Friday, November 30, 2018

Damage At Dunwater! - Latest Session Report

The little fishing town of Saltmarsh is threatened! Why are lizard men gathering force nearby and why have they been buying large quantities of weapons? A party of bold adventurers must answer these questions or the people of Saltmarsh will never live in peace!

So only by the grace of Moxie that I'm bring you my faithful readers this blog entry. For the last two days we've been on the road with sewing machine repairs but tonight I was able to get together with my players to run Damage At Dunwater. Damage is an OSR remix of U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh & U2 Danger At Dunwater. I've been running these modules with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures rpg.
So in tonight's adventure the PCs finally found their way to the lizard men shanty town at the edge of 2100 New York City's salt marshes around the Dunwater neighborhood. The party was introduced to two fishermen (smugglers connected loosely with the local thieves guild) who tried to sell them their catch of giant mutant crayfish. There was something very odd about these two as they'd been engaging in the Morlock drug & gene therapies.


 These therapies give the PC the following powers at level one danger sense, enhanced sense touch & dark vision, damage -slashing (claws),repair, but the PC suffers from light sensitivity, mood swings, & the occasional panic attack. At higher levels the PC is able to work for seventy two hour periods with only an hour rest period. They also have the ability to scan & understand higher level technologies with an intelligence roll. The Amazing Adventures Book of Powers contains some guide lines to help flesh these creatures out more fully coming up.
These two NPC fishermen lead the PC's deep into the reed beds & swampland by the docks just as one of the PC's ran into a Deep One scout who was about to shoot one of the fishermen. The NPC was going to reveal vital information! It took a bit of a scrap but the PC's managed to defeat the spawn of Dagon! But they set the dock on fire in the process. A hasty trip in the fishermen's row boat lead them deep in to the lizard men village.

Stacks of cargo containers, makeshift shacks, huts made from old shipping containers, led the PC's to the missing brother of one of the player's characters! He had been making  money for the lizardmen's war effort but had run afoul of the syndicate & thieves guild a few months before the arrival of the characters in the city. So after the Deep Ones had displaced the lizardmen Bruce N the brother of one of the PC's was hiding out in the lizardmen shanty town. Helping set up & doing the infrastructure of the village had been one his jobs. He had to dodge the slavers belonging to the Alchemist a dozen times. Meanwhile the lizardmen were gearing up for war as the Deep Ones kept pushing them for an invasion of New York!

Inside the lizardmen village the PC's confronted & tortured an alien frog mercenary warrior from the Orrt Cloud. Actually this was a Bullywug from the first edition AD&D Fiend Folio whom I dressed up with Amazing Adventures.

The bastard threatened the family of our PC & the lizardmen had him locked in a well constructed makeshift prison Faraday Cage.
Erlr Croakson 1st Commander of the 8th Tongue had a wide variety of spoils & odd items besides his alien armor & high tech short sword. When one of the PC's picked up a bracelet his mind  was whisked away to the underwater duckblind belonging to the Great Race of Yith whom were under attack by the Deep Ones! The PC who picked up the bracelet was inside the mind of the Yithian's commander! He began shouting orders to protect the base's reactor & protect the time gate of the Yithians.

The PC's rolled in to help the Great Race as the Deep One's shaman hit the PC's boat with the slow spell & then they began dropping chemical grenades on the shark infested waters. For the better part of an hour we played the combat with the Deep Ones! The idea of the Deep Ones gaining access to a time gate scares the crap out of the PC's!

So is this even remotely close to the Dave J. Browne, & Don Turnbull
classic U series of module?! Umm not even close & the reason is because of the fact that I'm playing with very experienced players. So I have to keep things moving & a bit fresh. So one way is to mix up the modules & monsters a bit. I took the maps of Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh & U2 Danger At Dunwater  then I turned the upside down & printed them out backwards. Next I took the stats for the fishmen from the Amazing Adventures rpg Manual of Monsters! 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The OSR Campaign Apocalyse - The Battle Lines of Ragnarok

When I wrote about Algernon Henry Blackwood's blog entry yesterday I wrote about his reality of fiction merely being the beach head into our world. In the far future the opening chess moves for the battle of humanity's place in the multiverse & its very soul's very existence. Ragnarok is not merely one event but a multitude of mini events leading up to the final confrontations;
The völva describes the state of humanity:
Brœðr muno beriaz
ok at bǫnom verða[z]
muno systrungar
sifiom spilla.
Hart er í heimi,
hórdómr mikill
—skeggǫld, skálmǫld
—skildir ro klofnir—
vindǫld, vargǫld—
áðr verǫld steypiz.
Mun engi maðr
ǫðrom þyrma.

Brothers will fight
and kill each other,
sisters' children
will defile kinship.
It is harsh in the world,
whoredom rife
—an axe age, a sword age
—shields are riven—
a wind age, a wolf age—
before the world goes headlong.
No man will have
mercy on another.

