Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Stars Are Wrong - Using 'the Astrologer' NPC Class From The Dragon 45 January 1981 For Your Old School &OSR games

Last night I went hunting for Dragon issue #45 after diving into one of the later issues in other blog entries. Issue #45 is one of those issues that's mixed back into one of the transition eras of the magazine. Wayne from Wayne's Books feels the same way; "My favorites are what I deem the "Golden Age" of Dragon Magazine: Issues ranging in the 50s and 60s. They had some of the most inspired writing, including great essays by Gary Gygax, examinations of the Planes, the whole range of demi-human articles and deities, and so much more!

Now the big draw articles for this issue seems to be 'Dragon Dungeon Design kit' article,the 'Write Way to Get Published' By Kim Mohan,"Ways to Handle High Level Headaches' by Lewis Pulsipher & this goes hand in hand with 'Magic items For Every Man' By Philip Meyers.  This last article was one for out fitting high level PC's & NPC's. I'm gonna tackle these in another blog article.

Why is this? Well because this is the era when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was codifying the grand game as we know it. And this issue reflects that & it contains one of my favorite but most underutilized NPC  classes within its pages 'the Astrologer'. There's also a decent NPC 'Alchemist' class as well within the same article by Roger E. Moore & Georgia Moore. Now these are quick & dirty rules that would later go on to be quantified & spun into more fleshed out articles later on. But for the OSR dungeon master the Astrologer NPC class has lots of potential. Astrologers have been getting a lot of press in the OSR with Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Tower of the Star Gazer adventure. 

Not only can I see the Astrologer being a useful NPC class but I can see them being used as a great source for weird tales style adventures. There is a tie for Mystara right out of the gate I found from a post on RPGnet's site thanks to poster's

"The Poor Wizard's Almanach for Mystara (BECMI in this case) had an astrology option; each week of the month tied to one of the elements, and each month to a creature of the Mystaran zodiac, and you could use these to give you ideas about the personality of a character." We can also see a tie in with the classic Greyhawk box set which has all of the celestial data on Oerth itself. 

Astrologers in setting such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea would be key to so many things. Locating dungeons, favorable star conditions for dungeon exploration, times of royal birth, the correct times & alignments for Mythos rites, & possibly locating the hidden signs of the Old Ones among the stars. One of the adventures from AS&SH that could benefit from consulting an astrologer would be THE BEASTS of KRAGGOTH MANOR by Tim Callahan The adventurer's chances need the help of the stars on their side cracking this module. There are several celestial related adventure elements here but I really don't want to spoil the adventure.

Alternatively if the player's PC's are high level enough to have settled into a tower or castle an astrologer might be consulted for the best dates to conceive a son or daughter to continue a PC bloodline within a game. In fact this might be critical to a retro clone such as Adventurer, Conqueror, King.
The Lion & Dragon Rgp & Dark Albion setting books  do  have some solid  
'Astrology' resources but RPGPundit Presents #18: Advanced Medieval-Authentic Astrology is a great choice for adding in an astrological background to your OSR games.

In Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique setting an Astrologer would be a welcome addition. Not only could he benefit  the PC's by locating the old stars & possible favor conditions for exploration but he might be able to locate the ancient abodes of some of the 'Great Old Ones' among the changing stars. In CAS's Shapes of Adamant (1935)we get a taste of this in the fragment of this story. Astrologers play a key role within  Averoigne
These specialists are also key in predicting the destruction of Hyperborea in the ancient past. 
 B3 Palace of the Silver Princess's events might be fore told by Astrologers & wisemen giving the DM yet another way of drawing the player's PC's into the spider's web of that classic adventure. 

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