Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Commentary On Running B3 Palace of the Silver Princess With Adventurer,Conqueror, King As Old School Campaign

Not long ago, the valley was green and animals ran free through golden fields of grain. The Princess Argenta ruled over this peaceful land and the people were secure and happy. Then one day, a warrior riding a white dragon appeared in the skies over the castle, and almost overnight the tiny kingdom fell into ruin. Now only ruins and rumors remain, and what legends there are tell of a fabulous treasure still buried somewhere within the Palace of the Silver Princess."
This is pretty much all it would take to lead a party of adventurers, and outlaws to their doom to a ghostly kingdom that appears when certain strange signs appear in the sky. 

I've been thinking about reskinning Palace of the Silver Princess as a Adventurer, Conqueror, King adventure piece with a spin towards the alignment of the gaming system working in the favor of the fairy tale like atmosphere of B3. I want to concentrate on the Moldvey version of Palace of the Silver Princess. I'm thinking of running it as Return To The Palace of the Silver Princess instead of the usual set up.  No I'm doing a D20 version of it. Instead I'd take more Michael Moorcock approach to the Silver Princess, Haven becomes a place locked out of time and space, the forces of chaos have been unleashed. The wizard is someone taking full advantage of the plot using it to establish his own other dimensional domain hellscape. The wizard might be from Hyperborea, the leader of a powerful faction of a  Lovecraftian chaos cult. I'm still tossing this around in my mind but the events of the Palace could recycle themselves over and over again. This makes Haven & its environs a weird pulpy sword & sorcery location with lots of old school potential. 

This isn't the first time I've run this adventure, the last time I used Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. 
"The plot of Palace of the Silver Princess revolves around a country frozen in time by a strange red light. The only seemingly unaffected location and the apparent source of the glow is the royal palace. The adventurers must restore the flow of time and save the country."  I slowed the corrupting nature of the red light last time and perhaps I can up the dark fairy tale aspect of B3 this time. Several of the optional magic systems that I've been reading in Axioms magazine fit this style of dark fantasy fairy tale. Arik of the Hundred Eyes patron of Forbidden Secrets & the Lost sounds like he's straight out of a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure. It under his influence that the kingdom has become anchored in time & space. Parts of the module could be crossed over into the recent Free  DIY revamp of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess to give the whole affair a much more Lamentations of the Flame Princess feel. The forces of chaos seem hell bent in taking down the foundations of the kingdom down from the inside out. This speaks ACK's alignments and take on the forces of chaos. 

The question becomes with the focus of Adventurer, Conqueror, King would the PC's try to take the kingdoms of  the Silver Princess module  for themselves? The defeat of the main menace in Palace of the Silver Princess might set things up for an entire mini campaign of domain sword and sorcery warfare?!
This could be the route that I want to take for a beginning adventure into my own take of Adventurer,Conqueror, King.

More as this develops.

The Caves of the Unknown Adventure Options For B2 Gary Gygax's Keep On The Borderlands

So over on Facebook a post came up on last night's B2 Keep On The Borderlands commentary,'What do you do about the Caves of The Unknown?' Well, I didn't know about B2.5 Caves of the Unknown By By Charley Phipps, Thom Wilson, Mike Badolato from ThrowiGames & NTRPGCon a B/X  module Levels 2-4. Brice over at the Ten Foot Pole blog has a pretty solid review of  the adventure. 

Glen Halstrom also has a review of the B2.5 Caves of the Unknown & its a solid overview of the module. But these are only some of the options for a dungeon master wanting to run some classic D&D elements for the Caves of the Unknown.

Instead since last year I was running rc pinnell aka Thorkhammer 's BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of The Unknown. This was after doing some research on the  Dragon's Foot site thread.   BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of the Unknown is a free module on Lulu. Its an easy down load & its not a bad little adventure module. It clocks in at eight pages & it does exactly what it sets out to do.

BEX1 Descent Into The Caves of The Unknown does exactly what it sets out to do & that is provide the players with a clean out module for this location but this is a deadly little romp. Don't expect a quick two game session. There is some actual backstory here & the caves are occupied by a deadly little band of monsters. The author provides monsters with motivation,reason, & really this isn't a bad little adventure as a side quest after B2 Keep on The Borderlands is done. If I start overgeneralizing BEX1 then I could potentially spoil the whole adventure but by all means if you want a good side quest for a B/X Dungeons & Dragons game then this might do for a quick side quest. The third option that I've used all of the way back in 2014 is the Caves of The Unknown done by the Breeyark!  site as a part of the Project on the Borderlands . Makes sure to download & use the Cobweb Caverns as a part of the whole affair. This is a deadly little addition to B2 Keep on the Borderlands .

