Thursday, January 31, 2019

Adapting B4 The Lost City (Basic) By Tom Moldvay With A Cultclassic Twist or Two For An Old School Mini Campaign

A crownless king who reigns alone,
I live within this ashen land,
Where winds rebuild from wandering sand
My columns and my crumbled throne.

My sway is on the men that were,
And wan sweet women, dear and dead;
Beside a marble queen, my bed
Is made within this sepulcher.

In gardens desolate to the sun,
Faring alone, I sigh to find
The dusty closes, dim and blind,
Where winter and the spring are one.

My shadowy visage, grey with grief,
In sunken waters walled with sand,
I see- where all mine ancient land
Lies yellow like an autumn leaf.

My silver lutes of subtle string,
Are rust- but on the grievous breeze
I hear what sobbing memories,
And muted sorrows murmuring!

Across the broken monuments,
Memorial of the dreams of old,
The sunset flings a ghostly gold
To mock mine ancient affluence.

About the tombs of stone and brass,
The silver lights of evening flee;
And slowly now, and solemnly,
I see the pomp of shadows pass.

Often, beneath some fervid moon,
With splendid spells I vainly strive
Dead loves imperial to revive,
And speak a heart-remembered rune-

But, ah, the lovely phantoms fail,
The faces fade to mist and light,
The vermeil lips of my delight
Are dim, the eyes are ashen-pale.

A crownless king who reigns alone,
I live within this ashen land,
Where winds rebuild from wandering sand
My columns and my crumbled throne.
The Kingdom of Shadows  (1922) 
by Clark Ashton Smith

" 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. "
This time we're going to be using & modifying the classic into something quite wicked. The PC's have inherited a mansion from a rich NPC patron who filled it with all kinds of treasures  & relics of the ancients. But all is not as it seems!

So once again I'm going back to my campaign notes & an idea that I had for Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique with a very definitive pulp & cultclassic movie twist from the early 00's. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of the Dark Castle movies. Dark Castle is the movie production house that was formed back about '99.
"Dark Castle Entertainment. Dark Castle Entertainment is an American film production label and a division of Silver Pictures, a production house formerly affiliated with Warner Bros. It was formed in 1999 by Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, and Gilbert Adler."
One of which was the Thir13en Ghosts (2001) which was a remake/homage to the classic William Castle film 'Thirteen Ghosts' with Vincent Prince. The issue is that Thirteen Ghosts is very well known today & instead I've opted to use the 2001 remake/homage film as a sort of jump off point. The idea is that there is a lovely house filled with all kinds of treasure out in a ruined desert oasis. The place has been abandoned following the death of the necromancer/wizard patron who once upon a time was distantly related to one of the PC's. 

What the PC's don't know is that that their dearly departed relative has trapped thirteen spirits of the damned in order to open 'The Eye of The Underworld' according to the Astrology of the Damned. Yes I just completely modified the entire occult & supernatural background of the original film. And we'll see why. The Eye of the Underworld actually opens a planar rift into the underworld of Hades. The place is bursting at the seams with the dead of an Earth that has experienced several epochs of Apocalypse. While the mechanism  eye does allow the fool who uses it to see & control both the future & the past.

What it actually does is allow the pagan dead forces to run amok across the fact of Zothique. The monsters of legend cling to Entrance just waiting to burst forth once again to run riot; "In front of the entrance to the underworld live Grief, Anxiety, Diseases, and Old Age. Fear, Hunger, Death, Agony, and Sleep also live in front of the entrance, together with Guilty Joys. On the opposite threshold is War, the Erinyes, and Eris. Close to the doors are many beasts, including CentaursGorgons, the Lernaean Hydra, the Chimera, and Harpies. In the midst of all this, an Elm can be seen where false dreams cling under every leaf."

Hades is a greedy god & his reign during the hundreds of centuries has not sat well. He still wants the living & has been stroking the fires of the living with tales of bargains & treasures. 
 "The "queen of perdition and goddess of all iniquities," Alila is worshipped in central Zothique' has supplanted Hades. He's not been happy about it for many eons & has been using the forbidden magicks of necromancy to his advantage.  “Mordiggian is the god of Zul-Bha-Sair is not happy with Hades because his necromancers have been raising an army of the Undead.

“The Charnel God.” lllustration by SergiyKrykun at DeviantArt.

