Friday, May 31, 2019

The Dire Legacy of Good Man Games OAR #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks By Gary Gygax & Michael Curtis

"The Grand Duchy of Geoff has called for help, asking for you to investigate a mysterious cave in the Barrier Peaks, and it's unlike any other cave in the world. In fact, it's not really a cave at all. It does however have alien inhabitants—crazed robots, eerie androids, and even stranger things—who endanger the world. The adventurers must confront these threats and navigate the unearthly interior of the wrecked starship, puzzling over and mastering alien technology to defeat their foes. If you’ve ever had the urge to zap an umber hulk with a laser rifle while commanding a robotic servant, this adventure is for you!"

So Goodman Games just sent me the latest announcement in the 
Original Adventures Reincarnated line of products. OAR #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is going to follow in the wake of the other titles in that line which means that its going to be fifth edition D&D & I find myself increasingly not liking that system. If your playing Fifth edition D&D fantastic for you. But let's take a step back for a moment & think about what this module means for campaign play. Now if OAR #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks follows in the foot steps of other titles in the OAR line then we're looking at an expanded Warden, adventure encounters, & much more. 

Now I've been reading early issues  of 'The  Dragon' magazine which covers many different early game products in the TSR line. This includes Metamorphosis Alpha first edition which I've used in the past to expand S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax. Corridors, rooms, etc. can all be switched up for more expansive play. Why? Because many players know S3 inside & out. Change the encounters up a bit or expand upon the ship using the table in Metamorphosis Alpha & things get very interesting. 

Another Metamorphosis Alpha art piece by Trampier

But let's talk about the four hundred ton gorilla in the room that nobody mentions the various alternative world versions of the Warden. The ship is a world ender & really a campaign starter across a number of D&D settings including Blackmoor, & Mystara because I personally think that the U.S.S. Beagle was or is a part of the Warden's colony fleet. The technology, the cybernetic life forms, etc. are all very similar in many respects. So who or what would be after the Warden that crashes into the Barrier Peaks? Well two vile NPC villains come to mind right off the bat. St.Stephen of the Rock & his cult of Froggies have the time, motivation, & technology to cross worlds & the Warden would be a prime target.

But then there's also Egg of Coot whose more then capable of using planar travel to get that sweet savory technology. The Egg of Coot loves to to use to enslave various peoples as minions & expand its planar  way stations & check points of its higher dimensional empire. But is it the only interested party in S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax? Sure there's the Egg of Coot but are we forgetting some one or something? Aboard the Warden there are any number of intelligent alien species & creatures that have their own agendas especially the Mind Flayers.Copyright & Trademarked artwork to Jeff Dee used without permission.

If OAR #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks  is going to expand the encounters, monsters, and perimeters of the Gary Gygax classic then we might see that the Mind Flayers aboard the Warden not only crashed it. But they  created the planar & dimensional rift to create the various alternative versions of the ship to expand their species! This species appears in Blackmoor, Mystara, & Greyhawk but can be encountered anywhere in the planes quite literally.

Is it really the Mind Flayers behind all of the events aboard the Warden? Including dumping every last monster could be a tactic to terriform some of these world settings. The wreckage of the Warden is world altering & will continue to bleed into the Duchy of Geoff. 
What will this mean for those who live in the area? Well I've got a few ideas in this direction:

  1. The Mind Flayers make contact with the outpost that they've already established on Greyhawk 
  2. The reactors aboard the Warden go critical & spew weird radiations across the countryside causing all kinds of havoc. The weird radiation might cause all kinds of mutations & horrors. 
  3. The confusion caused by the crash within the Barrier Peaks might be just the sort of distraction that a wizard or cabal might be waiting for to take over. 
  4. There could be any number of Dark Druids waiting to grab some of these alien monsters to cause evil in various parts of Greyhawk.
  5. There could be a hidden evil we've not seen within the Warden & that might be yet another unknown waiting to spring forth from the bowels of the ship. 
These are just off the top of my head & there might be some other mind blowing revelations to come out of OAR #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks  but we'll have to wait & see. 

The Warden, The War, & The Hit Squad, Using Dragon Issue #6 For Campaign Expansion or Our Next Session Report

Some of the older issues of 'The Dragon' has been crossing my radar & nightstand of late. There were lots of articles that would go on to form the foundation of the backbone of Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition by James Ward & later on to form the basis of Gamma World 1st edition. Wayback in February  I wrote about the gods of Greyhawk taking an interest in events on Gamma Terra. 
A lots happened since February including some players having conflicting schedules & several missed opportunities with games & such because of my job.

One of the things that happened is various players non interest in fifth edition driven games. So I've been really thinking about a more BECMI D&D
 & Mutant Future rpg driven post apocalyptic & post fantasy  fueled campaign direction for my games. Blackmoor, Mystara, the original Gygax Greyhawk, & several other old school campaign settings are behind this.  There's also a certain amount of OSR & Dungeon Crawl Classics  compatibility within this ball of gaming wax.  I've been going back to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & some of the OSR adventures of that game which I've used to great effect over the years. There's something very compelling about an alien world scarred after the effects of Ragnarok have come & gone. The old gods are dead & the future of mankind is stark at best. The two things I want to continue to do is to pit Saint Stephen of the Rock against the the bio mechanical goodness of the Egg of Coot. 

