Friday, March 22, 2019

OSR Campaign - I1 Dwellers In The Forbidden City By David 'Zeb' Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

"Somewhere in the heart of the steaming jungle lies the answer to the whispered tales - rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Here a brave party might find riches and wonders - or death! Is your party brave enough to face the terrors of the unknown and find the Forbidden City!?"
 David "Zeb" Cook's I1: "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" (1981) was the first adventure in TSR's new "intermediate" series of adventures. It was unleashed on the world in 1981 & the world of Sword & Sorcery Dungeons & Dragons was never the same!
"Somewhere in the heart of the steaming jungle lies the answer to the whispered tales - rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Here a brave party might find riches and wonders - or death! Is your party brave enough to face the terrors of the unknown and find - the Forbidden City! Information is presented here to reconstruct this exciting tournament and even more has been given to expand play. Here characters may adventure several times in a unique and interesting mini-campaign. Included in this module are background and tournament notes, referee's keys, new monsters, pre- generated characters, and eight different maps."
So begins the infamous I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City: An Adventure for Character Levels 4-7 (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) by David Cook published in 1981. 

Now I've talked about I1 "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" but what I haven't spoken of is how this using a mash up article  X6/I1 Quagmire/Dwellers of the Forbidden City mash-up by Demos Sachlas article over on the Vaults of Pandius. But this article  ties directly into mating up Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique with this for an over arching campaign. Because this is one of the prime modules for Dungeons & Dragons it has one of the best flavors for capturing the weird far future world of Zothique. The planes & lowlands have been flooded by the rising waters of the cycles of the sea. Zothique is perfectly suited for the I1 Quagmire/Dwellers mash up because of its description by CAS himself in a letter to another Lovecraft circle writer; 

"Clark Ashton Smith himself described the Zothique cycle in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp, dated November 3, 1953:
Zothique, vaguely suggested by Theosophic theories about past and future continents, is the last inhabited continent of earth. The continents of our present cycle have sunken, perhaps several times. Some have remained submerged; others have re-risen, partially, and re-arranged themselves. Zothique, as I conceive it, comprises Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, parts of northern and eastern Africa, and much of the Indonesian archipelago. A new Australia exists somewhere to the south. To the west, there are only a few known islands, such as Naat, in which the black cannibals survive. To the north, are immense unexplored deserts; to the east, an immense unvoyaged sea. The peoples are mainly of Aryan or Semitic descent; but there is a negro kingdom (Ilcar) in the north-west; and scattered blacks are found throughout the other countries, mainly in palace-harems. In the southern islands survive vestiges of Indonesian or Malayan races. The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days. Oars and sails alone are used by mariners. There are no fire-arms—only the bows, arrows, swords, javelins, etc. of antiquity. The chief language spoken (of which I have provided examples in an unpublished drama) is based on Indo-European roots and is highly inflected, like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin."

I1 "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" is one of those modules that drips with pulpy goodness & lacks the stodginess of late Eighties AD&D. "The module was written by game designer David "Zeb" Cook, who partly ascribes his hiring by TSR to his work on this module. In the adventure, the characters are hired to find an object taken to a lost oriental-style city, which has been taken over by a cult of snake-worshipers, the yuan-ti, and their servants, the mongrelmen and tasloi." 

Everything within I1 is geared for a South East Asian style adventure with its own unique Lovecraftian style twist. Having visited Thailand I can honestly say that the Yuan-ti can easily traded in for the Serpent of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Mr.Cook pulls a great deal of his monsters from the Fiend Folio making adapting this adventure one of the more easy tricks to pull off and easily adapted for AS&SH.

"I put the Hidden Shrine of Taomochan into the city" this makes perfect sense and there's some really great resources in the Expanding I1 The Dwellers In The Forbidden City Thread on Dragon's foot's forums. 
Another great set of suggestions is by Ulan Dhor:
"Imade some changes to the module detailed here:


My campaign journal for our run through the module is detailed here:


Have fun with it, I found it to be one of my favorite runs through a published module, lots of open ended potential.


Ulan Dhor"

Over the years I've kept thinking about the arrangement of the Forbidden City & its jungle environs as well as the areas around it. There's a certain Heart of Darkness feel to the whole thing or more to the point Robert Howard's Conan story, "The Pool of The Black One" which first appeared in Weird Tales October 1933. The oppressive atmosphere, the jungle motif, & the tone of the story all echo I1 even though Red Nails with its factions and lost city out of time might fit better. 'The Pool of the Black One' has that same sense of the lost in it that one finds in Dwellers of the Forbidden City. In fact the entire plot of the Pool of the Black One could be lifted & I1 could be mated with The Island of Dread to create a completely different take on old school adventure.

The roles of the various factions in I1 could be expanded as the adventure locations might bare out what exactly happened to the original inhabitants of the city. There are many weird Lovecraftian touches in I1 that could lead to even more adventure hooks and possibilities amid the ruins. One of my favorite monsters from the Fiend Folio is the Yellow Musk Creeper & Zombie. The Clark Ashton Smith story The Seed from the Sepulchre has some awesome suggestions about using such a Lovecraftian or is it Smithian monster.

Because of its very nature this monster has the potential to really abuse a party of adventurers ala Alien Covenant in ways they're not expecting. Not only does this make the monster memorable but very unique because it can be placed in a wide variety of points in the sandbox nature of ' Dwellers of the Forbidden City' In a similar vein is CAS 's The Demon of the Flower which can unleash all kinds of Hell upon a party and might be grown by the Yu erm serpent men.

There is the potential for a lot of movers & shakers from behind the scenes of the adventure as well including the 
aboleth who are some the craftiest bastards in AD&D first edition.The importance of these creatures should never be understated. These monsters can truly be some of the most dangerous NPC's a party can face. They're often used with cults and lots of minions in my games.

Used carefully & I1 Dwellers in The Forbidden City is still one of the best old school adventure campaign resources. It has lots old school adventure resource goodness to offer a DM for creating truly memorable campaigns.

+Dyson Logos  generously pointed out that he's done a number of maps for various locations throughout I1 Dwellers In The Forbidden City. "I've done some maps to detail some parts of the city when we last played through it."

" And for those planning on running it, here's a cleaned up scan of the main map with all DM notations removed - particularly handy if the party enters via the giant tree access point which gives them a good overview of the city"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.