the person's dreams or nightmares become reality. Our groups had some brushes with the place when our dungeon master back in Nineteen Ninety connected The demi plane of Nightmares with Gary Gygax's Ex 1 'Dungeon Land' & Ex2 The Land Beyond The Magic Mirror.
Both of these were inspired by Alice in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Gary Gygax's lethal adventures tested our parties to the limits & finally in the second adventure broke our back with the loss of our wizard.

But most of the play sessions  that we had where the plane of nightmares was connected with the 'X' series of Dungeonland adventures events & encounters resembled
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's 'Through The Looking Glass. ' It was always one part horror story & one part fairy tale land in equal measures. Then when the party went off of the map in X1 things got really weird.
The connections to the plane of shadows & the demi plane of nightmare got worse as we went along finally encountering a caravan of nighthags & their guardians.

So in the X series the further into the chaotic demi planes of  'Fairylands' of the Alice in Wonderland a party wanders the weirder & more dangerous it gets. This goes all the way to the dense & diseased forests at the outer edges of  Dante's Inferno as our party found out all those years ago. The diabolic always seems like its right around the corner. The woods are rife with all kinds of souls who are well on their way to being prey for whatever story book horror or chaotic infected horror is hunting them.

Magic items & other relics brought out of these places have an aura of bedlam about them. They retain the chaotic energies about them causing all kinds of occult issues. They also can become animated & act as cursed items. Some can even cause mutations in their owners if a remove curse spell isn't used.
PC's could come face to face with some very dangerous alien aspects of planes that intersect with these realms or even encounter the twisted fairytale rulers of other storybook realms. Our party saw the rulers of Cinderella's realm guarded by the  glass & crystal golem body guards as we prowled the castle of Ex2.

We very quickly learned that straying off the path of  these demi plane dreamlands was very dangerous indeed. Our party ended up with a host of problems the least of which was getting hopelessly lost on the plane of Shadow. We ended up getting  back in Greyhawk a thousand miles completely out of sink with our current campaign or so we thought. We were lucky to make it out alive at all! We lost four PC's visiting these fairytale demi planes of dream!

Ex1 & Ex2 would end up playing a role in our Gamma World campaign much later on when the forces of nightmare came to call! This was when I learned that overlapping old school campaigns from the actions of adventurers was critical for maintaining campaign cohesion. 

All in all the demi planes of nightmare & the borderland kingdoms of fairy tale land remain some of the most dangerous of my time in the hobby. I personally have lost a total of five mid level characters to the worlds of Lewis Carol & Gary Gygax.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

OSR Campaign Commentary And D&D Monster Ecology - The Cancer From Below In The Hollow World -

The Hollow World box set for Dungeons & Dragons still kicks major ass! I haven't read through the Hollow World Campaign Set  from (1990) by Aaron Allston for a couple of  months now but its no apologies sand box approach still works so well.  The box set is unapologetic love letter to pulp magazine lost worlds & settings. This box set pulls the Basic Dungeons & Dragons game straight into the lost world genre kicking & screaming. But a conversation with a friend sparked some very interesting ideas!

This box set was developed by Bruce Heard & it contains tons of new character options, skill packages, even a new class in the form of the warrior elf.  So why mention it now?! Well after talking with friends last night about the box set there was a set up that a friend had that involved taking a mini dungeon from X1 Isle of Dread by
David Cook, Tom Moldvay then connecting it with the Hollow Earth.  The idea was to take a much more Clark Ashton Smith approach by using the island as the remains & echo of a once incredible surface civilization. The Basic Dungeons & Dragons line from '85 to the early 90's supported the idea of this sort of a sandbox approach to running campaigns. Mixing & matching old school resources to create a unique campaign whist taking the players on a grand adventure. But is there a horror lurking just below the surface of the Hollowed Earth?! Could its influence be growing like a cancer on the surface world of your campaign.