Over the last couple of months I've written extensively about my post apocalyptic California using many of the Mutant Future monster conversions of Chris Van Deleen. I'm going to continue to do so with some tweaks. But last night I was thinking about my notes from the seas of California using the Metamorphosis  Alpha rpg  article from The Dragon issue #6 AN ALTERNATE BEGINNING SEQUENCE FOR METAMORPHOSIS: ALPHA by Guy W. McLimore, Jr.

"In a special hidden section of the lost starship Warden, an engineering robot discovers a minor cable break. Drawing a small torch from its built-in tool kit, the necessary repair is soon made. This circuitry interruption which has remained undiscovered and untended for many, many years is now closed, and a special computer signal sent long ago finally reaches its destination. Relays close, and a special computer unit is activated, setting into motion a special genetic laboratory. Immediately, micro-miniature manipulators withdraw samples of human tissue from a freezer storage compartment. Unnoticed by the electronic controlling device is a cracked and damaged radioactive power capsule nearby which contaminates some of the withdrawn tissue cultures. The quick-frozen cells are moved to tanks of a special growth medium and are electrically stimulated. The cells begin to multiply, rapidly . . . Weeks later, the tanks hold full-grown adult human bodies. Some appear normal; others have strange deformities and mutations induced by the unexpected dose of radiation. All are limp, unmoving, devoid of intelligence and identity. Once again, micro manipulators move in, this time to attach wires and sensor strips to the foreheads of the newly-grown clones. In a matter of days, computer tapes full of general human knowledge and specific ship-related skills are played directly into the clones’ brain synapses. But again old computer malfunctions and worn-out circuitry combine to leave large gaps in the intended programming of the new potential crew members. There will be unfortunate perhaps eventually tragic lapses in their memories of the ship and its functions."

The idea is that the Egg of Coot activates the clone banks on board another generation vessel from 'The Warden' fleet on the ocean's floor of the island & wastelands of California. Things are about to get very interesting for our PC's as a group of mutants begins to hunt them across the planes.
So where does that leave the PC's of the year 2100? They'll be having to watch their backs this upcoming session. How did the Egg gain control of this ship & what sort of equipment has it armed its minions with? Where the Hell are the PC's & what roll does Zothique play in this madness? 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

OSR Commentary Hacking AS&SH's Khromarium From TSR's LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE By Anthony Pryor (Author), & Fred Fields (Editor)

 Last night I dreamed that there was a box set of the city of Khromarium from Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. There were maps of the city & various hard core NPC encounters, variable maps of the city to explore & so forth. Then I woke up completely disappointed or did I?! Ages ago when Second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was doing setting after setting box sets & various product lines I collected one of the lesser known ones that's served me so very well over the years. 

"LANKHMAR… city of thieves, city of the night, city of adventure. Home of Fritz Leiber's famous heroes, FAFHRD and the GRAY MOUSER, the greatest adventurers in the world of Nehwon. The city of Lankhmar springs to life as an exciting setting for the AD&D 2nd Edition game.
Visit the fabled Rainbow Palace, stroll the surly streets of the old town, haggle at the marketplace, or risk the winding maze of the Tenderloin. From the wharves and shipyards to the dark sewers of this mighty metropolis, LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE takes you on a full tour."
As a dungeon master this book has been updated for second edition AD&D which means that its readily usable for OSR games. Second it has maps & descriptions that push it over the edge for use with gaming. Lots of high concept & easy usable bits & pieces such as the humanoid rats lots & lots of em. 

 Now I can hear the old timers howling for the moon to use the old Chaosium Thieves' World Box set city Sanctuary! No there are several reasons why using the LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE book is key for AS&SH. All of the stats are readily usable with the AS&SH first of all. Second the maps are very well done & third is the fact that these books are still relatively inexpensive. Wayne's got the book for around thirty dollars & ebay has the books for cheaper. But I like Wayne because he's upfront & answers questions very quickly.
While I know that Dungeon Crawl Classics has been doing Lankhmar products for quite sometime. But the Lankhmar City of Adventure book is one  that I've got on hand & ready to go. There are several reasons for this:
  1. The city cartography is excellent & easily adaptable for AS&SH or any OSR game. 
  2. Sword & Sorcery elements fit nicely into a wide variety places on AS&SH's Hyperborea 
  3. There are a wide variety of urban based elements that fit into a portrait of Khromarium that is both usable & dynamic. 
  Given all of these reasons & several others AS&SH's Khromarium can be easily brought to life using  LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE book as several of the factions fit & fix into place the structure of the Green Death descended  city. The PC's come face to face with the true inheritors of the city of capital city in the AS&SH  'The Rats in The Walls & Other Perils' adventure. 

