Sunday, September 30, 2018

More Late Night OSR & Arnesonian Commentary On Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign

There's always been more to the hobby of table top gaming then, "clear the room, take the loot, & move on." Especially original Dungeons & Dragons which has remained consistent in its approach via the three little brown books in their wood grained box. I've used those books to run everything from Barsoomian adventures to full mythological campaigns involving deities from Mount Olympus to the Halls of Valhalla.
But Judge's Guild has always been my back up going back to when I started in this hobby. I wrote about Judge's Guild product code thirty seven last night The First Fantasy Campaign. The First Fantasy Campaign isn't a carefully organized piece of gaming, instead its an alternative collection of rules from Dave Arneson's home game setting organically grown from the actual play sessions. These are the look behind the curtain of Oz's wizard in this case its Dave Arneson's notes & partial session materials. Arnesonian books at the table as I came up the ranks were Blackmoor & The FFC.

This is in addition to B/X Dungeons & Dragons along side the Monster Manual finally the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide. Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire sat right in that pile of reference material. There were a few others but will get to those coming up. So what's in the First Fantasy Campaign? Well the Acaecum has a good break down explanation of the book's contents;"
  Herein are many new guidelines on lair generation, character interests and vocations (hunting, farming, fishing, trapping, etc.), the resources and manpower of the various feudal holdings and nomadic hordes of this landmark in war gaming, and much more.  Carefully mapped are the twelve levels of Blackmoor Dungeon beneath the five levels of Blackmoor Castle, the village of Blackmoor, the home of Mello the Halfling, and the tower of Svenson's Freehold."

What the First Fantasy Campaign actually is an artifact of the play sessions of David Arneson & his player's PC's. What the were facing down, the content of the world setting of Blackmoor & your possible player's PC's within it. Here's some rules & guidelines for having at it kids now go play. That's really what Arneson's brilliance was getting the players involved organically.  This really a good dungeon master needs to start moving in on a setting & making it their players own. The player's PC's are the most important people in the campaign.

There is a lot of Dave Arneson's personality &  humor scattered throughout the FFC from the holy water fire hoses to the glorious puns of some of the names. This doesn't be grudge the fact that there are many monsters who will kill your party deader then a door nail. Bear in mind that I'm not taking one iota of brilliance away from Gary Gygax at all. The approaches to the hobby of Dungeons & Dragons are day & night as I said. Here the dungeon master is given all of the fiddly bits to make Blackmoor their own. These literally are the guidelines to bring the setting to life. Its like looking through & thumbing through the carefully kept note books of an older uncle who happens to be your dungeon master.The FFC is the antithesis of the carefully laid out rules packed retroclone or old school rule book. Its for a dungeon master who doesn't want a pre generated adventure & instead wants the play to come about once again organically from the players. The First Fantasy campaign works best with an old school system especially something like original Dungeons & Dragons. Understand that my love for Greyhawk noes no bounds but Blackmoor has a very special place within my heart mostly because of what it represents to me. This isn't nostalgia but the fact that I came into the OSR searching for that same feeling that had getting hacked to bits all of those years ago in the rooms of
Blackmoor Dungeon. Thanks David Arnson for getting me partially started on this path of gaming all of those years ago! 

Late Night OSR Commentary On Dave Arneson & His Creations

When I think of Dave Arneson I'm always picturing in my head the young Mr.Arneson. The guy who was creating Blackmoor from the ground up all those years ago. Gary Gygax wrote & codified the rules of what would become original Dungeons & Dragons. His work on Dungeons & Dragons & its supplements became the foundation for the center piece of the table top hobby as we know it.
Dave Arneson created the theme of the campaign setting as over arching world from the ground up. Blackmoor isn't to be taken lightly & I've come to respect the campaign world setting over the years. There are a variety of reasons for this but one important one springs to mind.

Both Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson's approaches to gaming were day & night in many senses of the word. Yet there was  common ground in the both the war game hobby & the design of what would become the original Dungeons & Dragons rules. At two thirty in the morning I'm trying to hammer out in my head what Dave Arneson, Blackmoor, & The First Fantasy campaign Judge's Guild product code thirty seven mean to me. I'm seven years old & the First Fantasy campaign is being explained to me by the older brother of a friend of mine. Impressions don't cut it. There are rules for baronies, things for characters to do, & the entire Blackmoor dungeon. That's where my first player character was killed.

Blackmoor is laser etched into my tiny little brain back in Nineteen Seventy Seven & original Dungeons & Dragons has me hooked when I was killed by my first encounter(murder) with a skeleton. By the way that was in Blackmoor dungeon & it slaughtered me. Fifteen minutes later I had another first level player character ready to go. A magic user named 'Clavus The Creator' who lasted a bit longer because I got a bit smarter. That's what Blackmoor did for me as a setting. It got me to play smarter & then think things through as a player. I wouldn't be allowed to be a dungeon master until much later on. I never have forgotten that skeleton nor the nastiness of that first go around in the dungeons of Blackmoor.