But surely this couldn't work for an OSR game? Well in point of fact the more traditional Dungeons & Dragons lore can have the isle of dread popping up many places. The Sea of Dread and the Thanegioth Archipelago can easily have gate ways stretching into the deepest places of the other planar regions. This sort of thing is detailed in the vaults of Pandius site's download The Sea of Dread pdf
The monstrous &  mind-bending creatures known as kopru could well be the remains of a very dangerous life form that the upper world knows nothing about. This fragment of a once planar spanning empire still exists in the Hollow World & its evil might be growing there could be other such fragments of it. And there are in my own home games but we'll get to that in other blog entry. The empire of the Kopru adds a whole different & dangerous factional element into Mystara's Hollow World. Sure for now they maybe isolated but its only a matter of time before these horrors begin to intrude on the rest of the Hollow Earth itself & then the rest of Mystara or perhaps even your own home games?!

Perhaps down in the Hollow World the PC's begin to stumble across an advanced civilization with incredibly warm waters & a series of rumors surrounding the place of the incredibly accurate prophetic powers of its seers. In actuality this city is the feeding stock of the Kopru who use the locals as both food source & standing army to conquer the surrounding countryside. Perhaps they're looking to expand their holdings! But what if the mind being influence of the 
Kopru is only the beginning?!

Monday, August 27, 2018

OSR Commentary & Review - The Quest for the Silver Sword Adventure By William W. Connors For Basic Dungeons & Dragons

"Evil magic is afoot!

On what should be the hottest day of the year, snow blankets the tiny village of Torlynn. The winter weather wreaks its havoc week after week, and the people of Torlynn are forced to abandon their homes. Only a few hardy souls remain in the village, one being Burgomaster Gustovan.

So far the burgomaster's plans to save his town have failed, and now he has but one chance left to save his people. Gustovan seeks the aid of a band of young adventurers. If they can uncover the force lurking in the ruins of Barrik's Keep and destroy the cause of the vile curse, all will be well again. If they fail, no one will be left alive in Torlynn to mourn them."

"Quest for the Silver Sword" (1992), by William W. Connors, is the first Thunder Rift adventure. It was published in January 1992. But what is it really?! Simply another forgotten BASIC Dungeons & Dragons adventure or is there far more too this adventure then what it seems to be?!
This is an adventure designed to attack the PC's where it hurts in the players. This adventure was/is part of the black box Basic Dungeons & Dragons adventuring packages. According to the Drivethrpg blurb," This adventure is suited for a group of four to six characters of 2nd or 3rd level." Well, this was a part of the '92 revision of Dungeons & Dragons into the black box Basic edition of the game;
"In April 1991, TSR released The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), an introductory D&D game better known as the black box. It was wildly successful, introducing many new players to the D&D game. So, TSR had to figure out how best to expand it. A series of black-boxed "adventure packs" (1992) were the most obvious expansions because they matched the style and contents of the original box. However, TSR also released some more traditional supplements, of which "Quest for the Silver Sword" (1992) was the first."
This is one of the adventure packages that actually manages to sneak in how to run an investigative dungeon crawl into the Basic D&D game. Back in the 90's I got roped into running Basic Dungeons & Dragons for a number of much younger  kids after school. Those kids are now dungeon masters of their own & we still get together for adult beverages from time to time. That's how much of a sense of social play & comradeship that the 'grand game' can create. You see  Black box Dungeons & Dragons is one of the best kept Basic secrets.  I picked up my copy for less then ten bucks back in '04 for five bucks at a Toyworks in Torrington,Ct.

So why is this one of the best kept secrets in the hobby? Because it came packed with everything you needed to get started in the hobby except players. According to the Board Game Geek entry   the contents went something like this;
"The new D&D Basic revised edition that guides the RPG rookies through the first 5 levels of experience. It features pull-out cards detailing basic monsters and dragons, a dungeon map and cardboard stand-ups to play in a boardgame way and a simple dungeon adventure for inexperienced players and Dungeon Masters.
64 page rulebook, Dragon Card learning pack DM Screen, 48 stand-ups, dice and maps."
The Quest For the Silver Sword  has concise writing in an attractive & well made package. It complements the The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991) quite well as an expansion delivering some really cool twists & turns.

