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 ofDDA1 -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.
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