By age eight years old I was taking on the role of dungeon master & had my own copy of Blackmoor, plus The Judge's Guild First Fantasy Campaign. Later on I subject other players to the tortures of the dungeons of Blackmoor.So I have a bit of a different take on Dave Arneson to a certain degree, is he actually smiling at all those poor bastards who had fun being killed by his various creations?!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Quick OSR Review & Free Adventure Download - DF18 Where The Fallen Jarls Sleep For Your Old School Campaigns

"A malevolence darkens the northern reaches of The Land of Song. Can your group defeat the evil and bring peace. An adventure for characters of level 3-5."

The days are growing shorter & I've had to think a bit outside the box as far as running something dangerous & dire for Halloween. I need a solid adventure to run with some of the more experienced players in my social circles. So what really cares the Hell out of players? Hordes of undead waiting to tear into PCs!

Where The Fallen Jarls Sleep by John Turcotte is the perfect Viking Halloween Dungeons & Dragons answer! Dangerous as hell for PC's this is nasty little affair where PC's are investigating undead sightings & the survivors of attacks by these creatures. There are some incredibly well done bits of this adventure where the NPC's have a personal stake in the goings on of the adventurers.

The homesteads of the northmen are being attacked, raided,  & people are being murdered left, right, & center. The northmen here are peaceful & the adventurers are brought in as muscle & to put to rest the undead cancer.

An adventurer rushing to doom for a party of fellow warriors not artwork from DF18.

This is the perfect module to run with a Sword & Sorcery campaign. The advice on monsters, pacing of the adventure & the extra bits of fluff that make this one of the best & must have free Dragon foot modules. The hidden locations & other mystical Norse tone of D18 make this a perfect middle tier adventure for PC's to really get into the setting of Where Sleep Jarls lay. Text & layout are up to Dragon foot standards but make this a really solidly set adventure.

This is one of those adventures that can be played over a long series of sessions making it quite epic in scope as a mini campaign. There are some aspects that could be quite lethal but that is the point of DF18.

Over all DF18 Where The Fallen Jarls Sleep is a solid adventure with a very good reputation among certain quarters of the OSR. The presentation is very well done & I think that the undead encounters are very dangerous especially if the player's PC's don't exactly know the full extent of the horror in this module.
You Can Download DF18 Where
The Fallen Jarls Sleep Here!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

1d20 Random Things Found Among The Beards of Lady Dwarven Warriors For Your Old School Campaigns

Many adventurers encounter the rare Dwarven female warriors known as Aresui out in the fields of battle. These mercenary lady warriors do not want the traditional mine ownership & business opportunities that they are afforded by Dwarven society. Instead they seek adventure & are driven by the blood fury of the Earth. Their veins pump with the seething violence of their family's warrior legacies & they cleave to the sound of glory & battle. Many Aresui become adventurers among mankind. They seek out the places deep, dank, & dangerous where the ancient enemies of the Dwarves still hide.
To denote their status among Dwarven kind they often have various practical small pieces of equipment woven into their facial beards. Many Aresui often follow Berronar, the dwarven goddess of safety, truth, and home.

Those that survive the mercenary life often become successful mine owners in their own rights. They manage their business's fortunes with a deft hand that they've acquired from the world of man. Many Aresui are still shrewd tacticians & military leaders well into their late five hundreds. They use their mines & earth works as cover to seek out & exterminate the most dangerous enemies of the Dwarven race. For the younger lady warriors the mercenary life is a rite of passage seen as a twisted path of insanity among the Dwarven traditionalists & familial councils. Many Aresui are brought before such councils for 'dressing down' when visiting their traditional familial homes.
The trinkets, jewels, & small ornamental weaponry denotes a status of rebellion woven into the beards of the
Aresui. They wear them proudly & there have been murders among humans who have besmirched the honor too far among these alien beings.

1d20 Random Things Found

Among The Beards of Lady Dwarven Warriors
  1.  The finger bones of many unidentified kills & enemies taken in battle & various wars. Used for counting coup during warfare. 
  2. Caltrops for the type of warfare that she's seen but still usable. 
  3. The right pickled eyeballs of her foes 
  4. Jade bells that ring with each movement but capable of being tied back with easy for movement. 
  5. Deep One bones 
  6. Gems & semi precious diamonds denoting places of battle. 
  7. Bone disks carved with the places of battle, wars, & campaigns 
  8. Maps made from the carved pieces of fairy spines. 
  9. Clay grenades each capable of doing 1d4 damage but must be lit. 
  10. Cleric blessings from her clan & tribe. 
  11. 4 small musical whistles made from the pink bones of orc warriors 
  12. Two small daggers weighted & made to look like war campaign swords each denoting a nasty campaign. 
  13. Chain to nose made of rose gold denoting her statues as a 'free warrior' & adventurer for hire. 
  14. Nose to beard piercings denoting her statues as a head taker among her tribe & clan 
  15. Two pieces of onyx denoting her statues as an undead slayer among her kind. 
  16. A single almost moving piece of preserved finger bone from lich denoting her mortal enemy. She will automatically hire on in any adventure or campaign that 'she' is involved in. 
  17. A pickled tendril from an unknown monster woven into the beard denoting her status as monster slayer. 
  18.  A small flute that plays a tune of battle taken from the Dwarven chaos witch Azaela. She will not talk about it. But she is a slayer of chaos! 
  19. Two marbles carved with the heritage & history of her tribe & family. They appear as miniature volcanoes
  20. Two miniature witch compasses suspended in the brine of blood & urine from a Dwarf of chaos. She is a slayer chaos & enemy of all goblin kind. 