Not only do these two adventure  puzzle pieces connect but they put the PC's right into the heart of a dangerous conspiracy & mystery involving the Skaven erm rat men in the sewers of the heart of the urban Sword & Sorcery cross roads. I'd use 
AS&SH's Khromarium as the base of operations for the PC's once the rat problem was cleaned up. Then begin porting in the other side of the world as  Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. All of the elements are already present within both  LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE book & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea to run expand upon the CAS classic adventure setting.

  This gives the campaign setting a very interesting & unique twist or two while making the setting your own & since the TSR's LANKHMAR: CITY OF ADVENTURE isn't well know to the newest generation of players then no sacred cows have been slaughtered. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Using The Dragon Magazine Issue #10 To Get Your Sword & Sorcery Adventurers Into Brand New Trouble erm A Campaign

The Dragon magazine by its very nature from the early days has more of a tool box feel to it. That makes it relevant to even today's OSR scene & from there we're going to dive into one of my favorite issues. The Dragon Magazine, Issue 10 from 1977 has so much good stuff in it from Tom Wham's Snit Smashing to some of the more interesting angles for getting rid of loot.  I always wanted to take this cover & turn the butterfly winged fire elemental into a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.

Let's get this bit right outta the way, Wayne's Books has the excellent reference site for both the early The Dragon magazine & the latter Dragon magazine issues. But issue ten is both infamous & special in a variety of ways but let's look at the contents; " GenCon X Report; Snit Smashing; The Diplomatic Stellar Conquest Player; Final Exam (Wargame Design 202); Fantasy Forge (phigure photos); Orgies, Inc. (burning up excess loot); Random Monsters (defeating the encyclopedic PC's); Weights, Measures, Physical Appearance, etc; Gaining a New Experience Level; Unique Wilderness Encounters; Rational Dungeon Design; Finieous Fingers, Wormy; more." Anyhow its actually the contents that I want to extensively talk about today & particularly "Too much loot in your campaign? D&D OPTION: ORGIES, INC. by Jon Pickens". Wait a minute before you leave the blog entirely I'm not talking about getting into details a bout orgies but what sort of black screen antics that PC's can get themselves into. You don't have to dwell on the details at all. Even though the article is meant for original Dungeons & Dragons, it has baring for many Sword & Sorcery OSR games according to the author ; "(Author’s Note: To avoid confusion later, in this article Lawful equals Good and Chaotic equals Evil and you can make your own extrapolations from there.) This article suggests one answer to a vexing problem that appeared in local play: too much treasure in the scenario. After the players amassed a few thousand GP equipment costs became irrelevant, though the players had nowhere near enough money for luxuries like private towers or galleys. But there was far too much cash for the players to simply leave in their rooms at the local inn. This couldn’t be right; Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser never had it so good! And the poor harried ref had to continually devise sneaky ways to divest his players of their ill-gotten gains. The best solution would have been a simple method for removing large quantities of treasure from the game; releasing the referee to spend more time developing and managing the scenario. The solution is simple: “Instead of receiving experience for gaining treasure, players would receive experience only as the treasure is spent.” The expenditure in GP is divided by the level of the character to determine experience. The divisor is limited to the number of hit dice allowed for the character class. The divisor is used only for experience from treasure and has nothing to do with experience for monster kills or miscellaneous experience awarded by the referee." In other words you the dungeon master isn't screwing the players outta of experience points only separating them from their gold.
But I can already hear the eyes rolling in the back of many dungeon master's heads. Wait one little second if your running a game such as Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & really want to to get your players in real hot water then grab your handy copy of 
Drunken Debauchery! by Colin Chapman.  Then "Too much loot in your campaign? D&D OPTION: ORGIES, INC. by Jon Pickens" & suddenly the player's PC's wake up with more then a hang over. They may be neck deep in debt to a loan shark or worse a wizard. 

And this brings us to the errand that the wizard has planned for some party of idiots ermm adventurers. What the PC's don't realize is that the master or madame of the brothel in question is actually the front for the largest assassin's guild/spy network in the employ of the country's royals. They've got a massive problem just outside the city. There's a large container of leaking magical toxic waste left over from after the days of the Green Death. This brings us to the horror that you rolled up using RANDOM MONSTERS by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh article. Now I can hear the OSR dungeon masters going but I own James Edward Reggie IV's "Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra". Well guess what sunshine your gonna need that book too because your party of adventurers have just become abomination & monster hunters. 

This whole train wreck of a thought process can easily be applied to say Dungeon Crawl Classics, Lamentations of the Flame Princess or even Basic or Original Dungeons & Dragons perhaps even Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with very little preparation. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tombs, Crypts, & Other Smaller Scale Dungeon Adventure locations Using The Dragon magazine issue #9 from 1977.

Having a campaign element in mind sometimes means going back to the collective well of Dungeons & Dragons original goodness for adventure advice & elements. In this case its reaching back into the archives of Casa De Fabiaschi & pulling out The Dragon magazine issue #9 from 1977.