Another resource that I love to refer back to is the Zenopus Archives article on B2 Keep On The Borderlands. There is a ton of stuff here to pick & choose for the dungeon master to add spice to their version of the Keep.
Here are ten ideas for running B2 The Keep on the Borderlands By Gary Gygax:
  1. The keep was a military point for the struggle against the bandits who were backed by the slave lords & now the network is making headway into the borderlands once again. This is due to the elemental evil cults also helping to stir the pot. 
  2. The keep is part of a net work of fortresses that were used by ancient armies and now the evil around them is brewing once again can the PC's help to turn the tide. 
  3. There are a number of Lovecraftian evils that have been drawing the humanoids to the area. This option I used with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 
  4. The caves of chaos are part of ancient machinery for the generation of humanoids & they must be shut down at all costs. 
  5. Humanoid tribes are drawn to the caves by the ancient caves as a apart of a military rite and this will last for thirty days seeing the massive war against the human population. The rite must be disrupted. 
  6. The lands around the keep are the breeding grounds to the ancient lizard men & this connects in with the N1 Cult of the Reptile God module By Douglas Nile 
  7. There is an ancient lich or evil that has been trying to reassemble itself in one of the dungeons around the keep and its called back its army of humanoids to it. It must be stopped. 
  8. The order of knights who once owned the keep are trying to raise the funds to try & buy the keep from the king. They hire the party to search the dungeons for their treasures! 
  9. The keep is connected to the T1 The village of Hommlet because of the evil cults that one raised the land. The cults secretly have agents that watch over these places lest any good adventurers or knights begin to take back these places. These cults are funded by the slave lords.
  10. These keeps & castles  of Greyhawk guard the planes against planar  marauders & the like but haven't been used in eons so they've fallen to evil. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

B2 Keep On The Borderland Adventure Module Commentary On The Internal Adventure Structure & Framework For Your Old School Campaigns

Many old school gamers cut their teeth on B2 The Keep On The Borderland adventure. This is one of the most iconic and interesting introduction adventures that came down the pike from the old school period starting with the Holmes 1979 version of it. Let's look at some of the bits and pieces that make B2 so iconic and interesting.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with B2 Keep on The Borderlands for many years now. Last night I was looking into the history, backdrop, and as a jump off point for future campaigns. Keep on the Borderlands has so much history for me as a part of the swath of history of my gaming. This is the module that we as players and dungeon masters returned to again and again. The title of the module suggested something to me that echoed bits of Robert Howard's Conan and other classic pulp titles. Hell, we used this module for everything from Boot Hill, Gamma World first edition, Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition , and even as a location for boot legging for Gang Busters minus the monsters but with cops and NPC's. 

You can see an interesting video with the details on the background, history, and some of the details of B2 Keep On The Borderland module as well as the variations between the editions. There are so many echoes of cross popculture experiences with B2 that seem to happen to those of us who had the OD&D,Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer D&D editions. There are some subtle and not so subtle differences between the editions of B2.Artwork, cover images, and more colour the flavors and details of this adventure.

B2 has a smattering of a wide range of old school monsters that appear in The Keep on The Borderlands adventure setting; along with a nasty and very dangerous cult of evil which is starting to brew in the Caves of Chaos. There are a number of humanoid factions that can cause even an Expert level  party of adventurers more then a bit of pain. There is a great thread on B2The Keep on the Borderlands, Caves of Chaos with some wonderful resources including maps and some solid advice. There's also a Caves of Chaos Reimagined by Weem
which gives a really nice overview from the Caves themselves and the really weird structure and breakdown of the caves. These are the fountainhead of the corruption of the area. This gives a DM a perfect excuse  to expand the area with ruins and other opportunities for adventure encounters. This is especially true of the area around the mad hermit's lair.

There plenty of scope  to expand and detail the locations of B2 as your own, in the past I've placed the Keep and its environs on the edge of a country that has fallen into decay and decadence after fracturing into many minor baronies with swaths of wilderness between civilized lands. This gives plenty of room to place tribes of gnolls, orcs, kobolds,and more dangerous monsters where the DM wants and needs them. This also means changing the character of B2 to suit the DM's wants and needs for their campaign settings.  By using this option I was able to take a solo module in this case the Maze of the Riddling Minotaur and use it as a ruin just over the border in order to have it as a side quest for a party of mid and lower level adventurers to challenge the adventure and brave the maze of the minotaur. They had prior experience with this species of monster from B2.
Minotaurs are a monster that has been a part of D&D  since the beginning of the game;"The minotaur was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as a bull-headed man, and a man-eater" In 1977 the minotaur as a monster came into AD&D with all of its viciousness preserved; "The minotaur appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a cruel man-eater, typically found in labyrinth the places in the wilderness and underground." 

 The Eighty Three adventure "Maze of the Riddling Minotaur" came out and I ran it as a complete side quest for my players by expanding the adventure with a few additional adventure elements from Dragon magazine. These included a NPC political plot as part of the adventure background and a few unique monster NPC's from the Creature Catalog I & II for some add flavor. The adventure is a perfect side jaunt;"Maze of the Riddling Minotaur is an adventure module published by TSR in 1983 for the Expert Set of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It is a solo adventure for one player character of level 1-10"
Vacros had a full blown background back tied into the Caves of Chaos and the minotaur in B2 was actually from the island of evil. This tied the two adventures quite neatly together. 