Artwork used without permission copyright & trademarked to the artist & Wizards of the Coast. No copyright infringement or trademark violation is implied. All text & ideas are @ Dark Corner Productions 2018. This blog post is for educational & entertainment purposes only.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

OSR Commentary - Sound & Fury An Alernative Ecology For The Caterwaul From The Avanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Fiend Folio

They are the stalkers from beyond furthermost gates of Fairyland, the caterwaul is a creature that comes straight out of Welsh myth. These creatures are said to have been a family of witches that crossed over into the deepest parts of the chaotic hell lands of Fairyland. They became trapped in their cat forms after crossing nine times back & forth into our reality.  They have become less & much more then normal human beings. The caterwaul are beings of the edges of the wilderness & the places where reality is very thin.

From the back roads of Ireland & Scotland these creatures numbers increased as their skills of hiding in shadows & moving silent along the byways of legend allowed them to move along the old trails of the late Roman Empire. They have been encountered as far away as Hungry & the upper edges of Bohemia. Each hunting season one caterwaul male assumes the title 'King of Cats' in a vicious rite as illustrated by the British legend the King of Cats.
"In the British folk tale The King of the Cats, a man comes home to tell his wife and cat, Old Tom, that he saw nine black cats with white spots on their chests carrying a coffin with a crown on it, and one of the cats tells the man to "Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum is dead." The cat then exclaims, "What?! Old Tim dead! Then I'm the King o' the Cats!" Old Tom then climbs up the chimney and is never seen again"
The caterwaul gains the white scar/spot on his chest then initiates 'the hunt' for all of Europe & beyond. These hunts are vicious affairs in which a pride of these creatures will single out a bloodline or familial line of humans. For the next six to eight months they will murder & consume these people in a weird occult or mystically symbolic fashion.  It is believed to ensure a healthy birth of new kittens for the coming year.

Caterwauls will seek out the graves of murderers & criminals of violent nature's  after they've been hung or executed by excruciating means. The caterwaul will steal into a church or temple to pass over the corpse to steal the soul before the gods or angels of death have a chance to send it onto its final reward. Such souls are consumed by these beasts in the depths of their lairs in the deepest parts of Fairyland. The caterwaul has incredibly acute occult senses allowing it maneuver the hidden gates & byways back to its otherworldly lairs. There is a large amount of animosity between certain clans of Fey & these creatures. Blink dogs in particular have an inbred hatred for the caterwaul due to their origins in the wars of the gods which involved many Fairy families of both commoner & royals alike.


The caterwaul always takes a small valuable trinket from each & every kill secreting these in their 'trail lairs' hidden hunting lodge lairs along human trade routes & lairs. These places will be filled with such trophies used for attracting a mate for the coming year. These creatures are vicious apex predators of the highest order turning to violence at the slightest provocation due to their chaotic natures. They will easily abandon a lair in search of easier killing ground if there is even the slightest hint of discovery. Secrecy & stealth are their greatest allies & they have moved across the face of Europe & many parts of Asia Minor for centuries without discovery.

These beings have used their sonic cry to murder their human & near human prey with easy. They have taste for human flesh above all else & often stalk adventuring parties for the weakest members picking them off at their leisure. There are deep ties between the caterwaul & certain witch families whose patron cat goddess is a particularly murderous aspect the goddess Bastet. 

Bastet artwork by
Gunawan Kartapranata

These creatures guard the abandoned temples of Bastet in the dreamlands & have been known to serve her whenever the Elder goddess has need of them. The caterwaul is not welcome in many parts of the dreamlands & certain occult rites are known to sorcerers there for banishing these monsters back to their home realities.
Into modern times caterwauls remain little changed. They now have an unlimited hunting ground & the killing of man has become easy in many ways. No one misses a homeless person or the occasional occult practitioner who stumbles upon onto one of the numerous lairs of the caterwaul. The caterwaul still practices their  same rites even in modern times. Many believe that the caterwaul is responsible for the reports of 'phantom cats' seen across Australia & Europe.
There are sources that say these monsters have been seen in many of the post apocalyptic wastelands of alternative Primes using all of the techniques & skills they developed all of those centuries ago.

All artwork belongs to the respective artists & is used without permission.  The Fiend Folio is trade marked & copyrighted to Wizards of the Coast & this blog entry is not a challenge to the copy right & trade marks of Wizards of the Coast. The text of this blog entry is for entertainment & educational purposes only. All text & description is @trademarked & copyrighted to Dark Corner Productions 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

4 Classic TSR Modules Under The Influence of The Ravenloft Setting For Old School Adventure

'The coiling mists of Ravenloft close their tendrils of fog & mist on other classic Dungeons  & Dragons  old school adventures. Adventures where the shadows grow longer & the aspects of monsters grow much more sinister as well as deadly. "

The idea here is to take five classic modules of  Dungeons & Dragons then marry these classics to the Ravenloft setting. How does the tone of these classic modules change & metamorphose into something totally unexpected ?