—Old Norse[14] —English translation[14]
This brings me to William Hope Hodgson's House On The Borderlands, Hodgson was a contemporary of Algernon Henry Blackwood. The novel The House On The Borderland transcends mostly anything that H.P Lovecraft put out. And the cosmic themes of the novel are very close to the weird tales material that Arthur Machen wrote. 
We are merely tenants on this Earth & there have been multitudes of races before us many of which weren't human & these were very alien beings. These are the themes of these giants of the literature of the weird tale whose boundaries cross the definitions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, & cosmic horror spun.The House On The Borderland  weaves these themes into " a hallucinatory account of a recluse's stay at a remote house, and his experiences of supernatural creatures and otherworldly dimensions."
Sunrise in the Woods By George Inness

The Ragnarok comes in the last great days of the Earth when the heroes & gods of Earth are murdered & killed across countless cultures. Among countless worlds this happens  in the far future of Earth thousands or millions of years in our future. The recluse sees the victors of these events in The House on The Borderland;

"And then, as I peered, curiously, a new terror came to me; for away up among the dim peaks to my right, I had descried a vast shape of blackness, giantlike. It grew upon my sight. It had an enormous equine head, with gigantic ears, and seemed to peer steadfastly down into the arena. There was that about the pose that gave me the impression of an eternal watchfulness—of having warded that dismal place, through unknown eternities. Slowly, the monster became plainer to me; and then, suddenly, my gaze sprang from it to something further off and higher among the crags. For a long minute, I gazed, fearfully. I was strangely conscious of something not altogether unfamiliar—as though something stirred in the back of my mind. The thing was black, and had four grotesque arms. The features showed indistinctly, 'round the neck, I made out several light-colored objects. Slowly, the details came to me, and I realized, coldly, that they were skulls. Further down the body was another circling belt, showing less dark against the black trunk. Then, even as I puzzled to know what the thing was, a memory slid into my mind, and straightway, I knew that I was looking at a monstrous representation of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death.
Other remembrances of my old student days drifted into my thoughts. My glance fell back upon the huge beast-headed Thing. Simultaneously, I recognized it for the ancient Egyptian god Set, or Seth, the Destroyer of Souls. With the knowledge, there came a great sweep of questioning—'Two of the—!' I stopped, and endeavored to think. Things beyond my imagination peered into my frightened mind. I saw, obscurely. 'The old gods of mythology!' I tried to comprehend to what it was all pointing. My gaze dwelt, flickeringly, between the two. 'If—'
An idea came swiftly, and I turned, and glanced rapidly upward, searching the gloomy crags, away to my left. Something loomed out under a great peak, a shape of greyness. I wondered I had not seen it earlier, and then remembered I had not yet viewed that portion. I saw it more plainly now. It was, as I have said, grey. It had a tremendous head; but no eyes. That part of its face was blank.
Now, I saw that there were other things up among the mountains. Further off, reclining on a lofty ledge, I made out a livid mass, irregular and ghoulish. It seemed without form, save for an unclean, half-animal face, that looked out, vilely, from somewhere about its middle. And then I saw others—there were hundreds of them. They seemed to grow out of the shadows. Several I recognized almost immediately as mythological deities; others were strange to me, utterly strange, beyond the power of a human mind to conceive.
On each side, I looked, and saw more, continually. The mountains were full of strange things—Beast-gods, and Horrors so atrocious and bestial that possibility and decency deny any further attempt to describe them. And I—I was filled with a terrible sense of overwhelming horror and fear and repugnance; yet, spite of these, I wondered exceedingly. Was there then, after all, something in the old heathen worship, something more than the mere deifying of men, animals, and elements? The thought gripped me—was there?
Later, a question repeated itself. What were they, those Beast-gods, and the others? At first, they had appeared to me just sculptured Monsters placed indiscriminately among the inaccessible peaks and precipices of the surrounding mountains. Now, as I scrutinized them with greater intentness, my mind began to reach out to fresh conclusions. There was something about them, an indescribable sort of silent vitality that suggested, to my broadening consciousness, a state of life-in-death—a something that was by no means life, as we understand it; but rather an inhuman form of existence, that well might be likened to a deathless trance—a condition in which it was possible to imagine their continuing, eternally. 'Immortal!' the word rose in my thoughts unbidden; and, straightway, I grew to wondering whether this might be the immortality of the gods."
Its not merely these powers of chaos & evil that wait patiently for the cracks in the universe & the stars to come right. But its their followers that work from within the confines of our own home universes. For example the Egg of Coot whose followers work for one of the multiplicity of pieces of the higher dimensional planar aspects of the entity. An entity that wants nothing more then to tear apart the dimensional structure & replace it with its own flawed order.

Even in worlds such as Bruce Heard's Calidar there are always those who act to unwittingly to allow powers from beyond the Outer Darkness into the realities of humanity. Take for example the Guild of Demonologists. These people have truck with demons from beyond the pale;

"craft is tolerated in Caldwen because of local culture and faith in deities with demonic ancestry. This stance is rooted in the knowledge that the darkest of evils can be redeemed. Demonology does not limit itself to such values, however: it is also about knowledge and power."

Symbol & Seal of The Guild Of Demonologists
copyrighted & trademarked to Bruce Heard.