At first it doesn't seem all that important an issue but let's look a bit deeper into those contents shall we from Wayne's Books Dragon magazine index;
DM's Brew (Mixing Alignments in D&D) by Gary Gygax; The Finzer Family (concluding a tale of Modern Magic) by H.O. Fischer; From the Fantasy Forge (new figures reviewed); Seal of the Imperium (Empire of the Petal Throne) by M.A.R. Barker; Fastest Guns That Never Lived, pt. 2 (adding movie greats to Boot Hill); Tombs & Crypts (preparing those "special" hoards in D&D) by Jim Ward; Comix Cache (humor section); more. The article 'Tombs & Crypts' (preparing those "special" hoards in D&D) by Jim Ward is the one that I've been looking for for the last day or so. At the center of an upcoming adventure I've got a treasure residing within a tomb that the entire adventure centers around. The article provides a simple but very effective system that can be used for older editions of Dungeons & Dragons or as Mr Ward states;
"The mystery, challenge and pleasure of any wargamer in discovering and opening a tomb of some unknown being is well known to those that have done it. The creation of these tombs can be a very drawn out, head scratching process for the judge. I have created a set of graphs to ease this creation process. The top row of numbers in the first graph stand for the following: 1. Soldier, 2. Hero, 3. Priest, 4. Pair, 5. Mated. Pair, 6. Lord, 7. King, 8. Patriarch, 9. EHP, 10. Magic User, 11. Wizard, 12. Being."One thing I've always loved about James Ward's writing its straight to the point with little adjective laden manure. Tombs are simple & super effective adventure setting that have a few advantages over other adventure locations. Tombs can be played within an evening & there's some advantages to using only a simple guardian monster or two along with some tricks or traps. Tombs & crypts are perfect meeting places for cults or as undead lairs.

Players seem to respect the usual dungeons & mega dungeon campaign locations but tombs offer a closer urban or rural alternative to the usual run of the mill adventure locations. They can also be filled with many monsters to keep the players guessing. The system for creating special hoards by Mr. Ward has some true advantages for the dungeon master looking to change things up a bit for the players. I think one disavantage of the OSR movement has been the fact that many of the various random tables, treasure generators,etc. present within the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide have become far too well known. This means that we as dungeon masters have to go a bit further afield or become more creative for the great game that we all know & love. 

The tomb or crypt as undead lair conjures up all kinds of images but there's lots of opportunities to present a fuller & much more dangerous tomb or lair. Where is the treasure coming from & why is the monster hunting to gain it.  Motives for the monsters is only a small part of the adventure opportunity offered by these locations. Here's ten reasons why tombs make fantastic adventure location: 

  1. Tombs & crypts are only a small part of the compete package of a campaign setting & in fact be used as a candy sampler of the upcoming adventures within a campaign. Adventure elements & monsters can be used as a mini preview of coming adventure attractions. 
  2. Tombs offer a perfect base for a mid level or lower tier boss monster to confound or try to outright slay the PC's. 
  3. Crypts are the perfect location for cults to operate from especially rich vile villains using his family crypt as a base. 
  4. Crypts & tombs also are perfect locations for post apocalyptic games such as Mutant Future or Gamma World 
  5. These places are the perfect areas to place the local relic or artifact because one of the previous owners had the thing buried with them. 
  6. Tombs & Crypts can also be the prefect spot for lone assassins to operate from with a campaign. 
  7. Tombs & crypts make perfect meeting spots for thieves guilds. 
  8. Some abandoned  tombs & crypts are the perfect location for dark druids to use as grove points. 
  9. These locations are the perfect spot for drop points & cache points for spies. These locations are perfect for PC's to stumble upon. 
  10. Tombs & Crypts force player's to all always think on their feet. The unexpected is right around the corner. 

Review & Commentary On CBI-2 The Thonian Rand Source book By Havard & Friends For Your Old School Campaigns

Blackmoor the name conjures up images of everything from the First Fantasy Campaign to some of the corner stones of Dungeons & Dragons as we know it. I'm not going to get bogged down in gushing about Dave Arneson  co creator of Dungeons & Dragons. But I quietly keep my hand churning in the Blackmoor fandom. When Havard's Blackmoor blog & the Comeback Inn  announced a new free Blackmoor supplement well I had to get in on the action CBI-2 The Thonian Rand Source book 

"The Comeback Inn is proud to announce the second in the series of Thonian Empire Province Sourcebooks. Written by Havard and friends, this sourcebook details the northwestern border province of the Thonian Empire. "

According to Havard himself, "I tried to include the most important things for running a campaign in that area as well as making the Province feel unique or at least different from other Provinces" The introduction goes deeper into this point; "What follows is the second booklet detailing the provinces of the Thonian Empire, a realm in the world of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor. This is my take on the Province known as the Thonian Rand While much of it is based on published information from the DA modules and the FFC as well as some ZGG material, the final interpretation is my own. I make no claim for it being any official interpretation. Thanks to Rafael, LoZompatore, Aldarron, James Mishler, Agathokles, RobJN, Cthulhdrew, Greg Svenson and many unnamed members of the Mystara Community and the people of the Comeback Inn Forum for research and ideas that was used in this PDF. This booklet details the Thonian Rand in the year 1030, the time of the ZGG Blackmoor product line, 5 years after the DA modules"

This timing distinction makes the placement of this sourcebook incredibly important for its use as an adventure jump off point. Here the player's PC's are going to be in the thick of this twenty two page book. This book has annotations about past products such as 

DA3 City of the Gods.  In fact scattered through out the book are references to other Blackmoor & Dave Arneson writings. 