The ancient & evil Vacros was  a part of a decaying kingdom  now rife with horror,evil, and cults. This module has lots of bits and pieces that can be back imported into B2 to make an elaborate campaign setup and stepping stone. 

Minotaurs have always been one of my favorite servants of evil, I never understood the Minotaur race variation in Dragonlance ( I  personally have never been a fan of that setting and know nothing of it. If you enjoy Dragonlance more power too you). I quit AD&D at about the time when that campaign setting came out and I know nothing of it. For me the Minotaurs of  AD&D 1st edition are servants of chaos and evil. They  were and are my preferred monsters to place in both Blackmoor and Grayhawk as well as my own home game's settings. 

B2 Keep on The Borderland remains one of my all time favorite adventure modules to DM and run. It has lots of potential to take a campaign in the direction that the players and the dungeon master wants it too. With all of the the options that Keep on the Borderlands brings to the table it remains one of my all time favorites.

Quick Review and Commentary On 'The Pay What You Like ' Issue of Brave the Labyrinth - Issue #2 (PDF) From Small Niche Games

This is a pay what you want download

I'm always looking for new and interesting OSR source material to use with science fantasy and space based games. The fill in what you like attitude of the folks over at small niche games is just right for my DYI gaming needs. The latest pay what you want issue #2 of Brave The Labyrinth continues with this creed and expands on it with some awesome material.
This issue features the following : 

Brave the Labyrinth is a quarterly fanzine published by Small Niche Games for the Labyrinth Lord™ roleplaying game community. It consists of fan-created material designed to cover all types of Labyrinth Lord™ and Advanced Edition Companion™ gaming.
In this Issue you get: 
-Five (5) New Magic Spells
-Six (6) New Monsters
-Two (2) Unstocked Village Maps
-One (1) Elite Orc War Party
-Nine (9) New Magic Items
-One (1) New Pantheon
-One (1) "Drop In" Locale (Carnival of the Setting Sun)
-Articles on designing 0-level humans, being a better gamer, a review of the adventure GT2 Come Hell or High Water, and submission guidelines for Issue #3!
Download Brave the Labyrinth - Issue #2 for FREE!
Uses for Space Based or Science Fantasy Gaming

Most of this material is Labyrinth Lord based and easily converted into many of the retroclone systems including 99% of the retroclones on the market. This also further expands its range into Mutant Future with little adjustment on the DM's part. 
The five new spells are very easily adaptable into a wide variety of science fantasy situations. 
The six new monsters are very useful and could be used to stock an alien space wreck or some some nasty corner of an alien world just waiting for adventurers to blunder into them. 

The two unstocked villages are perfect for any science fantasy game where you might need a 'spooky town' set of ruins to throw your PC's in the deep end of things. 
The elite orc party is a down right nasty encounter and simply give them some phaser rifles or blasters & your ready to go! 
The nine new magic items are completely ready for stocking your latest space citiadel or ruin. They might also be the goal of a mini adventure as well. 
The New Pantheon is a nice set of gods for a human or near human society.
The carnival of the Setting Sun is twisted and dangerous for any retroclone gaming system. 

A Bit Of OSR Campaign Commentary On Gary Gygax's G1-3 Against the Giants & A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords Compilation Book By David "Zeb" Cook, Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, & Tom Moldvay

"Giants have been raiding the lands of men in large bands, with giants of different sorts in these marauding groups. Death and destruction have been laid heavily upon every place these monsters have visited. A party of the bravest and most powerful adventurers has been assembled and given the charge to punish the miscreant giants. "
Here's the back history on G1-3 according to the Drivethrurpg lore;
"G1-3: "Against the Giants" (1981), by Gary Gygax, is a collection of three previous adventures (1978). The collection appeared in 1981, after the final copies of the original standalone adventures had dropped out of print. The intent was to upgrade the older modules to match the new trade dress of 
Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980)." What many people may not know is the fact that that according to the same entry; "Gygax says that the G-series modules were inspired by the "heroic adventuring" of The Incomplete Enchanter by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp" What this means is that while the vast conspiracy of the Drow machine is working the giants are really the unknown 'mob factor' involved in this adventure classic. This means that the DM has to connect the adventures via the actions of the player's PC's. This isn't an accident;  "When the parts of G1-G3 were originally published as three separate modules, they were a big deal. They were the first adventures ever for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game (which wasn't even complete at the time), and they were also TSR's first foray into adventure publication. Like other early adventures, the G-series modules originally had simple monochrome colors (brown, blue, and orange - all appropriate for the giants contained within). The original adventures were also among the shortest adventures that TSR ever published at 8, 8, and 16 pages, respectively." 