Knowledge & power are the two watch words that have allowed others such as the Hyperboreans to ascend to power on Earth in the eons  after the events of Ragnarok. Long before the coming of the empires of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique , Hyperborea was wretched into space.
How could these powers come back into the world & gain such a following among mankind? Through the power of men's dreams & those worlds where they touched. The only thing that prevented the complete extinction of mankind were heroes! Heroes & gods whose sacrifice at every turn secured the continued legacy of humanity.

The Hyperboreans were only a part of the events & after a span of thousands of years did their ancient gods return to Earth stirring even more destruction. The Earth's subjugation under their yoke was dark & very dire.

Hyperborea Players' Manual front cover pencils by Val Semeiks

Heroes & newer gods sacrificed themselves for the fate of humanity as the immortals watched from Mystara & beyond into Greyhawk. Time & space meant nothing to the gods whose lives were snuffed out like candles in the wind of the apocalypse. Only a few heroes & adventurers were left after the cycles completed themselves. They would train another group of heroes as dark powers watched from the shadows.

The victors would sit smug in the knowledge that they would have the upper hand for a while. The ever changing landscape of the planes insured that balance was forever out of reach. Across time & space the next stage was setting itself up. Heroes of course were not confined merely to the dreams of men but across many battle fields.Troubling nightmares plagued the undead dreams of an ageless villain roiling in the depths of a dungeon ancient beyond reckoning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Christmas Appendix N Campaign Commentary - Algernon Henry Blackwood & The OSR Campaign Apocalyse

Adventurers are made not born into the life that we often find PC's & with the Christmas holidays approaching Algernon Henry Blackwood has been on my mind. Blackwood's is a world where one steps out the door into nature & you risk stepping into an alien world not of this Earth. The world of a fundamentally different reality whose rules are not those we know or can easily understand.


For me Blackwood is one of the premiere weird tales writers because he embodies his own fiction so much;
"Throughout his adult life, he was an occasional essayist for various periodicals. In his late thirties, he moved back to England and started to write stories of the supernatural. He was successful, writing at least ten original collections of short stories and later telling them on radio and television. He also wrote fourteen novels, several children's books, and a number of plays, most of which were produced but not published. He was an avid lover of nature and the outdoors, and many of his stories reflect this. To satisfy his interest in the supernatural, he joined The Ghost Club. He never married; according to his friends he was a loner but also cheerful company.[6]
Jack Sullivan stated that "Blackwood's life parallels his work more neatly than perhaps that of any other ghost story writer. Like his lonely but fundamentally optimistic protagonists, he was a combination of mystic and outdoorsman; when he wasn't steeping himself in occultism, including Rosicrucianism and Buddhism, he was likely to be skiing or mountain climbing."[5] Blackwood was a member of one of the factions of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,[7] as was his contemporary Arthur Machen.[8] Cabalistic themes influence his novel The Human Chord.[9]
His two best known stories are probably "The Willows" and "The Wendigo". He would also often write stories for newspapers at short notice, with the result that he was unsure exactly how many short stories he had written and there is no sure total. Though Blackwood wrote a number of horror stories, his most typical work seeks less to frighten than to induce a sense of awe. Good examples are the novels The Centaur, which climaxes with a traveler's sight of a herd of the mythical creatures; and Julius LeVallon and its sequel The Bright Messenger, which deal with reincarnation and the possibility of a new, mystical evolution of human consciousness."

For me the four horror pieces  of his that parallel Arthur Machen's deadly lost tribe of forbidden Fey are  "The Willows","The Human Chord", "The Wendigo",  & "The Centaur".
But what are these strange other worldly tribes of  Algernon Henry Blackwood? There is a very dangerous alien quality to Blackwood's supernatural world & one of a dangerous chaotic unnatural order. Some of his work seems to draw very deeply from the well of European mythological lore & his own experiences. It almost seems that used correctly the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio might make an excellent source for Blackwood & Arthur Machans material.

The humanoid races of the Fiend Folio are the unsanitized Fey races that the others don't talk about. These are the remains of perhaps another older reality that was replaced when mankind started walking upright. The Xvart & many of the dangerous humanoid horrors such as the Mites could be the very last tribes to leave Earth or Greyhawk. Ancient occult rites bring their alien reality over to such worlds. They cause all kinds of  untold misery & horror. But is there more to it? Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum by Brian Young goes into the Celtic mythological deeply & dips its pen into the druids. I mentioned the Voor in the Machen entry. Perhaps the druids are the last of a human cult that remembers most of the devastating wars of extinction that banished these tribes of alien Fey?! But are they really gone? Reading through Algernon Henry Blackwood
has me convinced otherwise. The worlds of his fiction belong to the older & more dangerous alien occult order.

"Le Satyre", Jules Fontanez

But is
Algernon Henry Blackwood alien nature & its monsters the past or perhaps an alien reality or far future time line overlapping our own? "Clark Ashton Smith's story "Genius Loci" (1933) was inspired by Blackwood's story "The Transfer"" & many of Smith's contemporaries including H.P. Lovecraft were inspired by Blackwood. So it stands to reason that perhaps thousands or millions of years in the future Blackwood's alien Fey perhaps are among the occult or alien forces that take back the Earth.

