Tuesday, September 11, 2018

OSR Commentary - Hacking B9 "Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985) by Harry Nuckols For OSR Campaign Play & More

"Five exciting short adventures to make your Basic campaign come alive!
The Clearing of Castle Caldwell--A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle... but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited!

Dungeons of Terror--A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Cadwell leads to a terrifying challenge!

The Abduction of Princess Sylvia--On the eve of her wedding, the beautiful princess has been kidnapped! Can you save her in time?

The Great Escape--Imprisoned in an enemy fortress, without armor or weapons, your situation seems hopeless. Yet there may be a way to freedom . . .

The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent--A mystical chime of great power has been stolen?but by whom? In the wrong hands, the chime can cause untold harm! But can you find and defeat this mysterious and powerful creature?"

So tonight I've been quietly taking my time reading through the infamous B9 Castle Caldwell & Beyond By Harry Nuckols. The adventure is anthology collection of short adventures that centers around the adventure location of Castle Caldwell.  According to the Drivethrurpg entry;
"Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985) by Harry Nuckols was the ninth Basic Set adventure, and it marked the end of the classic sequence of Basic modules that had run for six+ years. It was published around June 1985." B9 Castle Caldwell by Harry Nuckols & I have a very fragmented & storied history over the years.

Andrew B's review on Drivethrurpg describes B9 Castle Caldwell as follows;"

A very basic set of generic adventures for use with low-level characters. Easy to adapt to any setting and any game system. I use these to "audition" new players. Probably not something a heavily experienced group of gamers would enjoy, unless they fancied a bit of old-school vanilla style dungeon-crawling for light relief." Och that's pretty accurate but what can be done with this set of low level generic adventures. Quite a bit actually & lets start with the fact that Castle Caldwell has a long & mythological history to it. The castle sits on a series of very strong mystical ley lines & these have influenced the history of the place. This series of adventures can easily transition over to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons as we'll see.
Next let's talk about the fact that a series of lower tier old school basic adventures are perfect fodder for not only a regular Basic Dungeons & Dragons game. But these can also be used as fodder for a historic game set in Europe or an alternative history Europe. Yes I'm talking about using this for Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion game setting or Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
The castle just might be some out of the way former Roman fortress that has been converted into a fully functioning familial fortress for the Caldwells. At the start of the Rose War
Henry's queen, the powerful and aggressive Margaret of Anjou,  emerged as the de facto leader of the Lancastrians is looking for any advantage to use against Henry's rivals.
So this puts
"Castle Caldwell and Beyond"'s events right at the beginning of the War of the Roses in 1455 or so.
"The relatively small First Battle of St Albans was the first open conflict of the civil war. Richard's aim was ostensibly to remove "poor advisors" from King Henry's side. The result was a Lancastrian defeat. Several prominent Lancastrian leaders, including Somerset and Northumberland, were killed. After the battle, the Yorkists found Henry hiding in a local tanner's shop, abandoned by his advisers and servants, apparently having suffered another bout of mental illness. (He had also been slightly wounded in the neck by an arrow.)[34] York and his allies regained their position of influence. With the king indisposed, York was again appointed Protector, and Margaret was shunted aside, charged with the king's care. For a while, both sides seemed shocked that an actual battle had been fought and did their best to reconcile their differences, but the problems that caused conflict soon re-emerged, particularly the issue of whether the Duke of York, or Henry and Margaret's infant son, Edward, would succeed to the throne. Margaret refused to accept any solution that would disinherit her son."

The legends of Castle Caldwell put it having traffic with the Welsh 'Otherworld'  & its dungeon's connections to Welsh Cŵn Annwn (Welsh pronunciation: [kuːn ˈanʊn],make it a prime spot for a Chaos cult's attentions! The addition of the Cŵn Annwn to Caldwell puts it near the foothills of the Cadair Idris which  means 'Idris's Chair'. But what's so important about the castle? The place has been turned over to a blood relative of the Caldwalls who were minor royals but a chaos cult has had the run of the place for the last ten years. The merchant of 'The Clearing of Castle Caldwell' has the favor of the royal court & the PC's are brought in to help clean up the otherworldly mess created by the cult. This is where Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos comes in handy.

Margaret of Anjou is a witch of no small measure who has deep supernatural connections to the Frog demon royals of France. She knows of the legends of the mystical chime of great power hidden some place within or outside of the castle.
Dungeons of Terror & The Abduction of Princess Sylvia both go into greater detail about some of the heinous secrets of Castle Caldwell but PC's should tread very carefully because of the dark background & history of the adventure location. The castle itself has had truck with the Otherworld & Fairyland so its no small wonder that PC's are going to have to tread carefully or deal with the events of
The Great Escape.  There's room enough for the dungeon master to expand the adventure as a gateway into the realm of the Welsh in Dark Albion. 

But this is only part of what can be done with B9 "Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985) by Harry Nuckols. Castle Caldwell could also be used as a Sword & Sorcery adventure location with PC's being called in by the merchant prince to The Clearing of Castle Caldwell. The PC's have to contend with the castle's original occupants rehabilitating the castle. The DM is going to have to do a bit of molding of the inhabitants to fit their own build of the module. The castle has been uninhabited for some time & now the PC's find themselves drawn into the snares of both Dungeons of Terror  & the adventure's consequences.

The castle itself is part of a far older order of society & normality. The whole adventure smacks of an any human sentiment but with dire overtones for the PC's. Played right & this could be the beginning of a castle with a rich & dangerous history. Dungeons of Terror reveals the hidden adventure locations within the Castle as well as well as setting itself. With a bit of a dungeon master spin the The Abduction of Princess Sylvia- & the The Great Escape into full fledged border skirmish  with a bit of  cleaver DM slight of hand.

Ten Ways to Use B9

"Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985) by Harry Nuckols
  1. The castle could become the headquarters for PC's to use as an expansion into other adventures. 
  2. Below the castle the dungeons once cleared out are rife for PC wizard & cleric projects. 
  3. NPC's of Castle Caldwell could become royals & patrons for the PC's for other adventures. 
  4. The entire site could become the abode of a dragon after the events of B9. 
  5. A black wizard has his eye on the PC's after the module is over & vows revenge prompting a full 'return to' adventure. 
  6. The magic relics of the castle are only the start of things there are other Caldwell familial heirlooms secreted within the dungeon. 
  7. There is a faction behind the  bandits, kobolds, &  goblins within the castle indicating a military or mercenary operation might be coming soon. These forces are actually advanced scouts for a nearby country. 
  8. Because of the lack of detail in the adventure there is plenty of room to make it your own & that includes creating more treasure or relics as needed. 
  9. There might be a strong cult of chaos growing with the castle walls explaining the plethora of monster types within the castle's walls. 
  10. There could be a doorway to another world allowing the PC's from Greyhawk or Mystara to use the castle as a base of operations in one world or another.

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