"The Thonian Empire is a tyrannical realm ruled by an evil and corrupt Emperor and his lieutenants in an oppressive system.", and this book dives right into the hows & whys of it with notes right off the bat for PC's coming from the empire itself. The layout is easy on the eyes & the font works very well for the book. Each province is given over to detail but not overly so that one sometimes find in other Dungeons & Dragons products. There's a coherency that one finds throughout the source book according to Havard this was a labor of love; "I actually started working on this book back in 2014, but only recently got back to it. One reason it took me so long is that I am writing one book for each of the 10 Provinces and trying to make them feel coherent" We see this throughout the twenty two pages details from Blackmoor permeate the book such as the new updated version of the Tarnsmen ala Gor who have been decoupled from their Gorian past. Now their Hawkriders even though the term Tarnsmen is still used;
"Believed related to the Peshwa, Hawkriders is a culture of humans living in the various mountain ranges of the North. Sometimes known as Tarnsmen, this people are best known for those among their numbers who ride gigantic Warhawks. Although the term Hawkrider is used to refer to the group as a whole, only a few of each clan have the gift allowing them to ride these creatures. " I'm glad to see their inclusion in this book & their legacy carried on & throughout we get more details & ideas.
We really get into the factions of the Thonian empire & there's lots of good stuff to get into. Then we dive into the geography, regions, politics, etc. of the Thonian Empire & make no mistake this is a dangerous region. This book can be used for PC's but the Thonian Empire sourcebook in many ways reminds me of the Greyhawk box set & folio. Areas that have interesting factions, ideas, & really dangerous NPC's. The section on Rogues, Rascals and Regents of The Rand has some fantastic NPC's & let's take this gnome mover & shaker for example; 

"Artigan of Foglesby
 Neutral Good 11th level Gnome Inventor,
Str 13, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 17, Wis 11, Cha 15
This Gnome is a colleague of astronomer Galen of Lato. Artigan was working closely with Galen when Artigan built a mechanical sparrow for his daughter around 40 years ago. This resulted in a number of mechanical animals being created in Evedhar. Every noble in Thonia wanted one so Gnomes began working hard to supply those in demand of such a toy. (This character is briefly mentioned in Clock & Steam, by Zeitgeist Games)"

All of Artigan's stats tie deeply back into the regions & other locations described within the  CBI-2 The Thonian Rand Source book  This is something that we see again & again with each & everything covered. This is the mark of a good & solidly useful product in my mind.

So how can the 
 CBI-2 The Thonian Rand source book  be used? Well that's where things get really interesting. The sourcebook can be used to update existing adventures such as 

DA4 The Duchy of Ten by David J. Ritchie to a more updated campaign..

 Or CBI-2 The Thonian Rand Source book  could be used to fill in many of the Blackmoor puzzle pieces that have over the years slipped through the cracks. But in point of fact the book could be used to start a brand new campaign set within the Rand setting itself. The cartography is well done & Blackmoor's evil empire never looked better. Do I think you should download the CBI-2 The Thonian Rand Source book? In a word absolutely! 

Get this sourcebook at the Comeback Inn

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Clark Ashton Smithian Ecology of The Half Orc in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea with Help From Dragon Issue #62

Its Memorial Day here in New England & most of the last two days I've spent it with some veteran friends & players of mine listening to war stories. If your reading this & a veteran thank you for your service.

One of the things we began to discuss was Dragon magazine issue #62 was released in June of 1982. And its notable for two things the ground breaking article Point of View Half Orcs By Roger E. Moore & Gods of the Orcs. Gods of Orcs is also by the same highly underrated author of TSR's classic halcyon days. Now the conversation turned to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea which it seems to always with this group of friends of mine. The discussion went something like, 'There's no way that you could include the half orc as a PC option in AS&SH' or something to that effect.

This race  whole cloth could be transported  from AD&D  over to AS&SH but the question becomes why & how. There are certainly any number of ways of doing this in keeping with the Hyperborean ethos. It some powerful Ixian wizard warlord got a hold of the half demon orcs of AS&SH & wanted a far more intelligent but disposable soldier. Then the half orc begins to gain viability. Especially one of the higher level wizards who was using the material of Ubbo-Sathla to create half orc soldiers. 
"There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life. Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror; and loathsome, if there had been any to feel loathing. About it, prone or tilted in the mire, there lay the mighty tablets of star-quarried stone that were writ with the inconceivable wisdom of the pre-mundane gods.
Clark Ashton SmithUbbo-Sathla" 