We know that at a certain point in mythology Ragnarok happens or happened. The Norse gods among many others were killed perhaps along with millions after Hyperborea left Earth . This kicks off the Zothique cycle of the Earth much later on & perhaps the world of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.In the centuries after Ragnarok but before the Zothique era these were the eons of the Hyperborean empire. They sailed the stars, conquered Death, & build vast works on alien shores, moved realities, & seemed all powerful but everything has its cycles.

AS&SH art by Mike Tenebrae

But time is circular & while the skyships of Hyperborea were seen trading in the ports of Mystara, Calidar, & Greyhawk along with Arduin. The energies released by Ragnarok worked their way across time & space causing untold devastation.

All of the events of Ragnarok are gone into by Troll Lord Games The Codex Germania & The Codex Nordica.
But these are only reflections & aspects of some of the events of the end mankind. The events of the actual  end of the gods are much worse. These echo off into the planes.

And you can bet on Mystara that the Immortals watched the events of this closely & did everything in their respective power to stave off any such events from happening on their world. The very fabric of their religions on Mystara is keyed to preventing such world shattering events. 

Algernon Henry Blackwood 
stories & novels are ones of horrific alien beauty & singularity. They speak volumes of an infinitely more alien & horrific reality that lurks just outside of our & our adventurers door. But these are merely the beach head into what's coming. We'll get into that next time. For now keep em rolling!  

Sunday, November 25, 2018

OSR Holiday Review & Commentary - The Eerie West - X! By Simon Washbourne

"Strange! Ghostly! Mysterious! Rousing tales of action and adventure in a wild west that never was. Who wants to read through reams of text just to get to the action? No-one right? These rules assume you know how to role play. They assume you know about “Golden Age” comic book pulp western fiction. (Thrilling cowboy adventures through a retro lens). They assume you know how OSR products work. There, it’s done. You know how to play already. Just get on with it. Go fer yer gun, hombre! "

Sometime ago I got into Beyond Belief Games Eerie West - X! for a set up for an OSR Wild & Weird West campaign set up. The product is put together with spit, bailing wire, & a micro system built on the lines of Swords & Wizardry. But it should work with mostly any OSR rules set with some work & best of all its open game content.
You get a wide variety of PC classes from the Shootist, Cardsharp, Trailblazer, Dude, Quack, & Hexer. The shootist is your gun fighter/fighter type. The Card sharp is your thief & all around rogue. The Trail blazer is your ranger & scout type for the Wild West. The Dude class is your socialite, tenderfoot from back East, & diplomat all rolled into one. The Quack is your cleric/doctor/fake medicine man all rolled into one whose potion might actually work or they might make you worse. The Hexer is your occultist who shouldn't be messing with the 'things man wasn't meant to know. Did I mention that there's a sanity rules set in here, full system for guns, monsters, NPCs,equipment, mundane animals, stats weird menaces, adventure ideas, two pages of rules & random charts.
The fact is that I've been looking for a more open set of Weird West rules over the last couple of years. Since these rules are cross compatible with other Beyond Belief X rules sets its very easy to swap them out for other OSR or even other  D20 systems.

Belle Starr
, American female outlaw. The caption reads, "A wild western amazon. The noted Belle Starr is arrested on the border of Indian Territory and being released on bail vanishes on horseback." Wood engraving in The National Police Gazette (1886 May 22), p. 16.

Even though Belle Starr wasn't featured in
The Eerie West - X! she's exactly the sort of cowboy or outlaw adventurer that could be used in adventures surrounding this campaign using this product. The fact is that a lot of Golden Age of Comics public domain artwork & source material was used in The Eerie West - X!. This puts the 'X' material square in the Golden Age of Comicbooks & Pulp magazine source material making it perfect for that style of old school or OSR campaigning. 
Everything from your bandits to your Wild West Gumberoo is covered;
AC: 10* HD: 3d6+1 Attacks: Claws 1d3 (x2), bite 1d3 Move: 10 San Loss: 1/1d3
Special: The creature has a rubbery hide that bounces back anything thrown on it. Bullets, arrows and so on will rebound in the direction they were fired, hitting the person that fired them (separate roll needed to hit).
A nearly hairless, extremely disgusting, bear-like brute of the woods."

There's just enough here to get a campaign off the ground & with blogs such as the OSR library its a snap to get a campaign off the ground plus get support. The material here isn't incredibly expansive but it doesn't need to be. The layout is easy to read, the stat blocks are standard, & the material is straight on point & top drawer.  While The Eerie West -X ! follows the tradition Western comic & pulp genre it really plugs into the Revisionist Weird Western;

"The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the rise of revisionist Western film. Elements include a darker, more cynical tone, with focus on the lawlessness of the time period, favoring realism over romanticism, and an interest in greater historical authenticity. Anti-heroes were common, as were stronger roles for women and more-sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans and Mexicans. The films were often critical of big business, the American government, and masculine figures (including the military and their policies). "
But really what The Eerie West -X! does is mix & match its material so that the dungeon master & players get a mix of classic Western material with Golden Age of Comics adventure! But could Wild West-X! be mixed with an old school or OSR adventure?