Curse of the Silver Sword adventure package came with stand up minis & two excellent maps, the adventure basically about a village that was descending into Eternal Winter because of a magical curse. But we get a lot of background on "Barrik's Keep" & the town of Torlynn. There's lots of hooks here to connect into both the setting of the Thunder Rift & back history of Mystara. The monsters of the module were nasty pieces of work that attacks add to the player's grief  about failing their saving throws!
You can get a bit of the feel of the setting from here but if your a player of this adventure stay the Hell out! Seriously don't make the dungeon master's job any harder.
The Thunder Rift region and Timeline  by Håvard  from the Vaults of Pandius has some very nice deeper background. And the Whose Who of Thunder Rift has some of the major NPC players of the area mapped out & its from Kyle Knight.

There was a question about Lizardmen on Facebook for old school or OSR Dungeons & Dragons. Lizardmen in the Thunder Rift get a bit of the lime light in this article by phoneixmcl.

The Quest For The Silver Sword presents a mini dungeon & adventure setting perfect to get players started a bit further down the path of level progression & into a higher standard of Basic play. The adventure itself is quite nicely laid out for an investigative game with a bit of action on both sides of it. The monsters are interesting & the region has lots of potential for dungeon master exploitation.

Could the Quest For the Silver Sword be used in OSR retroclone systems?! The answer is yes! Because of the very modular nature of the adventure package set up & marketing there's a bit of prep but a clever dungeon master could use both this adventure & the entire Thunder Rift region within their home games. The fact is that the Thunder Rift is so prototypical of a Dungeons & Dragons region that I've had players want to take it over for themselves as a domain.

 If you want to introduce the kids to Dungeons & Dragons then I highly suggest Black Box, its easy to get into & lots of goodies to keep the play going for years to come. Quest of the Silver Sword does the job of being a mid point adventure without being overly twee or stupid. It hits the high points & keeps things going without talking down to its audience or taking steps back with the players.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

OSR Commentary - "Thunder Rift" (1992) by Colin McComb for Basic Dungeons & Dragons

So its been a long while since I cracked the spine of Thunder Rift for Basic Dungeons & Dragons. This book is a mini setting for the game & it packs a lot into its thirty two pages.You've got self-contained little setting in a valley about thirty miles long. All of the familiar Basic Dungeons & Dragons monsters are in here including a dragon, elves, dwarves, goblins, & lots of human settlements.

Though the valley has been mostly cut off from outside there's still a lot of adventure hooks packed within this product: 

  • history - You've got a ton of background on the world setting of Thunder Rift.
  •  population - All of the towns & villages are broken down by population, location, etc.
  • encounter charts-The encounter charts are all here for the dungeon master  to pull from. 
Quest for the Silver Sword is another adventure within this line that has one of the major adventure campaign plot points affecting one of the towns within the setting. PC's are going to have a heck of a time with this plague. Another product that has the potential to really blow things is within the D&D Cycolpaedia Screen which includes Escape from Thunder Rift,this adventure links up the Thunder Rift area to Mystara. But Thunder Rift can easily be dropped into any campaign setting with a bit of work. 

The whole point & purpose of Thunder Rift is to show new dungeon masters how awesome a campaign is & all of the building blocks to get one off of the ground. Even though this a Basic product a lot of work must have went into this product. The writing here is concise & easy to read as well as understand. The material is fun to go through & brain storm about how to insert this mini setting into a existing campaign. 