Down below the desert ruins there is a war going on between the ghosts & crazed cultists of these gods. The PC's if they are not careful will be caught in the middle of the war happening within the dungeons & locations found within the hallow halls of 
B4 The Lost City By Tom Moldvay  . Part of the inspiration of course is Clark Ashton Smith's The Empire of the Necromancers;
"Weary with their strange journey and their oft-repeated incantations, Mmatmuor and Sodosma saw before them at last, from a desert hill, the lofty spires and fair, unbroken domes of Yethlyreom, steeped in the darkening stagnant blood of ominous sunset.
'It is a goodly land,' said Mmatmuor, 'and you and I will share it between us, and hold dominion over all its dead, and be crowned as emperors on the morrow in Yethlyreom.'
'Aye,' replied Sodosma, 'for there is none living to dis pute us here; and those that we have summoned from the tomb shall move and breathe only at our dictation, and may not rebel against us.'
So, in the blood-red twilight that thickened with purple, they entered Yethlyreom and rode on among the lofty, lampless mansions, and installed themselves with their grisly retinue in that stately and abandoned palace, where the dynasty of Nimboth emperors had reigned for two thousand years with dominion over Cincor.
In the dusty golden halls, they lit the empty lamps of onyx by means of their cunning sorcery, and supped on royal viands, provided from past years, which they evoked in like manner. Ancient and imperial wines were poured for them in moonstone cups by the fleshless hands of their servitors; and they drank and feasted and revelled in fantasmagoric pomp, deferring till the morrow the resurrectiom of those who lay dead in Yethlyreom.
They rose betimes, in the dark crimson dawn, from the opulent palace-beds in which they had slept; for much remained to be done. Everywhere in that forgotten city, they went busily to and fro, working their spells on the people that had died in the last year of the pest and had lain unburied. And having accomplished this, they passed beyond Yethlyreom into that other city of high tombs and mighty mausoleums, in which lay the Nimboth emperors and the more consequential citizens and nobles of Cincor.
Here they bade their skeleton slaves to break in the sealed doors with hammers; and then, with their sinful, tyrannous incantations, they called forth the imperial mummies, even to the eldest of the dynasty, all of whom came walking stiffly, with lightless eyes, in rich swathings sewn with flame-bright jewels. And also, later, they brought forth to a semblance of life many generations of courtiers and dignitaries."

If the PC's are not sacrificed to the Eye of the Underworld mechanism & survive the machinations of the necromancer. Then the PCs will have to survive the wraith of a Greco Roman god who may or may not be Hades. 

Bust of Hades. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 5th century BCE; the black mantle is a modern addition

There comes a point far in the future when the cosmic cycles of worship & praise are over with. These leave behind the remains of a great many mythological entities but entropy will not be denied.  This is something that we see time & again in the writings & poetry of Clark Ashton Smith. This might just be the case here & its not a good thing for the PC's. They may get away with the treasures & relics of the upper house but the fact that Hades will not be denied. Or will he?

We know that the Outer Gods have their parts in the cosmic cycle & the crazed cultists of B4 The Lost City worship a very nasty entity known as Zargon The Returner. There are some suggestions that Zargon was the first ruler of the Nine Hells or a Demon Prince of the Abyss thrown out of the infinite foulness. But some dungeon masters that I've recently talked to suggest that Zargon may be a yet another facet of the Crawling Chaos  
Nyarlathotep. If this is the case then the PC's might have to appeal to the entity to reign in Hades. Hades by the time of Zothique may have joined his fellow Greco Roman gods as one of the lesser gods of Earth. The relationship of these gods is depicted as Earth's future being transformed into HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands. These gods are protected & shepherded by Outer Gods. This is depicted in HP Lovecraft's The Outer Gods.
There will be death & worse in this adaption. PC survival is going to be tested to the absolute limit in this mini campaign. 

The house with its relics & artifacts could exist across a wide variety of space times in a variety of Prime planes. This has the house existing on the edges of the Diamond Desert in Hyperborea in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Why? Because its agents are quietly recruiting adventurers for sacrifice to Hades. The house is far too tempting of a prize to resist. This same structure could be existing on the fringes of the Bright Desert  in Greyhawk. This structure far too unimportant & unassuming to grab the attention of the dieties of Greyhawk so far.

In more pulp oriented modern games such as Amazing Adventures! rpg by Troll Lord Games. The competing animal headed cultists of Hades secure adventurers & heroes in dark alley ways & the like to brave the machinations  of the house & its traps! Here are a few ways the horrors of the house can be used in a campaign:
  1. The house & its treasures quietly spread through a campaign introducing the supernatural visions of the artifacts & relics to unsuspecting adventurers who will be drawn into the house. 
  2. The very presence of the house begins to upset local supernatural entities who recruit their own priests & clerics to secure adventurers. 
  3. The future time space of Zothique fouls up local history & events become unstable. The heroes must correct this imbalance leading them into the machinations of the house. 
  4. Ghosts from the house begin showing up in odd places & the adventurers must put them to rest. 
  5. Good ghosts are being 'kidnapped' for the purposes of opening the Eye of Hades'. 
  6. A murder of a local official was committed by one of the ghosts of the house & PC's are drawn in. 
  7. Dark forces are centered around the house & the PC's must investigate. 
  8. Several treasures have been stolen & the local thieves guild speaks about rumors of the house. 
  9. A ruler from Zothique comes to recruit the PC's about the matter of the house. 
  10. Cultists of Zargon come to recruit the player's PC's to help banish the house & its mechanisms. 