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks suddenly takes on a darkly ironic kick to it as the ruined star ship not only is infected with hordes of undead zombies but the alien Flayer species is aboard as well. Very vicious monsters are being released onto the countryside at the same time which could mean the end of the world unless the PC's are willing to check out the dangerous remains of this cursed stead from the sky.
Once the party realizes the danger the ship represents then they must stop the undead hordes aboard from over running the countryside!

"Lost in the desert! The only hope for survival lies in a ruined city rising out of the sands. Food, water, and wealth await heroic adventures inside and ancient pyramid ruled by a strange race of masked beings. "

Every day the sands grow as the desert seeks to engulf  everything like a living hand of dry corruption! The goal is to to find out who or what is behind the sinister masked beings that are kidnapping locals & strange rumors of the demon god who is been accepting sacrifices once again. Does the lower levels of the lost city  under influence of Ravenloft contain far more demon gods & worse?

The cult of the demon god of B4 The Lost City under Ravenloft has already spread out into the county side like a disease. Th cancer is growing & only the adventurers can stop it! The dangers here grow as vampires & undead locked away for centuries flood out of these hidden levels.

"Not long ago, the valley was green and animals ran free through golden fields of grain. The Princess Argenta ruled over this peaceful land and the people were secure and happy. Then one day, a warrior riding a white dragon appeared in the skies over the castle, and almost overnight the tiny kingdom fell into ruin. Now only ruins and rumors remain, and what legends there are tell of a fabulous treasure still buried somewhere within the Palace of the Silver Princess."

The lunacy of B3 The Palace of the Silver Princess oozes into the counrty side as reality is twisted into knots by the mists of Ravenloft. Reality melts as the events of B3 spread like a cancer from the magicks of the events of the adventure. Men, women, animals are twisted into distorted versions of themselves as the curse of the valley spreads!

Gray Mountain lies deep in the lush elven forest. The temple there was a haven of meditation and learning until taken over by an evil cleric known as the Rahib.

Far under the mountain, he paces before the temple's great altar. A brown-robed servant rushes in and falls to his knees, trembling at the sight of the Rahib's black panther. "Rahib, adventurers came to the village as the sun rose - the strangers now protect Rahasia."

A scowl crosses the Rahib's face. "I must have Rahasia! Attack again tonight." As the servant scurries away, a deep growl rises from the giant cat.

Gripping the panther's leash, the Rahib paces again, speaking out loud. "We must dispose of these strangers quickly; the secret beneath the temple will not wait much longer."" The PC's stumble upon an evil Elven cult of shape shifters whose influence deeply connects to the powers of Ravenloft itself. Murder,intrigue, horror, & the powers of Ravenloft tear at the PC's in this adventure. Modifying B7 means that the magcicks of the adventure must be stopped! 

Which of Ravenloft's Dark lords is behind
the Rahib & whose taking advantage of the twisting of the magics of the temple in the Grey Mountains? Killing anyone that the party meets in this adventure would be very unwise.
The power s behinds the mists of Ravenloft are going to take full advantage of these adventure locations by spreading & maintaining the evils of them. In point of fact they'll be turning the horror & depravity aspects of these modules up to eleven. Just in time for Halloween.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Souls & Shrouds - An Alternative Ecology For The Sheet Phantom & Sheet Ghoul For Dungeons & Dragons

I have heard (but not believ'd) the spirits of the dead
May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
Appeared to me last night; for ne'er was dream
So like a waking.
(The Winter's Tale, 3.3)
William Shakespeare

Its one sixteen in the morning & I'm just getting back from going  out for a beer  with my buddy Steve whose back in town for a temporary job till after Christmas time. He got the old gang of my players back together to discuss a possible Halloween/Christmas game. So tonight it was all religion, occult talk, & back to back classic B/X Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition.
Tonight the subject turned to ribbing me about my love of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Fiend Folio.

Of course I go for a beer but come out with a monster ecology & specifically the alien & highly dangerous sheet ghoul & sheet phantom. The sheet phantom entry on Wiki has this to say; "A sheet phantom is the undead manifestation of an evil person who died in bed, and is embodied in the bedsheets which covered the corpse."  Well, yes this is true but what the sheet ghoul actually is the corpse of an evil bastard whose passage into the after life was interrupted by improper & ill fated rituals connected with the death shroud.
Shrouds are incredibly important in religious rites throughout Europe & throughout the world.