OSR Commentary: Beer & B/X Dungeons & Dragons Chatter with B/X Essentials & Dark Dungeons By Gurbintroll Games

"You are way too hung up on your your retroclones!", came the squeaky voice from DM Xvart whom I've known since grade school. He quickly pulled back on the draft of beer as if it was going to get away from him.So last night I was rescauced from a quiet night of dinosaur movies from friends. It was the fellow dungeon master's night that our local group of 5th edition & OSR dungeon masters have every couple of months. "Uh Huh & Fifth edition blows B/X Dungeons & Dragons out of the water for your groups?!" 'Well kinda of but its not like there's a clone that does everything!?'
"Actually there are two such clones was my response, there's the B/X Essentials line from Necrotic Gnome which has everything you need to get started & keep a game running for years."
You can get a no cost version of the B/X Essentials books with no artwork in them for free from the link above through Drivethrurpg. The system is streamlined, very well laid out, & runs like a Swiss Clock. The feel is all there & everything is perfectly timed out with the D&D B/X aesthetic. That's fine & its fantastic at what it does! Personally I'd get print copies of the books & solid resources. Now we're working our way through the second pitcher of beer. Xvart starts in on his usual B/X Dungeons & Dragons rants. Xvart is a sawed off five foot bespectacled little engineer whom I've played with since grammar school. The usual B/X rants about 'race as class', the limits of the system, nostalgia clouding my judgement, in other words the usual beer fueled b.s. I've heard a million times. 'But its not complete', & that's when I knew I had him. But we've played in a long running Mentzer campaign back in the Nineties together. Yes but you know the differences between Dungeons & Dragons Basic  editions plus the difference between Basic, B/X and BECMI 
make all of the nuance.

'You mean that there's already a clone of BECMI collected?' 'Yes there has been one for years running now!'

"This system can support a Dungeons & Dragons game for years to come plus it includes the immortal rules, the planes, & sky ships!" "Its a pay what title on Drivethrurpg." " But there's a print hardback that up on  Lulu right now but wait till the latest coupons come out."

The other DM's shook their collected heads & we got into the ins & outs of our respective campaigns over the pizza that arrived. They'd heard all of this talk before between DM Xvart & myself. We talked about the usual OSR buzz or the lack there of. Bitched about certain D&D themes & fashions. The usual Grognard talk that comes with a Saturday night round table at the local nerd watering holes. For further information on Dark Dungeons go here.
There are ten things I took away from last night's round table;

Ten things I took away from Beer & B/X Dungeons & Dragons Chatter with
B/X Essentials & Dark Dungeons
  1. Dark Dungeons is meant for the experienced players & dungeon masters whist the B/X Essentials is more for the middle ground group of players. Or as an introductory pick up & go game. Sure Essentials can & will sustain a group for years to come but they come in at two different places. 
  2. The time factor - B/X Essentials is a perfect pick up & go style game. Dark Dungeons is perfectly suited for more elaborate dungeon & adventure design. 
  3. Campaign & play styles are going to determine the right game for the right group. 
  4. Dark Dungeons is an all in one package with your mileage varying depending upon the needs of the players. 
  5. The parts is parts approach of B/X Essentials is the retroclone's strength allowing the DM & players to cherry pick elements that they want. 
  6. B/X Essentials is the perfect Dolmewood system able to effortlessly pick upon the setting with built in adventure elements 
  7. Tastes in Dungeons & Dragons vary with the players & this is a key factor for choosing the right retroclone for them & you as the DM. 
  8. 'The play is the thing' there's going to be a very high point with players. 
  9. OSR retroclones offer a safe & solid alternative to the costly collector's market. They can & will bring players to the table. 
  10. Dark Dungeons has everything you need to run adventures for years to come. The design is well done & provides everything both the players & the DM needs. 
Hang overs suck folks & so for now keep em rolling! 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

1d10 Random Minor Sword & Sorcery Bits & Pieces of Adventurers Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Adventuring is a dangerous business & sometimes adventurers have to give in  to the effects of Death. They often leave behind more then mere body parts & or a decaying corpse. Space is limited when adventuring so they often take bits & bobs of treasure or relics.

Sometimes its these items that do in adventurers, there is a 60% chance of a relic or other small bauble of being cursed. There is also a 10% chance of this piece of jewelry or sorcerous knickknack having belonged to a powerful wizard or other magical practitioner. Adventurers should tread lightly in the shadow of those who have come before them.  