OSR Campaign Commentary - The Cha'alt Kickstarter By Venger As'Nas Satanis

Venger Satanis has learned a painful lesson in publishing sometimes, 'Listen to your audience or else.'. Day after day of blogging I've had my ass handed to me with the up & down of OSR & game blogging over the years. The best approach is to sometimes say the Hell with an idea or adventure concept in gaming. But now Venger's latest Kickstarter has the author/designer going back to his science fantasy roots. Now  the Cha'alt kickstarter which only has a few days left to go!

Glynn Seal's Monkey Blood Design latest adventure map from the lower dungeon adventure location are really nice & solidly done. The world of is a very interesting mix of traditional high fantasy & science fantasy goodness with Venger's usual Lovecraftian mix throw into a blender;

"The world of Cha'alt started as a fairly typical medieval land with elves, dwarves, snake-men, clerics, and magic-users; steeped in superstition along with antediluvian traditions, before the Old Gods went mad.  
Three-thousand years passed. The surface dwellers split from the malevolent creatures who slithered below. Those who remained on the surface lost the understanding of magic, but their civilization became a highly developed, technological empire of domed cities welcoming interstellar travelers, their massive starships hovering high above in blue skies.
But in the deep crevasses of the world, a power older than time stirred from its deathless slumber. The Ancient Gods, long forgot, had not died but continued to dream... growing chaotic and full of darkness.  And those living underground hastened the Old Ones' rising because they yearned to reclaim Cha'alt for themselves.
When the Great Old Ones awakened, they were angered by the lack of worship, sacrifices, or even casual acknowledgement that they had fashioned the world and all life upon it. 
Soon enough, Cha'alt was all but destroyed by those vengeful Gods, jealous of their creations' achievements and bitter that they had been forgotten.  Civilization in ruins, the surface-dwellers of Cha'alt turned to barbarism as sorcery reappeared, dragons appeared in the now-magenta sky, and demons took hold once more.
Cha'alt is a mysterious world where you're likely to encounter mutant bikers with laser rifles, tentacled sandworms in the deep desert, tribal warfare as blood-splotched shamans ululate at the crimson rock, and alien pirates on anti-grav skiffs looking to steal relics of a bygone age.
My job is making Cha'alt stand out from all the other weird post-apocalyptic campaign settings.  It's going to have a unique flavor, yet containing many of the ingredients we all know and love."
To me it certainly looks like Venger has gone back to his formula for success that he used in the mega dungeon & adventure locations of The Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence. For me this is a welcome change from the usual Alpha Blue rpg fare. 

"Over half the book will focus on the Great Pyramid of Cha'alt, a massive, sunken tomb full of humanoids, monsters, traps, puzzles, treasure, and artifacts (both technological and magical)."
The pyramid itself is semi-translucent and shiny black, tiny green veins glow within its extra-terrestrial structure... a substance impervious to magic, yet conducive to inter-dimensional travel.  This pyramid has been places, man!  It's not from here.  
The things inside will confound, confuse, delight, and destroy foolhardy adventurers who think they can waltz right in and start plundering its ultra-telluric treasures!
It's a 5-level megadungeon (with lots of room for growth if funding goes well).  There will be a lot more to do than simply attack the monsters in the room and take their stuff.  Virtually every potential antagonist has some kind of angle - their own desires, agendas, allegiances, and secrets.  Explore and interact with the Great Pyramid... it's not meant to be merely a convenient latrine for XP thirsty murder-hobos!"
So adventure location is the perfect set up for a mega dungeon mini campaign with five levels down being a perfect number for old school style play. The adventure  setting  material in 
Cha'alt is a good add on possibly for the world of Revelry in Torth making a mega campaign!

To me  the world Cha'alt is straight out of the old school post apocalyptic table top genre & might be perfect to run with a  OSR adventure/sandbox gaming system such as Gamma World 1st or  2nd edition. 
 What you need to know is magic and technology flourished in previous ages, humanoid kind's servants sought to rise up, and to stop the revolt powerful wizards magically nuked the world perfect into the Great Pyramid of Cha'alt setting. 