Everything begins in Greyhawk from the giants trying to destabilize the human lands & it all links back into 
Deeper & Deeper - The Connections between D3 Vault of the Drow & the Slavers 'A' series of Modules.  Alright now that everyone's on the same page this series of adventures links up with a series of adventures that includes D1: "Descent into the Depths of the Earth," D2: "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa," D3: "Vault of the Drow," and Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits." This is why the slavers series links up so well with everything that's happening in Greyhawk, the Drow are already incharge of a number of infrastructures & backdoor slaver's guild networks all across Greyhawk. The Slave lords already did all of the work for them. The Drow may be chaotic evil but their far from stupid.

And if you think that Greyhakw  is the only world where the slave lord have be active in? I'd love to direct your attention to the Vault of Pandius article by Demos Sachlas called Setting modules A1-4/Slave Lords in the Gulf of Hule. This gives the A1-4 modules a very Mystara feel about them. 

I'm not jumping around in this timeline or this article what I'm trying to show is the variety of options that are available to the dungeon master if they know what they want from these classic old school modules.
Demos Sachlas comes through again on the Vaults of Pandius site with his other article "Setting module G1-2-3/Against the Giants in the Northern Reaches." He had previously written  Kick-starting a Northern Reaches campaign using module B9.. Once again this all goes back to using G1-3 as the set up for this campaign run. Why?! Well let's get into our ten notes on running this classic:

  1. G1-3 Against the Giants has some of the best NPC's around & I personally save these giants for later use especially on Greyhawk. 
  2. The giants are an organized army & are independent of the various factions but especially of the slave lords themselves. Even they know not to tread a bit too closely. 
  3. These giants are like the barbarian tribes of Europe in the proto Roman Greco eras not something to screw with.Remember their reach is into other world worlds and that's something players are not going to expect. 
  4. On Mystara they giants are going to have unexpected alliances among the dragons & various monstrous races. 
  5. There may be Immortals involved on Mystara egging on some of the factions in G1-3 and be sure to take advantage of that factor. 
  6. The conspiracy of G1-3 is going to have far reaching effects on the royals of various campaign settings. 
  7. The spoils of war may be taken off world allowing the DM to exploit this for further adventures. 
  8. Adventuring in Hule makes it the perfect location to pick up that half ogre or orc PC you've been dying to use; "The population of Hule is described to be a mixture of humans and non-humans, mainly orcs, gnolls, bugbears, kobolds, and ogres" 
  9. There's plenty of opportunity to run domain level play in these where the PC's take over newly claim lands. They may run into a giant level problem as relatives & others hear of the exploits & murders of their kin. 
  10. G1-3 is the perfect series to take a Dungeon Crawl Classics party through! 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Some Thoughts On Adventurer, Conqueror, King, Rpg's Lairs & Encounters Book

"Lairs & Encounters is the ultimate supplement for fantasy RPG sandbox campaigns. Designed for use with the Adventurer Conqueror King System™ (ACKS™), it is readily compatible with other fantasy role-playing games built on the same core rules."

If there is one other book besides the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg rule book that I love its the Lairs & Encounters book. I've used it more times then another book in the ACK's product line. The book is a two hundred & twenty nine page adventure tool kit for the Adventurer, Conqueror, King line. This is the same world setting that's fleshed out in the  Auran Empire Primer. But comes to far more life in the AX1: The Sinister Stone of Sakkara . 

"Over a millennium ago, when the borderlands were in the dark grip of the Zaharan Empire, the empire’s sorcerer-priests erected a profane temple to house the terrible artifact known as the Stone of Sakkara. Using the Stone, the sorcerer-priests could birth monsters and abominations with frightening ease and magically command the loyalty of chaotic creatures. The Stone brought its evil masters great power throughout the fell empire.
In the centuries since the fall of Zahar, the Stone has lain dormant and forgotten. Now it has awakened, and warbands of beastmen have begun to gather sacrifices to power the Stone’s birthing pools again. Local farms and hamlets have been sacked and pillaged, and entire families have gone missing. The local legate has too few men to even patrol the border; he has none at all to hunt down the source of the evil. Adventurers are needed…" 

The world of the Auran Empire is a pseudo-Roman empire with over arching aspects of a fantasy Europe caught within the dream of empire & conquest. This is s world that is badly in need of heroes and that's where your PC's come in. Again & again we see the themes of domain take a back see into the myths of the empire. The fortress is a homage to Gary Gygax's B2 Keep on the Borderlands but in  keep in an Ancient Egyptian/Mesopotamian culture that the Auran empire has conquerored. But there are far older ancient races & themes at work here. All of the parts & products I've mentioned mesh completely with the ACK's Lairs & Encounters book. 