Among some jaded & decedent royals there is a fashion of acquiring these adventurer's baubles & rings for their aesthetic & macabre origin as collectables. These minor magic items often have strong aura of magick & power as the desperation & violence of those who sought them feeds the enchantment of these pieces. Over time with more & more deaths, murders, betrayals, & depraved acts the magick of these items can grow very strong indeed. There is an increase of 10% of the range & a very dangerous chaotic effect to some magic items. See appropriate random matrix coming soon.

1d10 Random Minor Sword & Sorcery Bits & Pieces of Adventurers Table

  1.  A baboon's decaying clawed hand with two jade rings on them. The rings allow the owner to see hidden doors & passages. They also allow the owner to see the aura of those around them & once a day a flash of insight into the motives of anyone within thirty feet of the owner. 
  2. The decaying  thumb & fore finger of a man whose finger has a ring with a semi precious gem on it. This ring allows the owner to hear the thoughts of certain wizards of the school of devilry. There is a 20% chance of these thoughts driving the owner mad. 
  3. An earring  on the left pinky finger of a woman. The earring allows true sight twice per day. 
  4.  A small lady's hair comb that allows the owner to change the colour of their when its run through & to disguise their appearance once per day. 
  5. This strange jade finger cover allows the owner detect poison with dipped into any meal or beverage. There is a command word written in  Atlantean on underside that allows a deadly drop of magical poison to be inserted into food once per day. 
  6. This strange finger covering allows the owner to take on the appearance of another within 20 feet for one hour. The whole affair is covered in gore & blood caked around the silver pieces & bits. 
  7. A strange puzzle box is held by three decaying hands & allows one to open a passage into the Inferno once per week. There is demon waiting on the other side of the box for a new fool to open it. 
  8. A weird head covering made of metal allows one to see into darkness with a range of 10 feet & speak with ghosts. The thing rests on a decayed woman's head with a piece of jade secreted in the mouth. 
  9. This wand like device is two inches long is held in the hand of a man wearing a bracelet on the wrist. The device allows one to know if someone is lying to them as it grows warm in the hand. The owner once per day can tell an incredible lie and unless a save vs wands is made the victim will believe them. The bracelet is a ruined charm against demons but has dried demon's blood on it. 
  10.  A white jade tiger allows the owner to take on the minor ability of confidence & leader ship when holding it. This piece also has two very pretty semi precious eyes that can see a traitor to the owner once per week & allow the owner to see the fool's aura. It radiates powerful magic & is held in the palm of woman's hand with delicate nails of obsidian.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tegel Manor By Judge's Guild Tussle - Meeting & Actual Play Event Session Report #1&2

" The multivere's most haunted old school manor's ghosts & undead have a dire secret that could affect the course of several universes & alternative prime plane Earths! The PC's have foiled the plans of the vile villain but he's got a cunning & dastardly plan of his own to achieve immortality as one of the Undead! "
Welcome to my version of the classic Tegel Manor! The plane jumping mist shrouded manor & valley arrived in its latest location then things got weird for our party of adventurers!

I've been gone a whole day off of social media completely with work but the other night I managed to squeeze in an session of Tegel Manor. My game has been on hiatus for about four weeks now but last night we packed a lot into the game last night. My player's PC's managed to prevent the assassination of an alchemist by his former employer, steal some very valuable alchemical chemicals, & thwart one of their adversary's plans! This happened about four weeks ago & the other night's session picked right back up!  They learned this after finding out from the NPC alchemist who is now working for the party that Mr. Rump is planning on importing more alchemy ingredients & another alchemist. Many of the valuable alchemy ingredients from the last session we played are used in funerary rights & for the preparation of the ritual for becoming a lich! Mr.Rump is actually a black cleric of a god of undeath & he needs a magic iron crown to complete the ritual!