The material here is hooked into the hex crawl adventure mindset something that we've seen in old school post apocalyptic gaming before. But that's not an issue with a setting with the Cha'alt setting. Do I think you support  the Cha'alt kickstarter which only has a few days left to go? Yes this is a perfect adventure & campaign set up for Venger's return to his OSR roots. I think that the results of this kickstarter will be another hit for Mr. Satanis. For now keep em rolling.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Adapting B5 Horror On The Hill As A Campaign Jump Off Point With a Cult Classic Twist

"Between the sun's departure and return, the Silver Death had fallen upon Yoros. Its advent, however, had been foretold in many prophecies, both immemorial and recent. Astrologers had said that this mysterious malady, heretofore unknown on earth, would descend from the great star, Achernar, which presided balefully over all the lands of the southern continent of Zothique; and having sealed the flesh of a myriad men with its bright, metallic pallor, the plague would still go onward in time and space, borne by the dim currents of ether to other worlds.

Dire was the Silver Death; and none knew the secret of its contagion or the cure. Swift as the desert wind, it came into Yoros from the devastated realm of Tasuun, overtaking the very messengers who ran by night to give warning of its nearness. Those who were smitten felt an icy, freezing cold, an instant rigor, as if the outermost gulf had breathed upon them. Their faces and bodies whitened strangely, gleaming with a wan luster, and became stiff as long-dead corpses, all in an interim of minutes.

In the streets of Silpon and Siloar, and in Faraad, the capital of Yoros, the plague passed like an eery, glittering light from countenance to countenance under the golden lamps; and the victims fell where they were stricken; and the deathly brightness remained upon them."
Clark Ashton Smith Isle of The Torturers 

Connecticut has been one small snow zone for the past two days & I spent almost the whole day dealing with the white stuff in one way or another. So because of the weather & the avalanche of sewing machine repairs at work I haven't been doing a lot of DYI D&D or retroclone table top rpging lately. Lately being the last week & a half or more because of the Winter weather. But that hasn't kept me from watching a few flicks here & there in the blu ray or Netflix. One of which happens to be one of the best horror remakes of all time The House On Haunted Hill. What the hell does a horror movie remake from 1999 have to do with Dungeons & Dragons or its retroclones? Quite a bit this all started when I was on the phone & he began talking about Douglas Niles lovely low level adventure  romp B5 Horror On The Hill. 
I kept thinking he had said 'The House on Haunted Hill' & well we all know how dungeon master Steve's mind works. He says to me why not combined them?! 

"So what you do is take the remake of 'The House On Haunted Hill' & set it in our Zothique campaign & then have the place survive as a ruin in a wilderness oasis on some temperate island or country. Grab your copy of  Clark Ashton Smith Isle of The Torturers  & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. Change the location of the insane asylum into the monastery ruins from Douglas Niles B5 Horror On The Hill & your ready to roll! "
Why didn't I think of that. Everyone loves Douglas Niles B5 The Horror on the Hill & if you don't believe me check this review out here. 
The reviewer thinks the module is criminally underrated & so do I. I love the original Vincent Price House on Haunted Hill but its just a bit too beloved & cultclassic these days. With the remake from 1999 you always get players writing the film off & forgetting about it. This creates the perfect opportunity to really grab the player's PC's by the throat! The player's PC's receive an invitation to clear the fortress out of monsters from B5 so that's intact but then the tables get turned & twisted.
The basic adventure plot of Horror on the Hill is intact;
"The scene of the action is Guido's Fort, located at the end of a road, with only the River Shrill, a mile wide, separating it from "The Hill".[1] At the Fort, hardy bands of adventurers gather to plan their conquests of The Hill, the hulking mass that looms over this tiny settlement. They say the Hill is filled with monsters, and that an evil witch makes her home there. No visitor to The Hill has ever returned to prove the rumors true or false. " The action with the goblins & hobgoblins remains including the action. But then the ruins of the monastery are actually the home of very sinister goings on. 

Goblin by LadyofHats  

The whole monastery has been in the ancient past the home of a vile ancient order of ancient  torturers priests whose undead spirits have been called back to the Earthly plane. They did not survive the White Death erm Green Plague but their insanity has come back because of a foul necrotic spirit of incredible power who is gathering the forces of evil to take back its own in the outside world. The spirits of the ancient priestly torturers are actually specters ala The AD&D Monster Manual first edition. But the twist is that they drain a PC a bit at a time with nightmarish visits & dreamlike encounters.

The whole fortress is an artifact & partially alive & has drawn in the goblinoids, which includes hobgoblinsbugbears, and others to it. The monastery might exist in both Zothique & possibly AS&SH's Hyperborea simultaneously because of a planar instability.  The monastery might sit in a small hidden  valley right outside of  Khromarium (the largest city). The rumors of the place draw in adventurers like flies to golden honey. The gold piece reward keeps a nice rotation of prey to the valley & its holy order. A jade Hyperborean noble might be hosting a party in the ruins & he might be a party to all of the goings on. 