Where ACK's is designed expressly for the purpose of providing interesting domain-level play, putting the "game" back into the endgame; Lairs & Encounters takes the domain level game applies that concept into the background of the monster. This means that the concept of the monster becomes two things one it becomes the competition, the horror, the mythological concept and antithesis to the PC's within their domains. The second thing it does is makes the animal or being that is being used within a game as much of a resource as any of the other natural game elements to be exploited by the DM. It means that those within your domains are going to be far more eager to seek the protection of those more powerful than themselves. This gives a whole other aspect to monsters as protection, rulers, etc. within those hexes that parties seem to continue to crawl through.
Another thing about Lairs & Encounters that's the 'encounter' part there is the gravity of history in many of the encounters that are created within this book. Many plug into the 'official' ACK's setting but they can easily be applied to your own campaigns for example:"
The ground here is torn up by the remains of nine ancient Zaharan scythed chariots, broken and partially covered by webs, dust, and sand. Here and there the jagged blades stick up from the scattered chariot wheels. Each character passing through or searching the area has a 1 in 6 chance of stepping on one of these partly-buried blades and suffering 1d3 points of damage. 18 skeletons (AC 2, Move 120’, HD 1*, hp 4 each, #AT 1 weapon, Dmg 1d6, Save F1, ML N/A, AL C), with rusted mail and jagged, broken scimitars, litter the ancient battlefield in clusters near the chariots. They will rise to attack if blood is shed. " This is something to keep in mind when designing your own encounters and this book has the tools, guidelines, and more to help you out with that. Something else to keep in mind is that Lairs & Encounters plugs into Domains at War, ACKS' expansion focusing on mass combat and how it relates to all other aspects of the game, from monsters in domain management to mercenary wages to mercantile supply and demand all centered around the aspects of the monster. By popular demand, they have distilled just the mass combat system itself to an ~8 page kernel which they are planning to add as an expansion but Lairs & Encounters slides right into the backside of this material. That means that all of those battle grounds, war fields, places of violence, ancient war sights and more have the real potential to turn into adventure locations unto themselves. This is something to keep in mind when running games after a party has passed through hex '5671' and they're entirely done with looting the bodies and the bandits, mercenaries are dead. Their foes can rise again to cause problems for the locals and you might have to back to clean up your messes. There are several reasons to really get into Adventurer Conqueror King System: Lairs & Encounters:
When you want a really well thought out lair for an adventure or hex crawl that not only blends into the setting but enhances the adventure material adding in another layer of adventure Sometimes competition is good & monsters can add an entirely unforeseen complication for those domain owners. Monsters domains can also be a readily made domain for PC's to take over(Lairs & Encounters can make that process very wily and interesting as well). Fast set up and lots of prefab encounters that can be dragged and dropped into your own adventure environments to serve as bridge gaps when you've got fifteen minutes before your players arrive and nothing written. Expanded war game ties for domains of war that make those war games an actual part of the adventure with monstrous tie ins. This book can be used to enhance, expand, and blow life into the factions and background of existing or classic modules to give new twists on modules or adventures that parties have already played through. Take Keep of The Borderland and suddenly it becomes more then a simple introduction adventure, it becomes an introduction to factional warfare with monsters surrounding a tiny island of humanity in the wilderness on the border of war! Drag & drop in some of the encounters and the entire tone of the adventure changes!

And this is exactly where the Lairs & Encounters puts the ACK's game in a another place. I think that ACK's as a whole works on a lot of levels & even given my checkered history with the game is still one of my favorite retro clones or is it neoclone?! 

Mutant Madness - Notes On Mutants

Note that this blog entry came from the annals of 2011. Before the release of Deadpool & Deadpool II. And since then the Marvel Xmen movies are now owned by Disney. The information still applies to an upcoming personal project of mine.