Yes as a matter of fact this material could easily be incorporated with say Swords & Wizardry or even original Dungeons & Dragons? Yes it could easily support such a campaign where the PC's blunder into  The Eerie West -X! or perhaps the PC's of the Eerie West X blunder into B4: The Lost City by Tom Moldvay. The PC's become lost in a sand storm & they suddenly blunder into the lost city itself.
Its not hard seeing the pyramid located some place in the South Western Mexican desert & the factions of the city waiting to sacrifice the PCs to their bastard Lovecraftian god thing.
"Lost in the desert! The only hope for survival lies in a ruined city rising out of the sands.
A pyramid with five twenty foot high tiers rises from the sand.  Atop it are three 30 foot tall statues.  One is a bearded man holding a scale and a lightning bolt.  Another is a beautiful woman holding a sheaf of wheat and a sword.  Between them is a child with two snakes twined about its winged body holding a wand and a handful of coins.
Food, water, and wealth await heroic adventurers inside the ancient pyramid."

Is the The Eerie West - X! worth getting?! I think so in spades, the game does what it says in nineteen pages & delivers on its promise with less filler & more killer with little issue. Plus its a great value & the material is cross compatible with other retroclone & OSR games. Five out of five in my humble opinion.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

OSR Thanks Giving Commentary - Greyhawk Show Down In The Old Mine - Unfinished Business

 'The snows & mists around the world of Greyhawk part allowing heroes desperately needed elsewhere to journey to a far away land on another world! But will this be a town's salvation or our heroes doom?! Come with us now down the corridors to the ancient year of 1989 for a game session of the ancient past!'

Happy Thanks Giving everyone & I've been wrestling with Greyhawk once again. This time I broke out my second edition folio & began rereading through it. Is there a dungeon location where the planes cross in a dangerous dungeon? Then an old Dragon magazine article fell out!?Then I started reading about Murlynd & got completely distracted.
Here's the complete background on Murlynd;

'Gary Gygax's childhood friend Don Kaye created Murlynd for the second-ever session of Gygax's Greyhawk campaign in 1972, rolled up on Gygax's kitchen table at the same time as Rob Kuntz's Robilar and Terry Kuntz's Terik.[1] Gygax later recalled that, in those early days when most players including Gygax himself simply used their own name as a basis for their character's name — Tenser/Ernest, Yrag/Gary — "Murlynd" was the first attempt by a player to make a creative name for a character.[2] Don Kaye was a fan of the Western genre,[3] and at one point during the early days of the Greyhawk campaign, Gygax had Murlynd transported to an alternate universe set in the Wild West. When Murlynd was eventually transported back the Greyhawk setting, he sported the Stetson, cowboy boots, Colt revolvers and stereotypical outfit of a cowboy. Although Gygax did not allow the use of gunpowder in his Greyhawk setting, he made a loophole for Kaye by ruling that Murlynd actually carried two "magical wands" that made loud noises and delivered small but deadly missiles.[4] (Many years later, Gygax created a similar item called "Kaydon's Thunderous Bolters" for the Lejendary Adventures role-playing system. Gygax made it clear that these items fired their six charges using magic, not gunpowder.)[5]
The game Kaye and Gygax were playing would become D&D, and Kaye would go on to help Gygax start up TSR. In late 1974, Kaye also helped develop the rules for a Western-genre game called Boot Hill. However, Kaye died unexpectedly in 1975. As a tribute to his friend, Gygax published Boot Hill in 1975 in memory of Kaye. In 1983, Gygax would pay additional tribute to Kaye's memory by referencing Murlynd in the published version of EX2 The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, which also included the spells Murlynd's ogre and Murlynd's void,[6] and further highlighted Murlynd in the March 1983 issue of Dragon magazine.[7] The following year, Gygax paid further tribute to Kaye when he borrowed Murlynd's name for Murlynd's spoon, a magical spoon described in Unearthed Arcana that created a bad-tasting but nutritious gruel when placed in an empty bowl."

These days Murlynd role  is  as a deity of Magic Technology in 'Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins, the introduction to RPGA's massively shared Living Greyhawk campaign that ran from 2000–2008'. But it got me thinking about a massive Gamma World/Boot Hill/AD&D first edition adventure mini campaign where our characters back in '89 crossed over into all three settings. How?! The dungeon master in question used the massively underrated BH2: Lost Conquistador Mine by David Cook & Tom Moldvay.

This module provided us with everything we needed to get our characters killed across time & space. So what does this have to do with Murlynd?! Oh just about everything! Appearing across space & time the deity recruited our characters for a massive game involving seven players over the Thanks Giving holiday.After the Invoked Devastation there were places where the planes had been shattered across time & space. I mentioned the Egg of Coot raging across time & space as well as raiding the planes?! Well I wasn't the first DM to do this & in fact one of its wizards managed to find a few artifacts after the events of S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. This bastard had set up shop in the same dungeon across three planes  prime. We were going to have to stop the bastard.
What our party didn't know is that the deck was stacked against us. Alfonso The Grand Adjuster had been recruiting. His recruits included a band of gnoll warriors, berserkers, a beholder, various mutants, & about six gun fighters.

They held the town of BH1 Mad Mesa  & used the mine as their planar beach head into the Old West. We got our marching orders & began to take out the mercenary forces. We managed to free the town & do a bit of pillaging for ourselves. But we lost two our thieves & this would prove crucial coming up.

