Thursday, August 29, 2019

Castles & Crusades, Ancient Kingdoms D20 Mesopotamia, & The Sands of Zothique

I'm dusting off another old treasure tonight & I've got some OSR back up too boot. So let's talk about a very mixed bag of a book. I'm speaking about Ancient Kingdoms  D20 Mesopotamia. 

Dead Cities in the Desert
"A city of unspeakable antiquity, buried for centuries beneath the desert sands, stands revealed deep in the accursed desert known as the Red Waste. Dare you enter The City That Worshipped a Thousand Gods, seeking the treasures and relics of its Hierophants?
Beware the lurking terrors of a bygone age!"
This is a book that when it came out was trying to blend the worlds & works of H.P. Lovecraft & Robert Howard with a dark fantasy version of Conan's Mesopotamia according to the blurb;"Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia is a large setting source book packed with numerous new classes, deities, monsters and magic items, including a series of short adventures. Explore ancient ruins, temples and dungeons of the lost city of Ibnath, and the perilous wilderness areas that surround it. The Ziggurat of the Ghoul-Queen awaits!" But what does this have to do with Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique? Well a bit of everything. But as I said this is a book with more then its share of lovers & detractors Jeff Black on Amazon from 2006 says this; "
This book is a bit of an oddball. While it at first blush seems like a campaign setting sourcebook for d20, it's primarily a collection of adventures with a good dollop of background material. It shouldn't be mistaken for a book along the lines of Green Ronin's outstanding Mythic Vistas line, which included a number of fairly historically accurate settings like ancient Rome or medieval Europe.

Rather, this is a book that takes the bare bones of Mesopotamian history and mythology, and uses them as a framework on which to construct a set of adventures that evoke the mood and feel of some of the great pulp writers, specifically Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. In addition, this book provides material that would fit comfortably into the Wilderlands, a classic campaign setting originally published Judges Guild in the 1970s and 80s, and now published by Necromancer Games.

I found this book to be a unique addition to my RPG library, one that draws upon a background not often explored in RPGs." But contrast this with 

Francesc Montserrat Sanahuja from 2006 as well; If I had to be honest in my own words would be "it's crap. period."

But I suppose you'd like to read a bit more about it. In fact I study History at the university and my specialty is Sumer so Mesopotamia sounded interesting for me at the time I decided to purchase the book. When I finally received it at home I didn't even finish it cause it was just a regular collection of monsters dungeons traps and spells with changed names and trying to look hip. Not worked on me. You don't need this, just purchase a copy of the epic of Gilgamesh an use names and stories from there to flavour your gaming." The reviews on Drivethrurpg don't get much better.  Personally I'd put Ancient Kingdoms  D20 Mesopotamia.  on the high end of three & a half stars. The book is a mixed bag but for designing the weird wastelands of CAS's Zothique this is an excellent resource. Now one of the resources that has is Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia - Conversion Notes for the Conan RPG. "Written for standard d20/3.5E rules, this adventure by can easily be adapted to the Hyborian Age and the rules of the Mongoose Conan RPG. Here are some notes to assist in such a conversion." Now if we squint really hard I can really see CAS's Zothique. Especially if we look on the horizon & see Rodney Mathew's The Twilight Tower in the distance.

Twilight Tower artwork used without permission but sets the harsh alien wastes of millions of years in Zothique's future.

The plot of the D20 Mesopotamia's D20 Conan  focuses on "The module as written is very open to random wandering and exploration, and the over-arching plot hardly needs modification to be used in a Hyborian campaign. Refer to the Module Background and Current Situation in the book (Chapter 4) for details. Powerful magic prevents the banished kingpriest Arukurshu from entering the ruins of Ibnath, and similar magic imprisons his mate, the Ghoul-Queen Nikhartha. The Hierophants of Ibnath lie asleep in their stasis tombs, unable to awaken by their own volition. The key to dispelling the magic placed on either faction can be found somewhere in the desert. At the same time, the Brotherhood of Kalab and the Cult of the Pit-Worm have their own agendas, and the nomadic Sons of Saram, unless befriended, pose a threat to anyone travelling through the wastes they inhabit."
But this means that with little effort we can pull this adventure & its conversion over into Castles & Crusades or Dungeon Crawl Classics. Chris Rutkowsky  did the conversion of the Mysterious Tower from d20 to Castles and Crusades,& over on the DCC forums from 2006 he's got an entire thread of DCC to Castles & Crusades conversion guidelines. 

So what does Ancient Kingdoms  D20 Mesopotamia  have to do with portraying the ancient god haunted wastes of Zothique besides the perfect sourcebook for wandering caravans, cannibal tribes, desert wanderers,etc.? Well there are also several forbidden demons, lots of Lovecraftian style gods, etc. all of these are very chaotic & dangerous. Now if only I had an OSR resource that was perfect for modeling those adventure elements  that in the campaign setting? Oh that's right I do!  Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos by RPGPundit and Dominique Crouzet is a great book to generate cults with and some of the ones from Ancient Kingdoms  D20 Mesopotamia are perfect fodder for the campaign setting I'm working on.

Not only is CAS's Zothique a low technology, high Sword & Sorcery setting but many of the deities are the ancient remains & hold over of old gods. Some of their rites & rituals are not only chaotic but inimical to humanity. In the sands of Zothique there is a fine line between demonic Hell thing & god.
All of this in my campaign ties back into one of the most powerful & deadly wizards in Basic Dungeons & Dragons. I'm talking about the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) from Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber. Stephen Amber has designs on the far future landscape of Zothique. From his the wilderness back water  of the world of Averoigne, there is little that Stephen Amber misses but next time we'll get into his agenda. 

The sands of Zothique touch many planes & planes Prime, many adventurers from Amazing Adventures! rpg have made the crossing. But few of them have ever come back to tell the tale. Zothique is a time haunted setting indeed that few could survive under the glare of its harsh oversized  bloated  ancient red sun. But still indeed many try. Its sinister relics & treasures dot many worlds indeed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.