 Mutant Madness

So  X-Men First Class opened over the weekend & others have covered it in their blogs. Needless to say that over the weekend I printed out the Mystery Men Rpg from Here. I've only glanced at it but none the less it looks pretty damn good. The stats look as if I'm going to have no problem with any super hero antics. There will be more about the game later.  My recent experience with mutants comes about because of the Mutant Future game. This Gamma World inheritor is built on the on the labyrith lord core rules. Its been out for quite sometime now & if  you want to take a look then down load it here .Mutant Future. 
There have been countless reviews Review Grognardia 
Instead I want to talk about one of my favorite threads that appeared on the old Mutant Future Forums!
This one! Media Monsters! Make sure you turn down your volume on your computer. Here you will find pretty much everything you need to make your own faux  X men style rpg campaign. From Wolverine's tribe to a nightcrawler want to be. This was all done by one guy! There are far too many supports to list for the game. Note that that one guy was my buddy Chris Van Deleen! Thanks Chris! 
Now I want to mention something about mutants from the old school science fiction stories. Most of what I've found lurking within the internet isn't very much at all for the early science fiction. The Man Of The Year One Million 1893 isn't out there. Only Well's Time Machine is easy to find. Edward Hamilton's The Man Who Evolved 1931 is very similar to the film Altered States  except that one uses cosmic radiation & the other drugs.
Odd John was pretty well covered by the Old School Heretic.You can down load here Odd John  Odd John is the mutation after man born within the confines of a civilized world.
Many of the early science fiction mutants don't belong anywhere! They are doomed to die because they're unbalanced, unnatural, & enviromental monsters! Does this mean that they can't be used  in a game? Heck no, there are plenty of places to use these man monster types. Simply roll your favorite mutations, give him, her, or it a hidden agenda with some evil intention & go from there.
Slan by  A. E. van Vogt is the perfect old school x style mutation before the word mutant came into being. From Wiki: Slans are evolved humans, named after their alleged creator, Samuel Lann. They have the psychic abilities to read minds and are super-intelligent. They possess near limitless stamina, "nerves of steel", and superior strength and speed. When Slans are ill or seriously injured, they go into a healing trance automatically.
There are two kinds of Slans. One has tendrils and can read the minds of ordinary humans and telepathically communicate with other Slans. The tendrils are golden in colour thus making it easy to spot a slan. These Slans are hunted to near extinction. The other type of Slan is tendrilless. They are still super intelligent but do not have psychic capabilities, only the ability to hide their thoughts from the first type of Slan. Kier Gray is the leader of the human society and promises to exterminate the Slans. As the novel begins, Jommy Cross (a telepathic Slan of the first type) is brought with his mother to the capital, Centropolis. They are both discovered, and Jommy's mother is killed. Jommy is only nine years old and manages to escape. Jommy Cross is not only the heir to the brilliant inventions of his father, but he represents the last hope of his race to save it from genocide. Because of the importance of his mission, he is opposed by various enemies. 
Anyhow this book has everything you've come to expect from a "mutant spieces". A rebellion,  Magneto style speeches, etc. All here. Tract this one down. Its a pulpy classic. 
So what does all this have to do with old school space gaming? How can I use mutant humans? Well there are several options. The usual trope of  humans visiting a planet full of mutants comes to mind. There's the lost colony 
bit, post apocalypse planets & alien worlds are certainly an option. There are really unlimited fields here.
Mutant Event Table Roll 1d10 

  1. There is a signal coming from a lone space craft. The design hasn't been seen since the 3rd World War. A mutant overlord is aboard! 
  2. A ruined space station is encountered aboard are the bodies of several mutant aliens. These are actually home to some mind slugs ala The Puppet Masters 
  3. The character's ship is mistaken for combatants in an intergalactic genetic arms race. If the party loses they become a genetic resource for one of the combatants 
  4. Genetic Pirates! A band of evolutionary pirates wants the genome of the party for sale on the open market. Their unique genetic codes are very valuable 
  5. Cosmic Messiah  Missionaries - Convert or Die. These missionaries are part of a genetically descended race of mutants who want to convert or kill anyone they run across. 
  6. The Cure - A band of mutants signals the characters & wants to hire them to help them find a "cure" for their race's sudden wide spread mutation. 
  7. You are one of use now. A band of humanoid mutants wants to spread its genetic seed to other races. One of the party is a target  
  8. Mutant riders- A signal comes into the character's ship. A group of friendly humanoids wants to trade. The traders are actually a mutant alien life form that needs a new host 
  9. A group of mutant children is fleeing from a hostile power, will you help them? 
  10. The party is hunted down by a Star Child entity who wishes to evolve them to the next level of their race's ultimate form. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Deeper & Deeper - The Connections between D3 Vault of the Drow & the Slavers 'A' series of Modules

" As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground. "

Is there a connection between the  Slavers 'A' series of adventures & D3 Descent Into The Depths of The Earth By Gary Gygax? You bet your PC's skin there is! That little package goes by the name of Edralve  a choatic evil cleric of Lolth whose been 'exiled'.  And has been acting as a slave lord throughout the whole 'A' series of adventures. According to the D&D Wiki;
"A native of Erelhei-Cinlu, Edralve was an exile from that city for some time during the late 560s to early 570s. By 574 CY, however, she had joined with Stalman Klim and other persons of malicious intent to form the Slave Lords, settling in the hidden city of Suderham in the Pomarj.
After the Slave Lords lost power in 580 CY, Edralve left the organization and returned to Erelhei-Cinlu."
"Edralve is a former protégé of Eclavdra and a former member of the Slave Lords."

Yes that's right she survives the events of the slave lords modules & comes back to wreck havoc on the world! Some consider The old Slavers series, the Yoko Ono of classic modules!" But what if the Slavers were part of a net work of conspiracy on Greyhawk & across the planes causing chaos in their wake. What if Edralve was working for the Drow the entire time of the events of the 'A' series of modules. 
"As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground. "

What if the Drow are behind all of the events of G1-G3: "Against the Giants"D1-D2: "Descent into the Depths"; and Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits"  including the slavers themselves. They finance the slavers like some 'Cold War' network of terrorists & spies weakening the infrastructure of Greyhawk & other campaign worlds making them ripe for the picking. This is after all the Drow way. They play the surface dwellers including the giants like fools.

This is exactly how & why Lolth operates pitting one group of monsters against the humans whilst playing two ends against the middle. Their gold is holding up the giants from the 'G' series of adventures, their expertise is behind the rise in human on human violence, not to mention the raids in the middle of the night. The rise in the instability of the Greyhawk infrastructure is all their doing! The drow have the resources, the will, & the reasoning behind taking down the humans.