When we got to the mine we were completely slaughtered by the beholder! Knafr Yeney was the name of the beholder who took great pride in picking off our party one by one 'Ten Little Indians' style. Two of our party limped back to Greyhawk to recruit more adventurers & fighters for the up coming fight. It was a great Thanks Giving game & I might resurrect this idea for a session coming up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

OSR Commentary - Adapting Judge's Guilld's The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure by Scott Fulton For Old School Campaigns

"The Prophet said that the great Druid F'dech Fo would rise again to wreak vengeance and destruction on the people! You must find him; you must destroy him; you must end the curse!
This product contains multiple adventures, new creatures, a castle, and a completely described barbarian village!"

So over the last seventy two hours I've pulled out an old Judge's Guild adventure & began the mental exercise of converting this over to one of my games. There are few things troubling me such as the werejaguar or are they? Looking at The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure by Scott Fulton from a completely different angle we get the full picture. The monster ecology is the key here. How can one have a were jaguar in an adventure featuring a druid & barbarian clans as well as villages centered around a castle? The were jaguar provides very everything we need. Europe has a very well established history of urban legends of phantom big cats & as of 1.5 million years ago we had the European Jaguar. Put those two together & we're well on our way to being able to explain were jaguars in England. But with a range in England, Germany, Spain, France, and the Netherlands. We've got a range of areas to play with;
"Later specimens have been found in England, Germany, Spain, France, and the Netherlands. Sometimes it is recognized as a subspecies of Panthera onca, the jaguar, as Panthera onca gombaszoegensis"

The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure by Scott Fulton makes the classic mistake of over explaining every NPC. That shouldn't be a problem at all if we cut out the extraneous bits & just go with the meat of the NPC's. Since this only a fifteen page adventure its not that big of a deal.  The real issue is going to be the fact that the undead form of F'dech Fo is going to slaughter lower level parties.  

Even though this artwork doesn't appear in the adventure its straight on point.

Ontleding des menschelyken lichaams... Amsterdam, 1690. Copperplate engraving with etching. National Library of Medicine. Portrait of Govard Bidloo (1649-1713) by the artist Gérard de Lairesse (1640-1711).

But given the tomb & the various Barbarian tribes I can see this adventure working in a wide variety of OSR venues. I can see The F'dech Fo's Tomb working in France especially given into an early age during  Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories campaign.
Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories take place in a 'region in France, heavily forested — located somewhere between Tours and Moulins; a "main highway" between those two cities goes through it (The End of the Story, Clark Ashton Smith). This lines up somewhat with  the maps of The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure.
This option gives the dungeon master license to adapt X2 Castle Amber right into the mix! The time travel/cross plane jumping could give the dungeon master the perfect opportunity to line up all of X2 NPC & monster madness right into a mini campaign.

Tom Moldvey's classic has all of the old school adventure elements to give
The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure the campaign cohesion that it needs. What I mean is while The F'dech Fo's Tomb is a solid stand alone piece it seems to work better as part of solid whole. Yes it was designed to work as a part of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy but its very easily open  for DM customization. The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure is wide open & with a little effort the whole affair could be used in a super hero game such as Troll Lord's Amazing Adventures! rpg. Don't believe me? St. Bernard de Clairvaux was dismantled and shipped from Spain by William Randolph Hearst to the United States. St. Bernard de Clairvaux isn't the only one there were many castles that were moved to the states.  What if the castle, grounds, out buildings, etc. were shipped from France to the United States then the PC's were transported back the post Second Ice Age France  to face the evil of F'dech Fo? But once again I would temper this by using the rules from the AA companion to give the PC's just a bit of an edge.

The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure is a perfect middle ground adventure for the dungeon master who wants to do a faux Celtic or French Celtic adventure for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Every adventure element fits very nicely into the world of Hyperborea without too much modification.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

OSR Commentary - The Alko Option Arthur Machen Mythological Campaign Madness

“We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, is the other that hides in me?”
Arthur Machen,
The White People and Other Stories

Part of the problem with the OSR is staying fresh as every adventure idea, old school author, old module, etc. is snapped up & brought into another product, fan pdf, or other media for consumption. There are still there are Appendix N authors who are not well known or as well read at all today. Machen is key to helping me overcoming one of the great controversies of old school Dungeons & Dragons as well as its retroclone systems. No I'm not talking about pointless political bickering that seems all of the rage for marketing OSR products. First a bit of background on Arthur Machen.

"Arthur Machen (/ˈmækən/; 3 March 1863 – 15 December 1947) was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. His novella The Great God Pan (1890; 1894) has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as "Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language."[1] He is also well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons. " Arthur Machen is one of my all time favorites when it comes to dealing with the weird secret societies  & strange occult survivals specifically the realm of a particularly nasty family of fairies. Most have heard of  The Great God Pan which is his apocalyptic novel; "The novella begins with an experiment to allow a woman named Mary to see the supernatural world. This is followed by an account of a series of mysterious happenings and deaths over many years surrounding a woman named Helen Vaughan. At the end, the heroes confront Helen and force her to kill herself. She undergoes a series of supernatural transformations before dying and she is revealed to be the child of Mary and the god Pan. " This was novel is a classic of supernatural literature & horror without a doubt.
But the events that lead up to The Great God Pan can be traced to  The White People & The Three Imposters.  There had to be secret cult that was behind the events of The Great God Pan!? There was & we get a glimpse behind the curtain in the novel The Three Imposters

The Three Imposters reads like a Call of Cthulhu adventure & investigation game of grand proportions. Why? Because Arthur Machen is the father of the modern weird tale. HP Lovecraft borrowed many literary techniques & writing twists from Machen.