Originally the order was for Hyperboreans but as the Green plague approached the order's priests pressed & brainwashed more slaves & the like magically corrupting & imprinting them with the ancient one's memories. The goblins & humanoids are mutant one offs & the chaotic half demonic scum are descendants of the servants of the old order. Because of the isolation of B5 being set on a volcanic island in the midst of a river there has been little contact with normal people outside of the valley.

When it comes to a modern or Pulp game then events can get even more interesting. The PC's are drawn into the valley & river location with tales of a lost tribes of humanoids, fabulous treasures, magical treasures, & all of the dressings of a pulp Weird Tales adventure.
Its really not all of that difficult to guess that a powerful undead god thing such as the one in The House On Haunted Hill remake might easily be using its influence to open gates into the weird space time of the valley & its hordes. Adventurers such as those in Amazing Adventures by Troll Lords or even the Victorious rpg  are going to have a very hard time resisting the charms of both a gold reward & the chance at the ruins of a legendary supernatural monastery with its ruins?! But getting out is a whole other story! 

If you really want another option for B5 Horror On The Hill but with a Swords & Wizardry twist. Then grab Simon Washbourne's  Superheroes X Swords & Wizardry super hero variant & a copy of Terror Tales - X! for a perfect OD&D retro clone house of horrors with B5 Horror On The Hill
If your looking to screw with the players heads even further why not connect the tunnels with the dungeon levels to Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable campaign setting with everything intact. I guarantee they will not be expecting this twist.

B5 The Horror On The Hill By Doug Niles is a classic D&D module but these modules are so adaptive & flexible that they can be used in very unexpected & weird ways at the table top. This is one of the reasons why I love em so. For now keep em rolling & I hope you make your saves! Stay warm kids! Here are several ways to really keep players guessing with this campaign idea. 

  1. The priestly order in this redo of B5 has NPC agents in a variety of campaign setting locations that  spy & do the work's holy work in the outside world. The are always on the look out for new candidates.  
  2. The goblins & humanoids have started scouting into nearby areas & the player's PC's have heard legendary rumors of these demonic humanoids. There's much more going on here then meets the eye. 
  3. The goblins are far more of a threat then they might seem. See the anime Goblin Slayer for even more ideas. Note that this is an anime for mature audiences only. 
  4. The themes of B5 The Horror on The Hill are easily expanded upon by the dungeon master & should have some solid crossovers into deeper areas of the campaign in weird & unexpected ways. 
  5.  Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable's inhabitants might pop up in strange places along with several relics & artifacts from the setting in places that the PC's might not expect. This might be the hook needed to kick things off. 
  6. The dangers of the Hill might filter back with a lone survivor who tells tales of riches & dangers just before dying. Corny? Absolutely but perfect for a pulp or super hero style game. 
  7. The NPC factions of the Hill are unto themselves very much  an open invitation for the adventurers to get involved in the events of the place & its dungeons. The dm should not take them lightly. 
  8. There are several 'new monsters' in B5 with a bit of help might be used as cryptids for modern characters to go after. Never underestimate the lure of a cash or gold reward. 
  9. The occult influence of the Hill might have some dire ramifications on the local space time & prompt wizards & men of authority to fund an expedition to the hidden 'lost world' of B5. These same men of authority might covet the treasures & artifacts of the player's PC's. 
  10. Running B5 Horror on the Hill in a WWII style game with all of the trimmings might really get the players going imagine facing down Nazi or Thule priests in a race for the treasures of the module! 

A Very Different & Dangerous Occult Ecology For The Will O The Wisps From Dungeons & Dragons

'Tis said these blossom-lanterns light
The elves upon their midnight-way;
That fairy toil and elfin play
Receive their beams of magic white.

I marvel not if it be true;
I know this flower has lighted me
Nearer to Beauty's mystery,
And past the veils of secrets new.
Fairy Lanterns  (1912) 
by Clark Ashton Smith

"Tru looked down at the swamp around her feet as she fled through the undergrowth. That was not Dar her brother at all. She still stung from the strange burns on her arm but she was trying to find the game path that her family used since she was a girl. The glow was following a leasurely pace sure of its quarry. She made the path & was about to break when she saw the smaller creature's glow off to the side of the path. It was a miniature of the young halfing trader she'd met at the trade fair. Tru didn't have time to speak as the sound of an electrical discharge echoed off of the bark of the trees around her. They were silent witnesses to the look of utter shock on her face as she fell to the ground with a crash of surprise & shock. She barely registered the small shapes already gathering from the swamp to drag  her corpse back into the muck & mire. She only wanted the fairy gold to help her family's farm. But it was far too late now. The corpse candle glow of the Wisps came in low over the corpse to feed as the boggarts disappeared in quick flashes of light & Fey sparks. "