Oh I can hear the grumbling already what possible reason would the Drow be trying & succeeding to destablize the inner workings of Greyhawk. Hello, its organized chaos & mayhem two things the Drow not only excel at but make events bow to their wills! The destabilize the surface & then humanity follows!

We can't stress how important these unseen connections of conspiracy are. They allow a DM to weave through decades of clutter & what not to be able to run the game that you want. The connection between Eclavdra may also lead into another of Highpoint's lucrative pass times namely piracy. This article contains a nice overview highpoit of this infamous adventure locations & more. Could the Drow be financing the slaver operation seen in U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh?


I believe the answer is yes & the connections are  much stronger then is implied in these simple modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The connections of conspiracy are there but what is the end game that the Drow are playing? We'll get into that tomorrow sometime.

A Bit Of OSR Campaign Commentary On A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords Compilation Book By David "Zeb" Cook, Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, & Tom Moldvay

"A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity: It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!"

One of the things about my introduction to D&D & even AD&D was getting thrown right into the middle of a game! I believe in the school of doing rather then the school of constantly standing on the side lines of this hobby. A1: "Slave Pits of the Under City" (1980), by David "Zeb" Cook is the first of the "A" Slave Lords adventures. It was published in October 1980. And this is a classic module for a lot of reasons & this module only clocks in at twenty eight pages of adventure goodness. The reason is simple because the Slaver series of adventures were tournement modules. No I don't want to get mired down in the whole controversy that surrounds  "the first AD&D Open" you can read about that right here. Yes there are still folks I know who have issues with that event.  Instead I want to talk about what this module is & that is the fact that its based on the first two rounds of that event. Tournament adventure modules were designed to challenge, kill, maim, & have its players thinking on the fly. And that's exactly why I prefer them. I want my players to think in an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition campaign setting.
You need to keep your wits about you & use every single iota of their mind to get through this one. But before I go on grab the 
A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords compilation book of this classic series. You can think of this as the anti power gamer module as your PC's are stripped down to their butt naked skin & then shoved into the world of 
 the slavers of Highport. 

This compilation contains the entire run of the Slave Lord series & it dive right into the meat & potatoes of the Slave Lord themselves;

A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity: It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!
A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade: The battle against the slavers continues! You and your fellow adventurers have defeated the slavers of Highport, but you have learned of the existence of another slaver stronghold, and you have decided to continue the attack. But beware! Only the most fearless of adventurers could challenge the slavers on their own ground, and live to tell of it!
A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Into the Drachengrab Mountains! Hot on the trail of the marauding slavers, you and your fellow adventurers plunge deep into hostile Hills. Spurred on by your past success, you now seek the heart of the slaver conspiracy. But hurry! You must move quickly before the slavers recover from your previous forays and attack!
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords: Trapped in the dungeons of the Slave Lords! The hardy adventurers must find a way out, with only their wits and courage to help them. But can they do it before everything is destroyed by the dreaded Earth Dragon?"
This is the classic campaign that takes the PC's from the very depth of 3rd level catapults them into the upper end of 7th or a bit beyond if they were incredibly lucky. As in lucky to survive!

Classics are classic for a reason & the Slave Lords Series  is set firmly in the world of AD&D's Greyhawk! But there's a fantastic thread on The Piazza site for adapting the Slavers series onto Mystara.  For me I simply had the Slavers popping into other worlds & grabbing whomever they could! This resulted in a diverse party of adventurers in the past. 

I used the same technique for bringing the whole lot of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventurers & Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventurers into the machinations of the Slavers. 

This allowed me to bring in PC's from outside the the world of Greyhawk & pit them against the machinations & violence of the slave lords. But this wasn't an original idea by any means; "Though the original Slave Lord adventures were set in the Pomarj of the Wild Coast, the new "Darkshelf Quarry" adventure is set instead in the Village of Darkshelf in Nyrond — a somewhat distant land, also located on the Sea of Gearnat. Nyrond is a good-aligned kingdom that had previously received its best attention in WGR4: "The Marklands" (1993) — though that's set in the From the Ashes era. "Darkshelf Quarry" offers a rare opportunity to adventure in the normally placid land."
There are several reasons why these modules are classic: 
  1. I connected the A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords Compilation with the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh series. The Sea Witch belonging to the slave lords.
  2. This gets the PC's into the clutches of A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity.
  3. Several of the slave lords are powerful enough to make excellent pulp villains even in modern times. A word to the wise. 
  4. The slavers operations were over once the ring is smashed. The players have to deal with the fall out from the operation being smashed. Bring in new mid level bosses and vile villains. 
  5. There's lots of potential with the slave lords from the PC's taking over forts, operations, etc. make sure there are those who seek revenge. 
  6. Are the PC's got the real slave lords? In the past I've used body doubles and clones to cause all kinds of mayhem. 
  7. A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords  can easily be connected with Against The Giants series of adventures giving years of play & replay value. 
  8. NPC's can easily fall into the clutches of the slave lords and cause all kinds of grief with the PC's. 
  9. A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords is a very dangerous set of campaign modules and should be used with some caution. 
  10. A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords makes an excellent module to send a group of Dungeon Crawl Classics PC's through! 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Updated & Expanded Review & Commentary On The Basic D&D Adventure CM3 Sabre River By Douglas Niles and Bruce Nesmith For Your Old School Campaigns