Shroud usually refers to an item, such as a cloth, that covers or protects some other object. The term is most often used in reference to burial sheets, mound shroud, grave clothes, winding-cloths or winding-sheets, such as the famous Shroud of Turin or Tachrichim (burial shrouds) that Jews are dressed in for burial. Traditionally, mound shrouds are made of white cotton, wool or linen, though any material can be used so long as it is made of natural fibre. Intermixture of two or more such fibres is forbidden,[1] a proscription that ultimately derives from the Torah, viz., Deut. 22:11.
A traditional Orthodox Jewish shroud consists of a tunic; a hood; pants that are extra-long and sewn shut at the bottom, so that separate foot coverings are not required; and a belt, which is tied in a knot shaped like the Hebrew letter shin, mnemonic of one of God's names, Shaddai. Early shrouds incorporated a cloth, the sudarium, that covered the face, as depicted in traditional artistic representations of the entombed Jesus or His friend, Lazarus (John 11, q.v.). An especially pious man may next be enwrapped in either his kittel or his tallit, one tassel of which is defaced to render the garment ritually unfit, symbolizing the fact that the decedent is free from the stringent requirements of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). The shrouded body is wrapped in a winding sheet, termed a sovev in Hebrew (a cognate of svivon, the spinning Hanukkah toy that is familiar under its Yiddish name, dreidel), before being placed either in a plain coffin of soft wood (where required by governing health codes) or directly in the earth. Croesus-rich or dirt-poor, every Orthodox Jew is dressed to face the Almighty on the same terms.
The Early Christian Church also strongly encouraged the use of winding-sheets, except for monarchs and bishops. The rich were wrapped in cerecloths, which are fine fabrics soaked or painted in wax to hold the fabric close to the flesh. An account of the opening of the coffin of Edward I says that the "innermost covering seems to have been a very fine linen cerecloth, dressed close to every part of the body". Their use was general until at least the Renaissance – clothes were very expensive, and they had the advantage that a good set of clothes was not lost to the family. In Europe in the Middle Ages, coarse linen shrouds were used to bury most poor without a coffin. In poetry shrouds have been described as of sable, and they were later embroidered in black, becoming more elaborate and cut like shirts or shifts.[2]
[3] Orthodox Christians still use a burial shroud, usually decorated with a cross and the Trisagion. The special shroud that is used during the Orthodox Holy Week services is called an Epitaphios. Some Catholics also use the burial shroud particularly the Eastern Catholics and traditionalist Roman Catholics.
Muslims as well use burial shrouds that are made of white cotton or linen. The Burying in Woollen Acts 1666-80 in England were meant to support the production of woollen cloth."


When these rites are not observed the corpse's spirit  does not go on to its final reward but instead a damaged piece of the damned soul comes back. The negative planar energies of the failed passage blast the fragmented & damaged consciousness onto the funerary sheets. Sheet phantoms are not simply gotta monsters but instead alien undead horrors caught within their own death dreams for all eternity. They hate the living because of their constant hunger for the souls & life force because of the negative energies that make up their very being. Sheet phantoms  are tied to the places of their death & more the strings of fate that tie them to these places also give them an invisible web of hunger & madness.

Once they feed they spread on their infection of negative planar energies  to their victims. The victim experiences the pain, madness, & horror of all of the other victims becoming locked in the ever expanding cycle of undeath,violence, & depraved death dreams. This cycle continues as more victims are added into the equation. Certain specialist necromancers known as 'sheet tenders' seek out these spirits to learn the secrets that they held in life. Memories, pathways to riches, or even death bed confessions are found in the undead psychic matrix of these spirits. A very ritualized form of 'speak with the dead' must be used to roust out such memories of strong emotion. But this is very dangerous in the extreme. Adventurers are often hired by 'sheet tenders' to act as body guards & back up when they perform their heinous rites.

There is a 30% chance of these spirits going into a frenzied state as the shared death dreams of the sheet phantoms are disturbed. These beings memories & undead thought forms may try to take possession of the body of the necromancer or any others present. Those possessed will have incredible strength & take on the appearance of a sheet ghoul. They will try to attack any of the living present. They can only be driven out with a turn undead & the true names of the strongest of death gods!
Many sheet phantoms & ghouls  also have an existence in the dreamland's underworld because of their endless cycle of deathly dream existence. They are torn apart & consumed endlessly only to reform another night. Their chilling mirthless laughter & hideous insane babbling can be heard flashing across the soot grey wasteland of the dreamlands underworld.
The knightly order of Anubis & the clerics of Isis work hand in hand to comb ancient dungeons & ruins to put an end to the suffering of sheet phantoms & ghouls. This is especially true if the infection & infestation of an area of sheet phantoms & ghouls begins to grow. Sometimes these infestations of the planar energies can become a problem & expert clerics of the death gods must be called in to end such a disaster form consuming a town or village.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

OSR Film Review & Commentary On The 2018 Film 'Mandy' For Your Old School Campaigns

There are times in my life where film crosses a bit of a line with me, the line into memory, feelings, etc.. Mandy seems like a simple revenge picture suffused with elements of 2018 phantasmagorical CGI & beautiful technological film techniques. And it is. Check out the trailer.

But last night I sat down to watch this film.I rewatched it a second time to make sure that the brutal head trauma that my brain went through was there. This film is a nihilistic journey of revenge for the main character the life Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) shares with his girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). All is shattered when a cult of hippy psychos takes Mandy Bloom & Red goes on to forge his +3 battle axe of doom. Then goes on a full blown trail of the dark path of meifumadō ("The Road to Hell").Director Panos Cosmatos takes the viewer on a crimson laced  occult  journey of nihilistic revenge & the theater of the absurd in the face of life.But this is the tragic face of the senseless brutality of murder & plain old revenge with many grind house twists & turns.
If Dungeon Crawl Classics & Lamentations of the Flame Princess had a modern baby this would be it. Mandy isn't a film its a DCC funnel come to life in psychotic blistering crimson laced occult B movie goodness with an art house candy coating.

