Friday, February 22, 2019

Retro Review & Adventure Retooling With N2: The Forest Oracle By Carl Smith For Your Old School Campaigns

"The land lies under a curse. Fruit drops to the ground, its pulp black and rotten. Leaves curl and wither on the branches. Animals flee the parched vale, or starve. 

Long ago, the Downs prospered under the care of Druids, but the priests of nature have retreated deep into the woods and rarely show themselves. One old man claims that the Druids have the power to save the valley, if only someone could find their Oracle to seek help. Will you reach the Forest Oracle of the Druids in time? And if you do, can they really lift the curse? 

Or does the answer lie elsewhere? 

Only the most daring and cunning adventurers will save the Downs. "

There are times when heroes have to get their feet wet in the blood of the lower tiers of the wilderness & ruins of adventure. I've seen various reviews & overviews of 
N2: "The Forest Oracle" (1984), by Carl Smith all of which seem to indicate that this a very bad module. Alright so this is a module that seems to have an anemic adventure plot, very bad plotting, & in bad need of retooling. How would I retool this adventure?! The answer to me seems to be to take it & use if for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Hear me out here. The first thing out of the gate is to take the  of the downs setting & use it to the dungeon master's advantage with a bit of Clark Ashton Smith goodness. Take the fact that the region around the 'Downs' is someplace within seven or eight miles of  the dismal City-State of Khromarium. Link up the events of N1 with the back end of Rats in the Walls and Other Perils. 

This is going to take some of the levels that the PC's gained while playing through the events of Rats & then its going to get them ready for the follies of the 'Downs'. 

The players are going to have to find the druid after been their quest by the local mage. Here's where the elements of Clark Ashton Smith's 
The (1934)Seven Geases;comes in;

 "The glassy scaurs and grim ramparts of Mount Voormithadreth, highest and most formidable of the Eiglophians, had beetled above them, wedging the sun with dark scoriac peaks at mid-afternoon, and walling the blazonries of sunset wholly from view. They had spent the night beneath its lowermost crags, keeping a ceaseless watch, piling dead branches on their fires, and hearing on the grisly heights above them the wild and dog-like ululations of those subhuman savages, the Voormis for which the mountain was named. Also, they heard the bellowing of an alpine catoblepas pursued by the Voormis, and the mad snarling of a saber-tooth tiger assailed and dragged down; and Ralibar Vooz had deemed that these noises boded well for the morrow's hunting."

The wilderness & its encounters is very dangerous if used with some some the Hyperborean elements from AS&SH. As it stands N2 is a terrible adventure but with a bit of help the adventure can take on an almost Dreamlands quality about it. 'The Downs' should be under the alien influence of an AS&SH necromancer or worse something like a colour out of space. This place has been revoked & rebuked by the gods & so is under the effects of a curse.

The dungeon master is going to have to make the fairy & fiend haunted wilderness memorable with some of the encounters being thrown to a tale spin with new explanations, descriptions, & much more interesting Sword & Sorcery pulp adventure elements being added. The brigands are going to have to be deadly, the orcs much more competent, and the jealous nymph might be changed into the remains of a forgotten goddess. If we go with the idea that perhaps 'the Downs' was once the dwelling place of nymphs then events can get much more interesting. According to the Wiki entry on Nymphs; 
"Nymphs, always in the shape of young maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as DionysusHermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis.[1] Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs." 
Given what satyrs are in AS&SH then it might make sense then that this area of the 'Downs's might have been one of the battle sites for between the gods & man. The only reason why some of the events happening around 'the Downs' is because of the past  it as the sight of an apocalyptic battle in the past. The nymphs are now no more then a shadow of their former selves.


Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, The Souls of Acheron (1898),
from the 
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Is the ruins of the towers actually entrances into the twisted setting of Hyperborea's Underborea? Since the characters are starting at second level it makes sense that they'd be experiencing some very dangerous encounters with some of the  monsters of the underworld of Hyperborea. Encounters might up point to the really nasty danger that the characters are actually in by treading upon one of the apocalyptic ancient battle fields of Ragnarok.
The fact is that the ruined towers could actually have entrances much deeper into the world of Underborea. The wilderness is so dangerous because of the left over magical effects of the war for humanity's future that happened at some time in the distant past. Curing the land may only undue the worst effects of the chaotic & dangerous magical energies that were released in the 'Downs'. But the dangerous breaches to the Underworld remain. 

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