"His significance was recognized by H. P. Lovecraft, who in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" named Machen as one of the four "modern masters" of supernatural horror (with Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and M. R. James)"
The Three Imposters gives a birds eye view of how a cult & secret society can close a noose around a PC's neck easily in their quest for an artifact or item.
"The novel comprises several weird tales and culminates in a final denouement of deadly horror, connected with a secret society devoted to debauched pagan rites. The three impostors of the title are members of this society who weave a web of deception in the streets of London—relating the aforementioned weird tales in the process—as they search for a missing Roman coin commemorating an infamous orgy by the Emperor Tiberius and close in on their prey: "the young man with spectacles""

This narrative setting  style also extends into the novel the White People where we get a glimpse into the deadly & dangerous world of these evil fairies;
"A discussion between two men on the nature of evil leads one of them to reveal a mysterious Green Book he possesses. It is a young girl's diary, in which she describes in ingenuous, evocative prose her strange impressions of the countryside in which she lives as well as conversations with her nurse, who initiates her into a secret world of folklore and black magic. Throughout, the girl makes cryptic allusions to such topics as "nymphs", "Dôls", "voolas," "white, green, and scarlet ceremonies", "Aklo letters", the "Xu" and "Chian" languages, "Mao games", and a game called "Troy Town" (the last of which is a reference to actual practices involving labyrinths or labyrinthine dances[1]). The girl's tale gradually develops a mounting atmosphere of suspense, with suggestions of witchcraft, only to break off abruptly just at the point where a supreme revelation seems imminent. In a return to the frame story, the diary's custodian reveals that the girl's body was later found dead near a seemingly pagan statue in the woods."

All of Machen's works shift around these strange occult & alien Fairy survivors from ancient Pre second Ice Age days. The deadliness of their relics & artifacts is detailed in

"The Red Hand" (1895). ""The Red Hand" (1895) — a short detective/horror story featuring the main characters from The Three Impostors. It focuses on a murder performed with an ancient stone ax. "We see even more of this in the "The Shining Pyramid" (1895);
""The Shining Pyramid" (1895) — short horror story. Strange arrangements of stones appear at the edge of a young man's property. He and a friend attempt to decipher their meaning before it is too late."
Finally Machen's  The Hill of Dreams (written 1895–1897; published 1907) details mostly everything we need to know about the family of fairies;
"The novel recounts the life of a young man, Lucian Taylor, focusing on his dreamy childhood in rural Wales, in a town based on Caerleon. The Hill of Dreams of the title is an old Roman fort where Lucian has strange sensual visions, including ones of the town in the time of Roman Britain. Later, the novel describes Lucian's attempts to make a living as an author in London, enduring poverty and suffering in the pursuit of art and history.
Lord Dunsany admired The Hill of Dreams and wrote an introduction to a 1954 reprint of the novel.[1] In Henry and June, Henry Miller tells Anaïs Nin about The Hill of Dreams.[2]
According to the Friends of Arthur Machen website, the novel is
almost undoubtedly Machen's most important and moving work. Lucian Taylor, the hero, is damned either through contact with an erotically pagan "other" world or through something degenerate in his own nature, which he thinks of as a "faun". He becomes a writer, and when he moves to London he becomes trapped by the increasing reality of the dark imaginings of this creature within him, which become increasingly real. Machen drew copiously on his own early years in Wales and London, and the book as a whole is an exploration through imagination of a potential fate which he personally avoided. One of the first explorations in fiction of the figure of the doomed artist, who is biographically so much a part of the decadent 1890s."
Any contact with these fairies or their alien works is chaotic & utterly alien. A PC must make a save vs wands or be subject a random temporary insanity. Those who actually crossover into their astral fairy lands maybe subject to actual chaotic mutations or worse! I mentioned a controversy at the beginning of this blog entry & I can say that it has to do with how to deal with dealing with traditional Dungeons & Dragons Elves, Fairies, etc. with Sword & Sorcery elements. Rereading Arthur Machen over the last couple of days I came to the conclusion that these survivals are the key. There are things that the Fairy will not talk about at all & there was a war for the soul of all mankind. The Fairy don't talk about it but humanity was at its center & their allies during it.  "The Voor" were banished to the very edges of the planes but from time to time their world crosses over onto their ancient haunts. To say that there is enmity between the Fairy & the Voor is an understatement. These forces will kill each other on sight & there are frequent wars in the Deep Astrals.    

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum by Brian Young goes into the Celtic mythological conflicts that are the central piece of such a campaign. The Fairy don't talk about the Voor with their human allies. Druids may speak of such dark things if PC's are really lucky.