Change the protagonist of Mandy to a PC & this might as well be the latest Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure release. This film isn't trying to save the world or change it, its very similar to a Kihachi Okamoto samurai film. The characters are often outsiders to their environments & Red is the same doom laden path of revenge. "Kihachi Okamoto characters are often estranged from their environments, and their violence is a flawed reaction to this" In this regard Nichols Cage is very much in the same mold as Robert Howard's original Conan. A barbarian whose world has been eclipsed by the onslaught of the coming era. The use of the nihilistic & absurd fiddly bits of the philosophy of the film are done with flourish & on purpose with a marked inversion of the journey of the hero. This is not the Joseph Campbell's Journey of the Hero but the dark linked path of its opposite number. But does Mandy have anything to do with Dungeons & Dragons as a whole besides being one of 2018 most 'metal' films? The themes of nihilism, gore, & 'the theater of the absurd' seem to have little to do with D&D but the fate of Red Miller's revenge does

This same twist of fate of the here has often befell many a B/X campaign back when the film was set in Eighty Three. The PC's on the same path of revenge often having 'a death by farmer' end to such an adventure path.
Are there lessons in Mandy for the dungeon master? Yes I know so. The homages & pacing of the film point to a very careful director & behind the scenes crew whose influence was suffused with elements of Heavy Metal bands, dark fantasy novels, elements of HP Lovecraft's circle of writers & all pop culture elements. If the film 'Mandy''s plot  was taken out of the modern & thrown into the dark fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons then it would make the prime motivator & driver for getting a party of adventurers together. They might be driven down the dark path of meifumadō ("The Road to Hell") which makes 'Mandy' have many similar elements to the Lone Wolf and Cub Kozure Ōkami, "Wolf taking along his child"  by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima manga first published in 1970.

Mandy is a harsh & brutal film but its honest & very bloody. The nihilism of the film reminds me of Clive Barker's Hellraiser film & the novel 'The Hell Bound Heart' which was done on purpose. I'm really trying to vomit forth all of the impressions of the film that have been running through me since I watched it last night. This isn't a film for the faint of heart or the easily offended. This isn't one that you take grandma too unless your grandmother happens to be into these films. I've known a few in my time who would be. As for a rating I think that this film isn't going to go into a box quietly.  The ratings for this one go from one star to four depending upon your style.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Madness & The Moon New OSR Relic - The Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis Spear For Your Old School Campaigns

“Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible.”
James Joyce, Ulysses

Forged at the heart of the sun by Zeus himself & cooled in on a dead star on the other side of the universe, the 
Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis was a seduction gift to the Roman goddes Luna.But the relic spear has became so much more. The  Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis is actually an occult  symbol of the moon's power between the world of the waking & the dream realms. It is also one of the secret symbols of the Roman Imperial cult of the goddess. The +3 spear has been lost to history but its cult & secret society live on across the planes & even into the modern era.

Luna's temples & their sacred mysteries &  secret knowledge  has been lost to history;
"Varro lists Luna among twelve deities who are vital to agriculture,[7] as does Vergil in a different list of twelve, in which he refers to Luna and Sol as clarissima mundi lumina, the world's clearest sources of light.[8] Varro also lists Luna among twenty principal gods of Rome (di selecti).[9] In this list, Luna is distinguished from both Diana and Juno, who also appear on it.
The Romans dated the cultivation of Luna as a goddess at Rome to the semi-legendary days of the kings. Titus Tatius was supposed to have imported the cult of Luna to Rome from the Sabines,[10] but Servius Tullius was credited with the creation of her temple on the Aventine Hill, just below a temple of Diana.[11] The anniversary of the temple founding (dies natalis) was celebrated annually on March 31.[12] It first appears in Roman literature in the story of how in 182 BC a windstorm of exceptional power blew off its doors, which crashed into the Temple of Ceres below it on the slope.[13] In 84 BC, it was struck by lightning, the same day the popularist leader Cinna was murdered by his troops.[14] The Aventine temple may have been destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome during the reign of Nero"
Her influence  was the divine power of the kings & royals from across world of the antiquities. The Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis spear allowed Luna's influence to be concentrated into her worshipers. Many mythological attributes were attributed to it including being able to slay any Lycanthropic creature it stabbed. But the spear must be purified in a stream sacred to Luna after any such act. Once per week the spear could also charm a Lycanthropic creature but only the most foolish would attempt such a feat.
It is said that the Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis  could three times per day in the hands of a cleric warrior of the goddess act as symbol of madness or insanity. The symbol dances madly in the air as the light of the moon illuminates it from within.

Once per week 
the Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis could cure insanity & heal serious wounds as per the spell in a temple of Luna. But its true power was tied to the phases of the moon itself & varied with the goddess's occult influences & power.  The owner of can call upon the following minor abilities randomly depending if goddess feels like lending her power to
the Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis. The owner of the Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis must roll on the table below to determine Luna's favor for the night.
Random Occult Powers Of The 
Atlas Orbis Factus est ignis
  1. New Moon - The spear allows its owner to divine the path of any person whose true name the owner knows. 
  2. Waxing Crescent - The spear will burn with a cold & unforgiving light like the wraith of its goddess which acts a continual light spell but with the ability to divine any liars & cheats within a 20 foot radius. Minor undead will flee from this light as it shows them the  unnatural & hideous states of their own souls. Even mindless undead recall their own lives only for a tortured moment. 
  3. First Quarter - the spear points to any true path put before it. The spear will always point to the way to the owner's home.Even powerful illusions & geas can not break this ability. 
  4. Waxing Gibbous- The spear can cut a doorway into the realms of dreams & back to the waking world. 
  5. Full Moon - The owner can frenzy himself into a beserk state under the spear's influence gaining a +1 to all melee & ranged attacks. 
  6.   Waning gibbous- The owner can communicate with any night creatures telepathically within a 20 foot radius & see through their eyes.
  7.  Third quarter- The owner gains true sight for a night & is immune to illusions. 
  8. Waning crescent - The owner gains the temporary form of a wolf for the night but must cast it off at sun rise or risk gaining lycanthropy of the were wolf.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

