Sunday, March 17, 2019

The OSR Campaign Cycle of X5 Temple of Death by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

"Sent on a desperate mission into an unknown land, you must seek out one called "the Master" and his Temple of Death. There is little time to waste, as you must act before the Master's armies destroy your homelands. But to complete your task, you must battle fearsome guardians, travel through a hostile kingdom, and discover the secret of the Master. Can you survive his defenses and win? "

Well let's get right into it. If the characters have survived the events of 

The OSR Campaign Cycle of X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique.

Then things are going to really start getting hairy for them & the capital of Hyperborea is much more danger then it knows. Firs the official background for this module; "X5 Temple of Death is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure module designed by David Cook for use with the D&D Expert Set. It was written by David Cook and published by TSR, Inc. in 1983. The module is intended for player characters of levels 6-10."

The real issue here is the PC level which should be within range of the Temple of Death encounters & this module is straight up Robert Howard & Clark Ashton Smith action. The danger to the Hyperborea capital comes from the fact that the 'master's' assassins have been infiltrating the Hyperborean capital & making their way for committing political  assassinations there. This could in fact destabilize the entire Hyperborean political structure. This adventure  sub plot could become campaign side quest with assassins fighting at shadow war across the AS&SH campaign setting.

The PC's are going to be deep into the Great Pass where  the adventurers must cross the "sanctified land" of Hule. Hule is going to be a problem because it highlights the dangerous religious aspects of this module. The encounters that the PC's face are going to need to be shown restrain & face them down systematically. Hule is perfectly suited as Sword & Sorcery cult straight outta Conan & PC's are going to need to tread very carefully here.

 The occult desert city of Xambaala might have some back up information on Hule's deadly little secrets but the DM is going to have to do an excellent job of sprinkling in some tight links here. Possibly back dovetailing the adventure encounters into  Rats in the Walls and Other Perils if they've already run this adventure.

Why? Well if they've run this adventure then the player's PC's are going to know about some of the political upheaval going on in the Hyperborean capital. The players continue their quest to stop a war in Hyperborea  - making "Temple" one of the most pivotal  adventures that they find themselves in. That being said its here that the PC's are going to up to their necks in the Hyperborean wilderness. DM's are going to have to adapt some of the wilderness encounters of X5 for AS&SH. There are some really deadly bits here.

Two key stories here for X5 in my humble opinion from Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique cycle  are Garden of Adompha, The (1938) & In the Book of Vergama (1934). Both of which really capture the alieness that X5 brings to the table. X5 Temple of Death is a huge & expansive module in the sense that it can & will send a party off into a million directions unless the DM reigns in the adventure elements.  The Great Pass in the Black Mountains has set, numbered locations as a dungeon adventure rather than wilderness. The chapter on Hule and the Dark Wood are very well thought out. The Great Pass for example can get outta hand unless the DM has gone over it with a fine tooth comb.

All of these events in X5 Temple of Death can be used to highlight some of the adventure set up that we used in B4 The Lost City. The cults of Zargon take a back seat as the influence of the Master's cult murders & gains dominance in the lands of Hyperborea. But don't worry this is all a part of Zargon's plans & schemes.

Because Hyperborea is so isolated all of these events are going to take a long time to unfold. On Zothique these events are simply going to be another chain if the unfolding of politics & sorcery but things are going to get very weird & more deadly tomorrow! 

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