The will-o'-wisp have been in my games since my very first brown box of original Dungeons & Dragons. But my version of these classic monsters differs from the traditional monster because it straddles the line between mythological fairy monster & the classic horror from the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. Why? Because will-o'-wisps are manufactured monsters & universally reviled the world over.  The will-o'-wisp is a monster that guards fairy gold & is created from a copy of  the  electrical brain activity of a dead or dying person. These monsters creation is done by a Fairy necromancer spirit that finds the decaying brain matter of a corpse. A sixth level spell is then used to draw a negative material copy of the human or near human essence into an alien immature boggart vessel. These creatures are often used to guard ancient vaults or lost caches of fairy gold. Through out Europe & the Americas these monsters have been universally used by the alien powers of the Fey.  

"DanesFinnsSwedesEstoniansLatviansLithuanians, and Irish people and amongst some other groups believed that a will-o'-the-wisp also marked the location of a treasure deep in ground or water, which could be taken only when the fire was there. "

Many believe that Boggarts are the immature forms of Will - O'- the - wisps, that these monsters are actually undead souls who have taken on the shape shifting powers of Fairyland. These monster's immature form is an energy being know as a boggart. Boggarts can take on various forms these  include a small halfling, young gnome, a goblin imp, young xvart, or norker neut. The reality is that these's beings forms are held together with a patterned charge of negative planar electricity.

These creatures will advance along their ranks until they ascend into the higher dimensional state known as the Will o wisp. There are numerous legends about these dangerous chaotic beings in Europe; 

"The will-o'-the-wisp can be found in numerous folk tales around the United Kingdom, and is often a malicious character in the stories. In Welsh folklore, it is said that the light is "fairy fire" held in the hand of a púca, or pwca, a small goblin-like fairy that mischievously leads lone travellers off the beaten path at night. As the traveller follows the púca through the marsh or bog, the fire is extinguished, leaving them lost. The púca is said to be one of the Tylwyth Teg, or fairy family. In Wales the light predicts a funeral that will take place soon in the locality. Wirt Sikes in his book British Goblins mentions the following Welsh tale about púca.
A peasant travelling home at dusk sees a bright light traveling along ahead of him. Looking closer, he sees that the light is a lantern held by a "dusky little figure", which he follows for several miles. All of a sudden he finds himself standing on the edge of a vast chasm with a roaring torrent of water rushing below him. At that precise moment the lantern-carrier leaps across the gap, lifts the light high over its head, lets out a malicious laugh and blows out the light, leaving the poor peasant a long way from home, standing in pitch darkness at the edge of a precipice. This is a fairly common cautionary tale concerning the phenomenon; however, the ignis fatuus was not always considered dangerous. There are some tales told about the will-o'-the-wisp being guardians of treasure, much like the Irish leprechaun leading those brave enough to follow them to sure riches. Other stories tell of travelers getting lost in the woodland and coming upon a will-o'-the-wisp, and depending on how they treated the will-o'-the-wisp, the spirit would either get them lost further in the woods or guide them out.
Also related, the Pixy-light from Devon and Cornwall is most often associated with the Pixie who often has "pixie-led" travellers away from the safe and reliable route and into the bogs with glowing lights. "Like Poltergeist they can generate uncanny sounds. They were less serious than their German Weisse Frauen kin, frequently blowing out candles on unsuspecting courting couples or producing obscene kissing sounds, which were always misinterpreted by parents."[19] Pixy-Light was also associated with "lambent light"[20] which the Old Norse might have seen guarding their tombs. In Cornish folklore, Pixy-Light also has associations with the Colt pixie. "A colt pixie is a pixie that has taken the shape of a horse and enjoys playing tricks such as neighing at the other horses to lead them astray".[21][22] In Guernsey, the light is known as the faeu boulanger (rolling fire), and is believed to be a lost soul. On being confronted with the spectre, tradition prescribes two remedies. The first is to turn one's cap or coat inside out. This has the effect of stopping the faeu boulanger in its tracks. The other solution is to stick a knife into the ground, blade up. The faeu, in an attempt to kill itself, will attack the blade"
 the faeu boulanger (rolling fire) is actually doing is grounding itself out on the knife blade. The blade acts as a sort of occult lightning rod retaining the electrical 'finger print' of the last person who held the blade. 

The Asian varieties & subspecies of  Will - O'- the - wisps can be downright lethal in their own right. Only experienced occultists & black magicians should have any truck with these creatures;

"Aleya (or marsh ghost-light) is the name given to a strange light phenomena occurring over the marshes as observed by Bengalis, especially the fishermen of West Bengal and Bangladesh. This marsh light is attributed to some kind of marsh gas apparitions that confuse fishermen, make them lose their bearings, and may even lead to drowning if one decided to follow them moving over the marshes. Local communities in the region believe that these strange hovering marsh-lights are in fact Ghost-lights representing the ghosts of fisherman who died fishing. Sometimes they confuse the fishermen, and sometimes they help them avoid future dangers.