OSR Commentary On DDA2 Legions of Thyatis By John Nephews For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

I've been reading through Clark Ashton Smith's Xeethra once again & its a 'pact with the demon' story set during the dying earth of Zothique's era of the Earth era. There are strong connections here with "The Empire of the Necromancers", as Cincor is still a living, massive desert country. This story takes place millions of years in Earth's future & almost immediately I thought of Lord Dunsany's dream vistas.

Now while most people are going to almost immediately think of second edition Dungeons & Dragon's campaign world of Dark Sun's open deserts. The truth is that after  rereading this linchpin story of the Zothique cycle. I was immediately taken to another TSR classic adventure though in the form of DDA2  Legions of Thyatis. There's always a certain world wariness with CAS's Zothique stories, the demons are there to serve Entropy in all of her forms, & the wasteland empires of  stories are perfect mirrors of the human based affairs of  the Dawn of the Emperors box set.

John Nephew weaves a perfect villain in corrupt Thyatian senator, Helenites Osteropolus, who embodies the graft & old world wickness of the Thyatian empire. the chaotic swirl of the Thyatian capital's politics is front & center in this module. PC's are going to have to get their hands dirty in this adventure. The empire has the weight of ages behind it & the system is sub combing to entropy throughout the adventure.

DDA1 & 2 bridge the gap between Basic-level and Expert-level play by supporting PC's levels 3-4 & put them center stage in this adventure. The rake PC class gets the hose in this adventure & there's no explanation for this. For a Sword & Sorcery campaign both DDA1 & 2 are perfect adventurers to get the PC's into the thick of the sort of timeless inevitability of the gladiatorial life style. Helenites Osteropolus has deeper connections with the adventure's connections to the Hollow World box set campaign setting. Which implies the underlying weirdness & world wariness of Mystara.

The demons of Zothique are serving their masters with a sense that entropy is going to have its way. They see no reason to really cheat or cause additional suffering. Suffering will come in its own time & on its own terms. This reminds me of many of the points of view that the demons of Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Because DDA1 -2 are built as very low level adventures, they're  perfect to port over to AS&SH. The diamond desert is that perfect low level adventure place to have the events of DDA1 -2 take place in. Helenites Osteropolus is a perfect fit for the far future weirdness of AS&SH. PC's have to start out someplace in a Sword & Sorcery campaign & events of
DDA1 -2  give the dungeon master the perfect opportunity to really get to play to the style of the module's events.

All in all its a great module with lots of potential to really sell the idea of being gladiators in the service of the emperor smacks of lots of outside politics determining the course of what happens in the dungeon much later on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Blood & Webs - An Alternative Ecology For The Ettercap For Dungeons & Dragons

I'm an unapologetic AD&D first edition Fiend Folio fan & user of all of the insane monsters within that incredible game book. The monsters in the Fiend Folio have served me very well & perhaps a bit too well. I've used all them from the first time I got the book & thumbed through it again & again for hours on end.

Among my absolute favorite Fiend Folio monsters is the Ettercap created from the life blood verse of Tolkein's Bilbo Baggins Hobbit. The Ettercap is a humanoid spider monster with the features of an insane man & the abilities of a spider. They are expert poisoners, web & trap builders, & very sneaky as well as stealthy in the extreme.
Wiki lists them as; "An ettercap is a race of bestial spider-men aberrations in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game" But there's some very interesting fiddly bits & pieces about the Ettercap. First they are found in temperate locations such as forests, swamps, etc. & they are a nightmare in their home environment. Imagine making camp under the large noses of something like this.