"You are a guest of the count, one of your allies and the strongest man in the region. Your sojourn has been pleasant, a nice change after weeks of battle. Suddenly the courtyard below your window is filled with the noise of galloping horses. More guests? 

You yawn as you look out. But these people arriving look more like tax collectors than guests. You decide to give your attention to something more interesting, like dinner. 

Relax while you can, friend, because these new arrivals are about to lead you to a crimson sailor, a cozy Tower of Terror, and a river with an aching heart. 

Sabre River includes a complete campaign setting, new NPCs, dungeon and wilderness encounters, and a mysterious story."

Tonight I was asked which module I thought could be adapted into an OSR Sword & Sorcerers campaign module with the zeroing in on task of taking on the higher levels of play. That was a simple one for me its CM3 Saber River by Douglas Niles. Yes you read that right Sword & Sorcerers because this is style that CM3 Saber River catters to. A clever series of dungeon crawls & delving that are centered around 
involving politics, warfare, and the rule of domains. This is exactly the sort of module & adventure that Adventurer, Conqueror, King, Rpg's Heroic Fantasy Handbook was designed to handle

First of all grab the Adventuring in the Northlands by Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 6 over at the vaults of pandius website. And the Norwold Region
by members of the Italian MMB. These two lovely add ons are going to help fill in background & gaps so that you the DM can decide how & what you want to add or subtract to the adventure module experience. For the final article grab Mages of Mystara, AC 1000 by Marco Dalmonte. Why? Because the biggest flaw according to the Drivethurpg product entry & some of the reviews I've seen on line; " the adventure also reveals its biggest problem: the River is assumed to be in the domain of a player, acting as a new domain-level problem for them … so the designers couldn't explicitly define where the river fit in the lands of Norwold! Most fans have identified it as one of the two major rivers running south of the Alpha Peninsula, from the Wyrmsteeth Range to the Great Bay."
The Crones of Crystykk, who debuted in CM1: "Test of the Warlords" are back & wyrd as ever their perferctly suited for this style of adventure where the high end of ruler ship is at stake. There's a great discussion on the Piazza about the Crones here.  Then you've got an entire bit on the crones & Nortwold gods here. 
My advice is for PC's not to cross the Crones or you could be ripped apart by the whims of fate. The real key issues for this module are in the fan 
magazines: Threshold #6 (2014)Threshold #7 (2015), and Threshold #8 (2015).
 CM3 Saber River by Douglas Niles, is a really clever combination of adventuring, dungeon delving, & out & out deadly fun. Though not a complete TPK the few times I've run this is a deadly adventure. Know that the players are not going to thank you for running CM3 but they will be entertained & romanced as the life force is sucked from their PC's.  CM3 Saber River by Douglas Niles.Relax while you can, friend, because these new arrivals are about to lead you to a crimson sailor, a cozy Tower of Terror, and a river with an aching heart" 
There is literally a ton to mine from CM3 including a good solid dungeon romp and even though this is a part of the domain level of high end play this is one of those adventures that actually lives up to the great cover art. This adventure features an  a dungeon inside an active volcano, an underground river trip, and a new monster called the sabreclaw how cool is that. There's plenty to mine from this module but the actual adventure is quite good, there's plenty going on and enough high level material for at least two mini campaigns within Sabre River. The plot involves;" The waters of the Sabre River have been tainted, bringing death or evilness to all who drink from them." and it does live up to the premise in spades! 
Much of Sabre River revolves around the plot elements being present in the kingdom of Norwold, but really because of the very nature of CM3, the events could be moved right into the back part of your own world or even an alternative world or Earth. The Empire of Alphatia might be reconned out of the adventure entirely and the events of CM3 moved onto Hyperborea or some latter day stand in of the late Roman Empire.  There are plenty of pulpy elements to go around in Sabre River and because this is a higher level OD&D module its quite easy to adapt and twist this adventure to suit your own retroclone adventures. Both Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dark Albion sprang to mind whist reading this one. The DM is going to have to be careful to balance certain adventure elements and expect some PC deaths while moving though the adventure with his players and also even though this is a companion adventure, Sabre River takes full advantage of some of the Expert D&D rules.  All in all Sabre River might be right up your alley if your looking for a high level but differently woven adventure in the old school tradition that mixes high level play and dark pulpy adventure in one package.
I really don't think that 
CM3 Saber River by Douglas Niles gets any of the recognition that it deserves these days.