The party of adventurers session  began with them breaking into Tegel manor through a secret passage under the atrium.The passage led through a series of connecting dungeon hallways & led up to the temple of Quetzalcoatl. They nearly got eaten by a rampaging shoggoth but beat it out of the dungeon works & into the temple quickly locking the trap door into the room behind them.  The temple complex within the manor was a complete wreck with altars overturned, secret niches ransacked, blast marks on the walls, & broken weapons scattered about. This scene was caused by the player's PC's from a previous campaign session last year. Using the maps they began the task of navigating the hallways & rooms of the manor & right out of the gate the ghosts began to pick on the party. Phantom voices, strange smells, & weird puddles caused issues for the party.  But when the paintings started to come to life the party ran for the grand ballroom & straight into the arms of two hundred dancing ghosts! They came upon three strange gentlemen ghosts who asked if they had been sent by a representative of the Rump family?! And upon learning that they  expecting their cousin the party left. The adventurers managed to dodge the ghostly shape shifted deceased storm giant & his massive executor's sword simply closing the door on him! He'll get them on the way back through the manor!

They nearly got killed by two statues that came to life one of a troll & the other an elf. The elf handed them a map to a nearby bedroom. The troll statue came to life & they had to spend time fighting the troll but managed to get away! Then the party did a side quest into the bedroom detailed on the map that the elf had given them! Unlocking the bedroom the party was treated to a most unusual sight!
Upon the bed was a "harem girl" held by a set of  glowing chains  actually a female  Ogre Magi transformed & pleading for help! Under the bed a second Ogre Magi warrior waited! The husband of the female imprisoned on the magical bed. These were actually agents of the Queen of the Night another NPC player meddling the PC's lives! There was a lot of role playing with the Ogre Magi as the harem girl pleading with the PC's to free her & a couple of near times when they came close. But some very clever maneuvering sent the two monsters back to the lands of Nightmare!

The party also found a polymorphed Elf huldra ("hidden being") royal who had been transformed into a troll. They also found a full suit of huldra chain mail hanging in the closet as well. The warrior seemed dazed & confused as to his where abouts & circumstances. The adventurers have a who lot more rooms & hallways to get through & this was only the beginning! How the Hell did he get there & whose he working for?!

Ten Things About My Version of Tegel Manor
  1. This version of Tegel Manor & the surrounding  valley move across time & space. There are number of factions within & without the manor vying for control of this piece of psychic real state this includes the ghosts & members of the Rump family. 
  2. I'm pulling a lot of the resources from this blog entry for my Sword & Sorcery version of  Tegel Manor. 
  3. The Wayward sisters have a stake in the manor's fate and more that the players nor the PC's have a clue about it.
  4. There are certainly many Arthurian themes at play here & connections to dangerous relics of legend. 
  5. Certain safe rooms that the party stayed in last year have become very dangerous as they're going to find out next week! 
  6. There are other adventurers already in the house & another faction leader already manipulating events & certain spectral NPC's. 
  7. The players have yet to make it down into the dungeons of the house & there are doors that open to other far more dangerous places & other worlds.
  8. Ghosts are not the only classic monster that the player's PC's are going to have to content with in Tegel Manor. There are many others.
  9. The adventurers are not aware of that I've already slipped in a number of occult items into the mix from this random table of minor treasures that they've already recovered!  
  10. There is a bounty hunter already after the party & they have no idea what's coming!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

1d20 Random Encounters With Those Who Have Undergone The Tamashī no tanzōrite Rites Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Along the oldest parts of the Old Silk Road routes through the back mountains of Eurasia  there are strange back road shrines in the deepest parts of the old growth forests & twisted mountain passes. Here the winds & the weather seem to pick up at a moment's notice. There is always a chill in the air no matter if its Summer or Spring. The shadows here grow long with strange lights & its here that the doorways between worlds are very thin. Certain cells of ancient cults still gather in these places to call forth the most ancient ogres of the order of the magi who practice the ancient arts of Tamashī no tanzō literally the soul forging.