The durablity of orcs & the intelligence of humans as half orc soldiers is within the realm of possibility for a wizard such as Clark Ashton Smith's Maal Dweb or his Ixian counter part. Goblins soldiers are more likely to be the cannon fodder who are led by a half orc commander perhaps made from common human beings. We see exactly this sort of an occult chimerical shape change in  The Maze of Maâl Dweb by 
Clark Ashton Smith

"Baffled and terrified, he felt that Maal Dweb, the allseeing, all-potent magician, was playing a game and was deluding him with elaborate mockeries. Rashly indeed had Tiglari pitted his simple brawn and forest craft against a being capable of such demoniac artifice. He dared not stir, he scarcely ventured to breathe. The monstrous reflections appeared to watch him like giants guarding a captive pigmy. The light, which streamed as if from hidden lamps in the mirrors, took on a more pitiless and alarming luster. The reaches of the room seemed to deepen; and far away in their shadows he saw the gathering of vapors with human faces that melted and reformed incessantly and were never twice the same.
Ever the weird radiance brightened; ever the mist of faces, like a hell-born smoke, dissolved and re-limned itself behind the immobile giants, in the lengthening vistas. How long Tiglari waited, he could not tell: the bright frozen horror of that room was a thing apart from time."

Half orcs & even half ogres are going to be one off creatures used for the whims of their wizard makers. I know what your thinking there are enough degenerate humans that can fill in the gaps here already in the game. Just as their are a wide variety of beings filling the ranks of soldiers for various 'higher men races' of Hyperborea so too are there humanoids filling the ranks of wizards who must compete with these.


But it goes deeper then the obvious arms race against the servants of  semi extinct races of  'higher' men. Abominations on Hyperborea are perhaps a bit too easily made & there may be a very dangerous reason for this. CAS created another rival great old one to Ubbo-Sathla in the form of Abhoth; "Abhoth ("The Source of Uncleanliness") resides in the cavern of Y'quaa beneath Mount Voormithadreth. It is a horrid, dark gray protean mass and is said to be the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination.""[H]e described a sort of pool with a margin of mud that was marled with obscene offal; and in the pool a grayish, horrid mass that nearly choked it from rim to rim... Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk. 
Clark Ashton SmithThe Seven Geases"

What happens if the ancient Hyperborean wizards used material from 
Ubbo-Sathla  & the modern Ixian wizards inheritors of their art have been using  Abhoth as a means of a short cut & to speed the time of their soldiers manufacturing. Only their bringing about their own doom. You see some sources have suggested that both of these gods are actually one & the same part of the primal Chaos from GreoRoman mythology.
Chaos by George Frederic Watts
Every last Dungeons & Dragons D&D style monster within AS&SH is ultimately birthed by & carries the legacy of 
Ubbo-Sathla & Abhoth because their one & the same. But there's much more going on that just that; "Hesiod and the Pre-Socratics use the Greek term in the context of cosmogony. Hesiod's chaos has been interpreted as either "the gaping void above the Earth created when Earth and Sky are separated from their primordial unity" or "the gaping space below the Earth on which Earth rests"" 
So is there room for the 'gods of the orcs' on Hyperborea? Absolutely. The gods of the orcs are their higher dimensional arch types  given birth from both the plane of dreams mixed with the primal chaos or they might be beings of chaos from another world such as Greyhawk. They are  responding to the primal cry of horror & birth that echoes from the throats of goblins, half orcs  & ogres from the birthing matrices of Hyperborea. Half orcs are not so easily dismissed from the table top especially in the OSR or on Hyperborea

Half orc shaman by Markus Röncke 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Troubled Waters of Ghosts of Saltmarsh As OSR Adventure Campaign Fodder Plus Free Material

So I spoke the other day about using Fifth edition's latest Dungeons & Dragons title Ghosts of Saltmarsh & somewhat how I would OSR the book out. But I didn't get into too much detail but now I want to dive right into the deeper parts of the book. The first thing I would do is to establish a bit more detail about the fact that this takes place around the Greyhawk setting. But me being the dungeon master I'm I would switch things around by using Ghosts of Saltmarsh to flesh out some of the other adventure elements that are presented in the book into a whole sale complete campaign. How? 

I'd take the events described in  “Dunwood” & then take grab my copy of the classic 

L1 The Secret of Bone Hill By  Lenard Lakofka & flesh out more of the region described in the book then set it around Lenore isles. Yes I know that the village of the fishing port of Restenford described in L1 The Secret of Bone Hill has been used as stand in for Saltmarsh village  in the past. 

With a bit more work on the DM's part the events of Saltmarsh while expanded upon could be changed up & perhaps  the fishing port of Restenford might still be another overlap location to the war of Saltmarsh where the Deep One invaders try to take over. So let's say that your group of players plays through  Ghosts of Saltmarsh and the module is all done or are events are concluded well not quite. Down the coast from Saltmarsh  the peculiar town of Port Greely   severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned. This leads our adventurers into the heart of another beach head of the coming war with the Deep Ones. The Mystery At Port Greely is the perfect add on ad junction to bringing this expanded fifth edition module into a full  blown Sword & Sorcery campaign. Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea might be the perfect retroclone to actually bring this campaign off. 