Chir batti (ghost-light), also spelled chhir batti or cheer batti, is a strange dancing light phenomenon occurring on dark nights reported from the Banni grasslands, its seasonal marshy wetlands[14] and the adjoining desert of the marshy salt flats of the Rann of Kutch[15] near Indo-Pakistani border in Kutch districtGujarat State, India. Local villagers have been seeing these sometimes hovering, sometimes flying balls of lights since time immemorial and call it Chir Batti in their KutchhiSindhi language, with Chir meaning ghost and Batti meaning light.[14]
Similar phenomena are described in Japanese folklore, including Hitodama (literally "Human Soul" as a ball of energy), Hi no Tama (Ball of Flame), Aburagae, Koemonbi, Ushionibi, etc. All these phenomena are described as balls of flame or light, at times associated with graveyards, but occurring across Japan as a whole in a wide variety of situations and locations. Kitsune, mythical yokai demons, are also associated with will 'o the wisp, with the marriage of two kitsune producing kitsune-bi (狐火), literally meaning 'fox-fire'.[16] These phenomena are described in Shigeru Mizuki's 1985 book Graphic World of Japanese Phantoms (妖怪伝 in Japanese)" 

Care should be taken when dealing with these variety as they have been known to congregate around entrances to the underworld & other vary dangerous Hell planes.

It has been suspected that there are deep occult ties between  a game called "Troy Town" (the last of which is a reference to actual practices involving labyrinths or labyrinthine dances & Arthur Machen's 'The White People' with Will O The Wisps.
These alien monsters fit into the weird alien mind other worldly landscape of the White People & may be further evidence of the deadliness of some occult & supernatural aspects of the weird space time of Fairyland.

The alien other planar landscape of places that 
Will O The Wisps create around them maybe part of the break down of space time caused by their mere presence. Certain black wizards & occultists have from time to time paid hags & Annis to create Will O The Wisps for them with human soul electrical essences. These Will O The Wisps will over time create naturally occurring chaos laced entrances to some of the darkest & most dangerous areas of Fairyland or the other realms. Often this is for the guarding of some forbidden treasure or occult dungeon  temple in the area.

Because of the vary dubious  nature of the hags its been implied that these realms border the most dangerous places of  The Dreamlands . Further speculation is best left to the experts & adventurers are advised to bring qualified priests & clerics with them to thwart the black efforts of both  
Will O The Wisps & their hag allies. 
During the far futures cycles it is known that when the Fey return that there will a vast population explosion of Will O The Wisps & the boggarts around the former cities of man. These monsters mark the points to the ruins that contain the most desirable & important relics of the former species known as mankind. There is some evidence that the "Aklo letters" known to occultists & black wizards allow communication with both Will O The Wisps &  colours out of space indicating that there may be an electrical component to both species. What is known that both species give each other a wide berth & will not impinge on the territories of the other. Extreme caution should be taken by adventurers when dealing with either species.  

  1. There are connections between Will O The Wisps & the elemental eye cults across the planes. 
  2. Monster Summoning rituals can serve to throw wisps into states of extreme violence & feeding frenzies 
  3. Warzones near swamps often attract vast numbers of wisps to the dying & wounded on certain historically significant battle fields. 
  4. Wisps are known to attend very powerful Elven black wizards as both familiars & bodyguards. 
  5. Swamp labyrinths created to house powerful fairy treasures should be avoided as they will have a network of Will O The Wisps & boggart attendants. 
  6. Cults of Chaos often attract wisps through their unhealthy sacrifices & practices of bloodshed. Corpse candles often are summoned during certain ceremonies & should be avoided by adventurers. 
  7. Powerful artifacts from fairyland often attract wisps & can summon them when needed. 
  8. Will O The Wisps will attract themselves to certain graveyards & places of occult power because of their connection to negative planar energies. 
  9. Entrances to the Abyss,  often have several wisp guardians who wait to feed on adventurers. 
  10. Wisps are often attached to swamps & marshland associated with the powers of Chaos & depravity. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Deep Evil & Abiding Corruption Of WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax For Your Old School Campaigns

"A combined wilderness and dungeon adventure scenario. Background information, referee's notes, encounter keys, outdoor and dungeon level maps, and new monsters and treasures. While designed to interface with THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH, this module is capable of standing alone."

Where do I begin with my storied & varied history with WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax? Stretching all of the way back to '83 my history with module begins in when my uncle's players encountered the norkers on their way back from raiding some nearby villages. We were still licking our wounds from getting our collective asses stung from S4 THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH. The opportunity to tackle nearby local monsters sounded like a great idea. 