The soul forging is done when a tormented & smashed soul is called back from the Inferno, Hell or The Abyss. Similar to the art of Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery"), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, "golden repair") but with a far more darker necrotic & necromatic bent. Rare Earth soil found in the so called 'Pit of Adam' is mixed  with powdered gold, silver, or platinum,made from the coins of the dead. A three eyed ogre soul forger & his apprentices who has under gone the rites of the Oni in the deepest rolling chaos of the minor hells of Fairyland does the forging. The rites are quite horrific as a necromancer calls back the soul to the land of the living. The wounds of the damned are filled in with the potent necromatic alchemical mix as magical rites are inscribed on magical staples used to hold the body of the unliving thing together. The Oni priest magus can only be summoned with a monster summoning spell at their shrines under the light of the last full moon of the year. These rites are only done under extreme circumstances for persons & personages of high importance. But their price for their services is high indeed.
 The Oni priest soul forgers will demand three hundred pounds of man flesh, a solid block of green or white jade, two human slaves of royal blood & at least two names of major demons or Elven lords for their services. Failure to meet their demands will result in them throwing the summoner into the deepest Hells.
A being who has undergone the
Tamashī no tanzōrites will be marked with three hundred & sixty three magical staples of all varieties holding the wounds of the damned closed. This being has the following undead abilities & limitations - they do not sleep or eat, they have an immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects). They have immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, & death effects.These beings are not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Once per day for an hour  these damned can hide their horrific state through an illusion of incredible complexity that mimics the conditions of the living. The Oni priests see these beings as their works of art.Any damage to these beings in their presence  will be met with violence & magic!

Only being subject to the energies of the negative plane can these beings created by the  Tamashī no tanzōrites rites be healed. Beings created by the rites of Tamashī no tanzōrite have unnatural hungers & will crave the soul energies of poets, storytellers, & wizards. They will strangle for 1d6 points of physical damage & essence burn the victim for 1d4 points of damage per round. They also have a longer drawn out method of soul  drainage doing 1 point of wisdom as well as point of Constitution damage over a three night session. Those subject to this attack will experience the most vivid & horrify visions of the planes of the damned. These victims will be husks of their former selves & may commit suicide to avoid the crippling depression, the unholy visions & nightmares. Only a remove curse spell, a major healing spell, or expensive divine clerical help can heal this damage to the soul. The damned of the
Tamashī no tanzōrites rites are drawn to trails, crossroads, & places of the wilderness. These damned are restless & find little piece at night. This is the time when adventurers will most often encounter them in the wilderness or urban areas

The Judges of the Dead loath those sent back to Earth using the rites of
Tamashī no tanzōrite & have written several treatises on these damned. Ironically these same treatises are highly valued by necromancers & black wizards who crave the knowledge of summoning the Oni priests. The scroll of 'The Honeyed Flower That Blooms at Midnight' is one such forbidden book of Law worth 1000 gold pieces to a royal collector. Not only does it contain the rites for spotting the handy work of the Oni Priests & the spell of their banishment but it contains the ritual for making the Brass Nail of The Damned. This brass nail is forged from a holy lamp in a temple of Law & the names of the thirty six angels of Death must be etched in it. The nail must be driven into the forehead of the damned to send body & soul straight to the lake of burning & freezing flesh in the lowest echelons of Hell.

In the far future when Ragnarok has happened & the piece of the Earth orbits Saturn the rites of
Tamashī no tanzōrite
will be available to necromancers & black wizards of the wastelands. The plain black basalt shrines of the Oni priest will stand mockingly back from the old roads.
Lo, what are these, the gyres of sun and world,
   Fulfilled with daylight by each toiling sun—
   Lo, what are these but webs of radiance spun
Beneath the roof of Night, and torn or furled
By Night at will? All opposite powers upwhirled
   Are less than chaff to this imperious one—
   As wind-tossed chaff, until its sport be done,
Scattered, and lifted up, and downward hurled.

All gyres are held within the path unspanned
   Of Night's aeonian compass—loosely pent
     As with the embrace of lethal-tightening
All suns are grasped within the hollow hand
   Of Night, the godhead sole, omnipotent,
     Whose other names are Nemesis and Fate.