By taking Ghosts of Saltmarsh & setting within Brigand's Bay from AS&SH we get a dangerous situation in which the Deep Ones of "Dunwood” are encroaching dangerously close to the Hyperborean capital city & its environs. Do you want even more detail for the areas around 'Dunwood'? Well earlier I mentioned L1 The Secret of Bone Hill By  Lenard Lakofka . Well for years now Lenard Lakofka has been doing some excellent free  campaign expansions for the Lenore Islands on Dragon's Foot called the Kroten Campaign Companion for the L5 module. 

"This manual describes the Town of Kroten and the nearby area, which is located on Lendore Isle in the World of Greyhawk. Details include nomenclature used by the author, world background, and local features. Also included is a detailed description of the Town of Kroten, excepting three key areas: The Fane of Syrul, the Fane of Pyremius, and the Castle Kroten itself. These areas are described in L5B: The Kroten Adventures"

This material makes an excellent background setting for 
Ghosts of Saltmarsh or the original U1 The Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh adventure for first edition AD&D. The fact is that there's plenty of material here to lay out many years worth of an epic campaign. In point of fact this entire adventure arch would make an excellent Castles & Crusade or Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure having the PC's surviving on of the earlier raids on their villages. They survive to take up the life of an adventurer.

Using The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games For Dungeon Crawl Classics or Any Old School Campaign

Yesterday I wrote about Castles & Crusades along with one of the better fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons books that I've bought Ghosts of Saltmarh. Today I wanted to go back in time to another era & speak about one of the better regarded 3.0 edition era books that can be used with Castles & Crusades. Another book that I think shouldn't be confined to the dustbin of the 3.0 era is The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games. 

This book presents the Beholder as it needs to be a nasty & rather dangerous horror waiting to take on parties of adventurers in its own environment & its own terms. This is a dungeon master book right from the get go & incorporates  both the dreaded beholder & the beholder kin into a rather nasty package. There are tons of ideas here including beholder cults & all kinds of nastiness for the DM to inflict on his or her players. The eyekin are humans corrupted by beholders & are sort of available as a playable race.

Bradley K. McDevitt's artwork is among some great artwork in
The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games

The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games came out right in the middle of the D20 boom & its still a great game book to use to add beholders into a game campaign. Here's where the dice hit the table. The Complete Guide to Beholders could be easily used as a launch point for a full scale beholder invasion of a campaign.

The Eyekin warriors planarly gate into the campaign world & begin to fry everything. Those that survive are going to be the party of adventurers. The PC funnel is now complete. Step two is to introduce the various beholder generals & warlords leading the army. The PC's find out about the plans of the beholders through a dungeon or adventure location & then begin to incorporate their own resistance. And the campaign continues with the DM trotting out various beholder types & horrors featured in the book.  This same plan could be used with Mutant Crawl Classics as well to really change events up in a Mutant Crawl Classics game.

In terms of the Castles & Crusades rpg retroclone the switch over with the The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games isn't all that of a power stat struggle. The book is very low key when it comes to working up the stats over to a campaign. The Complete Book of Beholders from Goodman Games is also a perfect add over for a game of the Amazing Adventures rpg

There's a great article on using eyekin as PC's on Geek Native right over here.  

Saturday, May 25, 2019

OSR Commentary - Castles & Crusade Dreams of Dungeons & Editions - Ghosts of Saltmarsh

The Castles & Crusades rpg series of products  has been a very interesting play & campaign ride over the last year or so. Its been one of those learning curbs combining the older classic era TSR adventures with the 3.0 or 3.5 D&D books that I own. This has caused all kinds of rancor among the OSR crowd. The big secret I assume is the fact that many of the 3.5 books work perfectly fine with C&C with a bit of tweaking. My favorite genre is Sword & Sorcery & not necessarily the grimdark type.

More of the gonzo Super Science & Sorcery variety so to this end I've combined C&C with Dungeon Crawl Classics. So I've ported over the DCC magic system into C&C to get the type of a game that my players have been looking for.

The other day I wrote about Kelik The Cruel & his patron demi god Venger. The fact is that the down & gritty feel of the DCC game emulates the sort of vibe I'm going for. These are beings that are playing the with the lives of adventurers across the planes. The fact is that this has awakened in me the ire I felt over the edition wars of the late 90's & 00's. The frankly stupid notion that you can only use X or Y rpg game system to really have the 'true OSR' feel & experience. The fact is that I've been using the combined books of  Castles & Crusades The Codex Celtarum  by Brian Young but for the last couple of months I've been using it to great effect with Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion.  Sigh, yes I know that these two authors political stands are completely opposite but this does not & will not have one iota of affecting my play or players.
Not only has using these books  been tremendously effective in bringing to life a complete campaign setting but its been highly influential in how I think about the OSR in general.

Not only does this approach solve many of my budget problems but it brings home the fact that DYI Dungeons & Dragons is the best Dungeons & Dragons. I've been using many resources from fifth edition as well & not giving two figs what others think. There are some incredible resources with in the OGL & I'm getting very tired of being completely hamstrung by innate attitudes of others when it comes to the table top rpg hobby. Especially when I see many OSR players & DM's showing off their latest purchases of these.