They have an AC of six & there's a thirty percent chance of encountering them in their lairs which are going to be an obstacle course of webbed booby traps, dead falls, trip wires, & possibly even webbed poison walls. They attack like ninja using the natural terrain to their advantage & they keep loyal pet spiders. Even though their intelligence is low they are very cagey & cunning using pack tactics to take down larger groups of adventurers.
Adventurers don't actually stand a chance against these things because of the traps they lay & the fact that their senses are so keen. Ettercaps are going to strike at night & we can draw several conclusions from Russ Nicholson's Fiend Folio artwork.
First there are the eyes which seem to indicate binocular vision on these humanoid spiderlike beings & that huge nose. So we've got a monster with low light vision & a keen sense of smell. The claws are massive & look razor sharp along with the claws on the feet perfect for climbing trees & maneuvering through their forest environment.
But where did the Ettercap come from to begin with? There are several theories in mythology over the years strongly connected with much of the lore of Dungeons & Dragon's later editions. But I've got my own campaign origin for these monsters for they are the spawn of  Arachne the spider goddess  of Greek mythology even though her origin goes back much further. The most popular story of Arachne comes from the poet Ovid;
One version appears in the Metamorphoses of the Roman poet Ovid.
In this version, Arachne was a shepherd's daughter who began weaving at an early age. She became a great weaver, boasted that her skill was greater than that of Athena, and refused to acknowledge that her skill came, in part at least, from the goddess. Athena took offense and set up a contest between them. Presenting herself as an old lady, she approached the boasting girl and warned: "You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul."
"Ha! I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself," Arachne replied. Athena removed her disguise and appeared in shimmering glory, clad in a sparkling white chiton. The two began weaving straight away. Athena's weaving represented four separate contests between mortals and the gods in which the gods punished mortals for setting themselves as equals of the gods. Arachne's weaving depicted ways that the gods had misled and abused mortals, particularly Zeus, tricking and seducing many women. When Athena saw that Arachne had not only insulted the gods but done so with a work far more beautiful than Athena's own, she was enraged. She ripped Arachne's work to shreds and hit her on the head three times. Terrified and ashamed, Arachne hanged herself. Then Athena said, "Live on then, and yet hang, condemned one, but, lest you are careless in future, this same condition is declared, in punishment, against your descendants, to the last generation!" After saying this she sprinkled her with the juice of Hecate's herb, and immediately at the touch of this dark poison, Arachne's hair fell out. With it went her nose and ears, her head shrank to the smallest size, and her whole body became tiny. Her slender fingers stuck to her sides as legs, the rest is belly, from which she still spins a thread, and, as a spider, weaves her ancient web."[4] This showed how goddesses punished mortals who dared to insult them."

There is mythological evidence that the goddess had prophetic abilities & the abilities to divine the affairs of the gods. Her children inherited her bitterness toward the gods & their chosen heroes. She was consigned to the underworld. Rumors abound of  Arachne being consulted by numerous dark gods, arch devils, demon lords, & many lower world powers some escaping her wrath barely. Many others  gaining knowledge only to be consumed by her crazed lust & insane hunger for the supernatural blood of the gods.

Her children were consigned to the furthest reaches of the planes & outer dimensions . The Ettercaps were   locked away from humanity for a time but they made war upon humanity. The bitterness of the Ettercap tribes knows no bounds even today. They still lurk on the outer fringes of the wildernesses & wastelands of many lands even to this day. Ettercap mercenaries & assassins were renowned in supernatural circles for their violence & ferocity in military operations of sabotage.

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley from 1894 edition of Lucian's True History of a battle between the People of the Moon and the People of the Earth using giant spiders.

The Ettercap tribes have deep ties with the spiders of Leng in Earth's far future Dreamlands & with the spider creatures of Zothique. The Ettercap have a strong but murky tie with the spider goddess Atlach-Nacha as she is served by several tribes of the monsters. These worshipers are of slightly more dangerous variety of the Ettercap  as they share the hatred of being disturbed from their devotion to their spider goddess. Her divine work of bridging the waking world & the Dreamlands is seen as all consuming. The Ettercaps of

Atlach-Nacha are some of the best trap makers & engineers in existence. They may be summoned by a monster summoning spell but must be paid with a live student of the arts & an offering of at least 780 gems worth of treasure before they will entertain a temporary assignment.

Image from Gallery:

These creatures are sometimes employed by certain forbidden cults to create divine traps & divine dead falls in the name of their forbidden gods. Some divine dungeons & strange ruins taken over by these horrid cults often have supernaturally consigned dungeon engineers who built & maintain the tricks & traps.
These Ettrcap live for the day when the Earth will be cleared of humanity & they can once again take their rightful place under a blotted red sun.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rats in The Walls - Tegel Manor Session #12 report

So its two A.M. & I've just gotten back from putting my players through their paces within Tegel Manor. They almost came within a hair's breath of encountering 'puffy' the ghost beholder down in the secret dungeons of the manor.Some quick thinking on their part & they made their way through an alternate route through the manor.

The party went back up & into several of the corridors of the manor that were riddled with giant rat tunnels & their were rat masters. The adventurers didn't play games as flaming oil & crossbows were fired at the wererats. The adventurers have had plenty of experience with were rats in my games & having come to hate the lycanthropic menaces!

Having survived the giant rats & their masters, the PCs were subject to bleeding walls, ghostly guardians, disembodied voices that taunted & insulted them. Weird insect goblins that threw grenades at them from the side guest bed rooms & statues that watched & whispered their every move.
Finally they survived an arrow trap in a boom closet wist trying to access the hidden door in the wall. They then almost bought it from a statue that turned into a golden ooze that tried to dissolve the party. With several deft dice rolls they managed to get by the ooze & destroy it with a combination of wits & moxie.Little do they realize that there several monsters waiting them in the garden including several giant slugs!

They've managed to get away with several key items including the iron crown & some of the treasure as well. The iron crown holds the power of life & death over certain members of the Rump family.
The route back to town has been fraught with several terrible monsters & bandit activity. The PC's know this & have elected to return to the village & begin to figure out what some of the items that they've managed to recover are. Oh the whole I think that tonight's game session went very well.