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! 

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