Only to be followed up with a score of one of Fifth edition's latest Dungeons & Dragons title Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Which could easily be ported back over into the OSR's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as a huge multi part Saltmarsh campaign from U1 all way through with AS&SH's own adventure The Mystery At Port Greely.

By combining these seemingly unrelated adventures the DM gets an epic 'Deep One' campaign that could take years to complete & could show the players the true scale of a massive legendary campaign of sanity shattering monstrousness.  Editions & books should not hold back the creative spark hence why DYI Dungeons & Dragons is the best Dungeons & Dragons. Keep em rolling. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

A New Post Apocalyptic Faction - El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios For Mutant Future or Any Old School Post Apocalyptic Campaign

There's a circus coming through the wastlands but this isn't just any circus this is the El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios. A circus of mutant menaces, performing oddities, freaks, madmen, & much more. For this circus holds a deadly secret or two. Com'n the performance under the big top is about to start & you don't want to be late.

El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios is a traveling freak show,circus, & side show that is actually the cover for one of the most dangerous super science groups in the wastelands & rad zones of the California islands. The El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios is a cover for the wizard Mano del diablo & parallel prime Earth military force. They travel the wastelands of many Earths in search of some of the most dangerous aberrations,mutations, madmen, & giant monsters they can find. These men & mutants are specialists in capturing, containing, & training dangerous mutant monsters of all stripes. They pass themselves off as circus performers & showmen of the highest caliber. The El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios is anything but. Professional Guardian tamers work closely with highly intelligent telepathic mutant lions who are used as spies & assassins.
Rangers & mutant trackers often employ paired with foo dog packs to hunt down dangerous giant mutant menaces. These packs see the capture of mutant animals & aberrations the lesser of two evils. Acts such as trained Gargantuan Gecko’s are the least offensive exploitable wild life weapons the circus specializes in. Two troupes of exotic Shuna Sassi mutant acrobats are actually the wizard owner's spies, assassins, & go betweens. These acrobats are often guarded by dangerous Snu,Snu fighters & barbarians of renowned as bodyguards. Other acts include sea druids specializing in using Levitating Sharks in a massive display of a controlled air show of epic proportions. 

The circus often trades wizards for valuable monsters from many fantasy worlds & has specialized teams that hunt for such creatures. Monsters & aberrations such as the bulette are often used to trade for more menacing creatures. 

Bulette from the AD&D first edition  Monster Manual

Aberrations such as ettercaps, chuul,owlbears, & many others are sold to other dimensional overlords to restock their dungeons. The coffers of the El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios grow fat so that they can finiance their real operations. The deep rad zone recovery of other giant mutant monster species such as Gorgo & other giants of the wastelands.
The El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios often hold their performances for wasteland kings & warlords gauging the strength, martial prowess, & resilience of the local rulers. Sometimes the cirrus will set free trained mutant monsters such as wasteland trolls, giant mutants, or even the occasional Minotaur.Then the circus forces will swoop in & save the day.
Capture teams will have a wizard of third or better level & teams of fighters plus mutant hunters. Equipment will be a mix of cutting edge ultra modern & primitive short bows & drugged arrows & darts. Night people trackers are often mixed into these teams to shore up the teams. These trackers are held in high regard by the rest of the teams. The
 the El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios is often found in New Albion putting on performances & dealing with the local council of warlords. The wastelands of California have come to resemble the legends of 1700's Europe as the Great Dump broke apart the once great state of the ancients.
Map of California as an island. Detail form "A Map of North America with the European Settlements & whatever else is remarkable in ye West Indies from the latest and best observations." 1745, by Richard William Seale (1703 - 1762), London. Copper-engraved, hand-colored in outline and partially in wash. Source: "The Cooper Collections" (uploader's private collection). Digital image by uploader, Centpacrr

1d10 Random Encounters In The El Circo De Los Monstruos y Memonios

  1. 1d6 random insect men acrobats tricking & having fun with the crowd but these guys are gauging any adventurers they come across.
  2. A female necromancer with 1d10 undead cats performing tricks & working the crowd while her hulking undead umber hulk bodyguard passes out flyers.
  3. A monster hunter selling treasure maps & small trinkets to the crowd he's looking for adventurers for a quest into the red sea of California.
  4. A half orc juggler performing with enchanted knives & special light enchanted blades that move in unexpected & unearthly directions
  5. Fishman with a bowl on his head selling potions & unguents.
  6. A sprite with twenty fairy bugs that he's performing with & selling to the kids. He's telling of a mutant dragon legend & seems to be working the crowd for some reason.
  7. Fairy light performer looking for a new comedy partner. He's actually a spy working the crowds.
  8. 1d20 blue goblin acrobats riding a mastodon playing tricks on the crowd as well as pick pocketing.
  9. A strange four armed alien selling posters & maps of unknown star systems with trinkets for the circus.
  10. A wizard performing incredibly realistic illusions of monsters & dragons whose telepathically searching for someone!