An Arthur Machen mythological campaign would be perfect for an epic   Mike Stewart Victorious rpg campaign. The age of the Arthur Machen  literature is perfect for a Victorious game campaign where the PC's are the play things of a secret society,a cult of the Voor or their human allies.

Amazing Adventures! Rpg maybe the best option for an Arthur Machen mythological adventures as the Voor infiltrate different levels of society on the fringes of reality. The Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters actually has a number of creatures that could fit the bill for bringing the PC's into the realm of these malevolent fairies. the Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters is also a solid option for use as a players guide to fighting these dangerous subtle menaces. Also the psion PC class from Amazing Adventures could be used as a powerhouse to help overcome the insane effects of these Fey monsters.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic) By Tom Moldvay, & Jean Wells
might be one of the best modules to get the
Arthur Machen treatment. The Palace of adventure might make an excellent Britain Roman Era castle & grounds. The chaos of the ruins could be directly related to a curse of the 'good neighbors'. B3 could be a solid choice because its a basic module & could get PC's into the deep end of things.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic) By Tom Moldvay, & Jean Wells could be a proper adventure location within the Deep Astral. Sky Ships could stumble upon the place traveling between worlds & find themselves at the attention of these horrors from beyond. Some of the fairy gods & entities from the CC1 Calidar, Beyond the Skies by Bruce Heard may have the lowdown on certain aspects of these mysterious entities.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

OSR Review & Commentary On Jarkoon - Adventures on Planet X! By Simon Washbourne From Beyond Belief Games

"Astounding! Amazing! Incredible! Non-stop action using familiar rules! Who wants to read through reams of text just to get to the action? No-one right? These rules assume you know how to role play. They assume you know about “Golden Age” comic book space fantasy adventures. (Sword & Planet rules through a retro lens). They assume you know how OSR products work. There, it’s done. You know how to play already. Just get on with it. Ray guns set to kill! Flash! Bang! Zoom!"
Last night I logged into social media & found that a friend of mine had slipped me a pdf  from the 'X' series of OSR supplements  from Beyond Belief Games.
'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X ' is a pretty fast & loose Sword & Planet style setting for the X series of  OSR books which borrow heavily from public domain comic books & pulps. According to Brian Courtemanche;" the X series is a growing number of fantastic, fast-start, fun-to-play OSR games by the talented Simon Washbourne of Beyond Belief Games. "

Jarkoon is a setting we've seen a billion times, a Barsoom like planet of adventure with new PC classes, monsters, equipment, etc. The X series is done in a Swords & Wizardry style & this is fine. What separates Jarkoon from a thousand other OSR Sword & Planet settings is the authors enthusiasm & the fact that its packed into twenty pages.

There's no baggage & anyone who plays standard Original Dungeons & Dragons will be picking this setting up in four minutes or less. We get lots of old school Pulp role playing here with the Astronomer class which is your standard Dr. Hans Zarkov style mad scientist who invents gadgets & messes with things man was not meant to know.
"Astronomers are scientific advisers to Kings and Nobles. They know science and can even build small gadgets and devices but rarely venture into the territory of the “Science-Lords” whose ancient mysteries are outlawed in the City-States." All of the artwork is public domain comic book & Pulp artwork re-purposed for this supplement. We get a Jedd erm noble class & this is your typical Prince Voltan from Flash Gordon type or one of the countless Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoomian noble style. We get a scout class which is a redress of a Ranger style space man spiff type. Then the John Carter off worlder PC class of course. Then comes your standard PC warrior class & a Thark style Lo’Kreen race as class PC class;
"An ancient race from a distant sun, dislocated from their own world by the power of the Science-Lords. Somehow, they ended up on Jarkoon where they helped to overthrow the tyranny of the Science-Lords and make a home for themselves." Then there's the Psion class with a psionic system thrown right into the PC class.
You then get into a history of Jarkoon which again is a Barsoom or Sword & Planet setting but the author manages it in three pages!? We get flyers & air craft straight out of ERB's imagination.
A set of really super quick rules & then Jarkoon style names & NPC stats for your nameless folks who seem to come up as NPC's on the fly during game play. This happens to me each & every time. Then its four pages of monsters that have a surprising array of creatures for its size including the dreaded Science Lords. Missile weapons & melee weapons along with armor & the class combat tables.
The layout is clean, the tables easy on the eyes, & the bare minimum of clutter is welcome to someone like me who is getting very jaded with overarching OSR books I've seen over the last ten years. Your could drop your existing Dungeons & Dragons party onto

'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X '  to watch the fun This is the thing this a pdf that demands to be played & Jarkoon simply a solidly done tool kit for Sword & Planet adventures. This is definitely a solidly done book coming in at twenty one pages & 'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X ' is definitely worth picking up at three dollars. Why?! Because this little beauty can be used to add zip to existing Sword & Planet settings such as Planet Algol or even Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Carcosa. And yes the 'X' series of books covers a wide range of genres from Wild West to interstellar Pulp adventure. How do I know because I bought a few titles after reading through 'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X '.

'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X ' could also be used as a side supplement to
Barrel Rider Games White Star series of Star Wars film inspired rpg supplements.  I give 'Jarkoon Adventures on Planet X ' five out of five. Stay Tuned because I will be doing more  Beyond Belief Games  product reviews in the near future.