Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Wilderness & Beyond - Using The 'B' series & Alphabet Soup Method for OSR or Old School Adventure Path Campaigning

"The end of the road. A lonely fort stands on the banks of a mighty river. It is here the hardy bands of adventurers gather to plan their conquests of The Hill, the hulking mass that looms over this tiny settlement. 

The Hill is filled with monsters, they say, and an evil witch makes her home there. Still, no visitor to The Hill has ever returned to prove the rumors true or false. The thrill of discovery is too great to pass up, and only the river stands in the way. The adventurers' boat is waiting!" 

For me right outta of the gate B5 Horror on the Hill By Douglas Niles is a continuation of  Gary Gygax's B2 The Keep on the Borderlands . This makes the module actually useable instead of just another campaign adventure center piece. The premade characters are weak & should not be used by an experienced dungeon master for his PC's. I came across this little blurb from the Drivethrurpg entry on B5 ;" B5 is quite similar in general nature to B2: "Keep on the Borderlands" (1980): It includes a home base out in the wilderness - here, Guido's Fort - and from there players can trek to monster-infested areas. We can speculate that this might have been a purposeful replacement, as TSR was releasing the third-edition Basic D&D set at the time, and thus B2 (which had been a staple of the first and second edition Basic D&D sets) was dropping out of print.

The biggest difference between "Horror" and the classic "Keep" is that Guido's Fort is given almost no detail, leaving the gamemaster to create any roleplaying opportunities for the home base itself. Of course, as some have suggested, you could just replace Guido's Fort with the Keep on the Borderlands!" I'm going to take a very opposite tactic & say don't do this! Take the maps of the keep & simply use them for Guido's Fort  whist filling in the encounters you want. This will keep the players guessing & have you able to keep them on their toes.
Now not only can you use both B2 & B5 together but these can be strung together using the glue of B8 Journey to the Rock by Michael Malone. You get all of the wilderness & all of the remains of the forts along the borderlands now converted into dungeons, ruins, caverns, etc. 

Now if you really want to screw with your players & the Caves of Chaos just aren't cutting it for you because of the 'we've read & memorized all of the classic TSR modules' bit that players seem to do. Then grab your handy AC9 Creature Catalog By Jim BambraPhil Gallagher, & Graeme Morris. Swap out some of the monsters & swap in some of the Creature Catalog monsters this makes it seem as though the forces of chaos are on the move. I recently did this with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. These modules used together made the wilderness seem like a nightmarish never ending nightmare.
If these modules are coupled with B10 Night's Dark Terror by Jim BambraGraeme Morris, & Phil Gallagher. They give an adventure path that seems to indicate that the humanoid armies are gathering & more over their on the move to conquer the human lands.

When I used this adventure path with AS&SH the players remembered the hyena men connection & this sent them into a blind panic. It seemed like 'Underborea' was cracking open & the hordes of Hell itself were spilling out. In Mystara all of this had different connotations as the cults of the elemental evil began to gather & tighten around the throat of the kingdoms.

I don't usually go light weight when it comes to describing the reality warping powers that are held within the dungeons & ruins of the elemental evil. For me the elemental evil books are as follows for old school D&D as well as AD&D: 

  • The Village of Hommlet (1979, AD&D)
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985, AD&D) 
That's it unless I'm specifically picking up the pieces from 3.5's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil but I don't run that all that often. This brings everything in line with the expansion of the humanoid armies seen in B2 Keep on the Borderlands. So why not simply use B1-9 In Search of Adventure by David "Zeb" CookJeff GrubbGary Gygax, & Tracy Hickman? Because the wilderness & encounters from the previously mentioned modules are cut down, the whole affair is edited, & it cuts back on the play time folks.

This whole adventure path gets everything in a campaign primed up & ready for the main events. Running this sequence of adventure modules could take a year or more easily. These could be played out with Mentzer Expert Dungeons & Dragons  or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition.

Now before all of the occult esoterica hits the fan & the humanoid armies crush your home campaign I've also run U.K.1 Beyond The Crystal Cave by Dave J. BrowneTom Kirby, & Graeme Morris   an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Module also known  Uk1 9066  TSR as a buffer module to set up the next leg of the campaign after the events of T1-4  Temple of Elemental Evil By Gary Gygax & Frank Mentzer.  

This breaks events up. Gives the PC's time to regroup & for the humanoids to mass then attack some of the outlying areas of your home campaign. This also sets up for a smooth transition into the U.K. series of modules as the party re euips, gains new members to replace the dead, and levels up. All of that is of course if they survive. 

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