The Nemesis of Suns  (1912)
by Clark Ashton Smith

1d20 Random Encounters With Those Who Have Undergone The
Tamashī no tanzōrite Rites Table 
  1. An ancient prince who murdered his own father & now seeks adventurers to recover an object that may help him undo his fate as a damned soul. He has access to treasures long forgotten by the current king. But there is a black wizard who wants this prince destroyed. 
  2. A very pretty priestess of a lost blood line wanders the night looking for the remains of her soul but she can't remember where it is. Meanwhile 1d6 demons peruse her to reunite her soul with her recently broken body. She need help to find her relics to remind her of her past & her lost memories. She will pay for your services. 
  3. Long dead warriors pursue a royal general but they are confused & so have begun to attack the living. Adventurers are needed to put them back in their grave. Does the general know more then he's telling. He has an ancient treasure hidden nearby! 
  4. The log book & charts  belonging to a ship lost centuries ago has surfaced near the party. Now a spectral ship is roaming the skies in search of her captain. Just recently a young warrior of strange garb has been seen in town. What is his story & who is the sinister stranger that is following the party. 
  5. A strange wayfarer is wandering the byways of the countryside asking directions to a place that hasn't existed for centuries. Now a prince of the crown confronts the party asking for their help locating this wayfarer?! 
  6. Long ago a strange ghostlike figure was seen wandering near a battle field & now centuries later that same battle field is being over run with skeletons. A stranger offers help but with a reward of gold & perhaps more. 
  7. The abandoned temple at the end of the road has been the subject of legend & hearsay for centuries now its occupied by a priest of incredible presence. He wants you to find a valuable occult object but he's very odd & slightly weird. 
  8. Strange ogre warriors wander the game trails & say they are searching for a group of their wandering priests. Then a gang of skeleton bandits has been raiding the nearby villages are the two connected? A strange warrior in archaic garb claims to have answers! 
  9. A ghostly procession of odd warriors is taking the roadways into a panic & now a royal princess has come to call on the PCs asking for their help but is there more to her then meets the eye? Her royal guards are odd & strangely stiff?! 
  10. Caravans of strangers have been seen on the roads & the local cemeteries have rashes of undead monsters rising from the grave. A stranger offers to help & seems connected with the caravan. He's offering cash & coil as well! 
  11. A dangerous seer claims to know the location of an ancient dungeon & offers to share the treasure with you but there are rumors of demon slayers seeking someone like him. Are they connected?! 
  12. 1d6 skeletons attack the party & they find a dangerous magic artifact on one of them that hasn't been seen in centuries?! Could this be connected with the abandoned wizard's tower that has only recently been repaired & is now occupied after all this time?! 
  13. The devil's handmaiden a legendary assassin that has terrorized the family of one of the adventurers is back & wants to slaughter the party but is her lair in the dungeon more then what it seems?
  14. Right in the middle of the road is the skeleton of a maiden with a brass nail driven straight into it?! Nearby a chest containing a treasure & it all points to the strange goings on at the lair of the local necromancer! 
  15. A golden casket off to the side of the road gets the party into hot water with the local royals as a long dead prince comes to the party's aid. Now he wants them to help him find his 'ancestor's' ruined castle in the middle of the wilderness. 
  16. The party is rounded up by a posse of the local court for questioning about their association with a notorious brigand lord! But his dungeon lair holds far more clues to his recent return to power including his possible return from the dead! 
  17. Asking for your party by name a cleric of the local god of the dead needs your help to slay a monster whose been eating the local druids, bards, & poets at his school! But is the monster what he thinks it  is? And what about this talk of a treasure?
  18. The poet that wanders the roads is a local legend but when a group of undead warriors wants to recruit the party to help them find him? Well things get interesting as they find a ruined manor house is the poet's lair! 
  19. The ghost of an orc screams every night at three A.M. & someone watches every night from the shadows. A local priest wants the party to help him put this ghostly  demon spawn to rest but whose watching the party & why are the king's soldiers taking a sudden interest in the party?! 
  20. On the side of the road a strange jester mocks the party & then through a series of tricks & traps offers them a job helping him recover a strange chest that supposedly contains his memories & a treasure. A weird half ruined temple contains half of the poor fool's life but an ancient enemy wants both you & the jester dead.Why?!

Copyright & trademarked to Dark Corner Productions@2018