In retrospect that wasn't a great idea at all. The ultra creepy atmosphere of the temple its proceedings around the local area caused all kinds of issues. The whole run of this module if done right can create on of the most pervading atmosphere of dread seen at the table." Jim Bambra reviewed The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun for White Dwarf, and gave it 9 out of 10 overall. Bambra noted that "The Temple is brought to life excellently and contains plenty for players to think about, gaining entry requires good tactical play and an imaginative approach is needed to fathom out the Temple's hidden secrets."
So why is so well loved? I think because of the fact that WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax creates a creditable Lovecraftian style adventure for Greyhawk. Tharizdun is an interloper god into Greyhawk whose very existence is dangerous to a wide variety of planes. This is a mad god who wished to seize   the churning Elemental Chaos, the realm of the fallen primordials, which he hoped to seize as his own

This isn't some run of the mill god but a mad bastard god whose machinations have seen him trapped right at the center of his own web of horror.  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun makes a lot of use of one of my favorite AD&D first edition monster books to great effect & that's the Fiend Folio.
Being known as the Elder Elemental Evil Eye, the god of WG4 has tricked a great number of entities into his web of influence; "
 known as the Elder Elemental Eye. In this guise, he communicated with the evil archomentalsImixOgremochYan-C-Bin, and Olhydra, the Princes of Elemental Evil, convincing them that they were his creations, thereby gaining their allegiance" This gives the dungeon master yet another link into the monster kin of the Fiend Folio

Now its no secret that I've attacked & reviewed 
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax before on this blog. But I really want to establish the heart & soul of some of the module's Weird Tales feel. I've heard that the final fate of the module is very anticlimactic but given the Lovecraftian or Weird Tales feel to WG4 I think that the ending is completely appropriate. 
Greyhawk is as much a campaign setting as a world whose events have echoes across the planes. Tharizdun isn't something to be taken lightly & possibly one of the most dangerous deities that a party of PC's can run into. "Tharizdun was one of the deities detailed in Dragon #294 (2002), in the article "Beings of Power: Four Gods of Greyhawk."" And yes whist this is third edition D&D the suggestions of the article offer some of the shades of power of the god in my opinion for campaign use. Sometimes its not about stats but the influence of a god on a campaign setting

The warped insanity of this god after he was trapped in the cyst for eternity can be summed up by the dogma of his cult;"  Even when he appeared to his followers, he only spoke to them in the form of a shrieking babble that was impossible for mortals to comprehend. The following are his assumed teachings, followed by his cults.[1]

Channel power to the Chained God, so he can break his chains. Retrieve lost relics and shrines to the Chained God. Pursue the obliteration of the world, in anticipation of the Chained God's liberation."

Players could run into his influence anywhere as he thrashes in his prison in the Abyss. All though 
G4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is a combined wilderness and dungeon adventure set in the Southern Yatil Mountains, focused on a temple dedicated to the evil and insane Greyhawk god Tharizdun. The dungeon master could have many different cult of the insane Greyhawk god appear in other campaign settings. This is something that I've done with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. A glyph here or a dedicated cult NPC there is all it takes to fire the imaginations of players.

This same tactic can be used in a variety of OSR games & recently dungeon master Steve & I were speaking about using 
G4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun  with Castles & Crusades. 

There are two ways to go about this one is to run  S4
THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH with C&C . This puts the PC's through their paces & get's the DM plenty of adventure opportunities to bring in WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax. 

The other way of handling this is to have different alien treasures & relics show up in other settings & dungeons. This is where things can get very interesting. For example I've played in games of  Victorious By Mike Stewart where artifacts of 
 archomentals, Imix, Ogremoch, Yan-C-Bin, &  Olhydra have show up next to those of Tharizdun.

This is the same tactic that I'll be using when running WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax in my 'Old Solar System' game coming up. Is  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax worth owning? Yes if the module is used in conjunction with S4 THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH. On its own WG4 takes a bit of work to utilize at the table.

We've seen a thousand trapped & dead gods in comic books & literature. Power wise I'd say that 
Tharizdun  is about on the same level as Dr.Strange's foe's Shuma Goroth's level. In fact they have a lot in common. World altering magics, fanatical cults, world shattering levels of insanity.

The fact is that if a dungeon master wanted to use Tharizdun in a modern setting then the classic issues of  Marvel Premiere #10, 1973 “Finally, Shuma-Gorath!”. These issues  would be an excellent template for a modern appearance of Tharizdun. All in all I think that 
 WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun By Gary Gygax is pretty underappreciated & utilized Greyhawk adventure by modern players & audiences.