Monday, September 16, 2019

Free OSR Downloads & Secrets of X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville) By Tom Moldvay

"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?"

Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay  was/is one of my all time favorite modules. "X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)" (1981), by Tom Moldvay, is the second Expert level Basic D&D adventure. It was published in 1981."
Last night I was poking aroung through the Vaults of Pandius website for some research & conversion work on  X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville). DM Steve clued me in on Dark History of the d'Ambreville Family by Andrew Theisen on the Vaults of Pandius site. 

This module fits into the mold of Clark Ashton Smith's The Oracle of Sadoqua-
Horatius, a Roman officer stationed in the recently-conquered province of Averonia, searches vainly for his missing comrade, Galbius, of whom there is apparently neither trace nor rumor among the natives. Horatius, in desperation, finally seeks an oracle of the pagan Druids-the ((fearsome)) baleful oracle of the dread god Sadoqua, who is believed to slumber eternally underground in a cavern amid the deep forests of Averonia. He finds the place, accompanied by several soldiers, and is ((bidden)) taken by the dark, repulsive Druids to ((enter)) the cave of the oracle ((alone)). In a grotto rifted from above and beneath, where The outer light falls dismally into half[?] dissipated shadows, he finds a strange, hairy, swarthy, half-human being, chained beside ((the fetid, reeking)) a chasm whence dire, fetid vapours reek. this being ((replies)) speaks in half-articulate Latin ,and gives a cryptic answer to his queries concerning the fate of Galbius. Horatius is strangely disturbed by something in the voice; and as the half-sifted sunlight falls briefly on the weird oracle, he fancies in this being a far-off. distorted, impossible resemblance to the lost Galbius. The creature, however, denies that it is Galbius; and Horatius departs with his men, more sorely perplexed and baffled than before. Leaving, he encounters a lovely pagan girl, who dwells in the vicinity of the cavern. There is an instant attraction between the two; and Horatius returns later, alone, to resume her acquaintance. Love grows between them and the girl tells him, reluctantly, something of the true secrets of. The oracle's cavern, and admits that the ((oracl)) present oracle is indeed the lost Galbius, who was abducted by the Druids and chained beside the chasm. The vapors rising from the chasm had speedily caused him to forget all his normal memories and had brought about a degradation into subhuman forna. In this connection, he had become a proper medium for the inspiration of the slumbering god Sadoqua, who knows all things; and could give such answers to queries as The god dictated. Many others had been the oracles of the god. The chasmemitted vapors were believed to be his actual breath; and their effect was so terrible that few mortals could endure them long without dying or at least becoming so embruted that they were no longer capable of human speech and were useless as intermediates. Learning this, ((Galbius)) Horatius in his wrath again enters the secret cave, and finds Galbius has turned to an almost formless mass of dark, hairy plasm, which utters wordless sounds. In his horror, he tries to slay the thing. The Druids enter and seize him as he plunges his sword into the transformed Galbius. He is knocked unconscious. Later reviving, he finds himself chained beside the baleful chasm, inhaling the fumes that cause him to forget his human past in a mad, primordial delirium."

All of this fits into the background  article by Harri Mäki Glantrian Principalities; "I've been planning to write something about history of Glantri's various principalities and their ruling houses. I have made some research about subject and I have some presuppositions to made which I want to you know and comment before I send any other works for list." This article fits the criteria that we've seen laid out in Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay . The idea that Amberville family are light years ahead of the rest of Mystara & even those families within  Averoigne  Why!? Because there's an occult connection that runs much deeper then anyone expects within the French region; ": 'region in France, heavily forested — located somewhere between Tours and Moulins; a "main highway" between those two cities goes through it (The End of the Story, Clark Ashton Smith)" The  Ambervilles are a cursed family whose connection to the occult is as solid as the Edgar Allan Poe family their based on namely the Ushers. "This adventure leads off with the players encountering the fog-shrouded Castle Amber. Some suggest that the Castle and its denizens, and in particular room #25, were influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839). The connection with room #25 is especially clear, since it includes a sister named Madeline calling out from her grave, just like the short story." 

 "Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination" (1935) Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

So not only do we have a powerful other worldly family but its one that suffers a heinous connection to the darkness of the occult.  We also have a family  on Mystara that is strongly connected with the royality of the wizards of the setting includin its military. 
The Grand Army of Glantri ... revised and updated

by micky article goes into some of the dangerous aspects & curious ties to the Glantri miliary that the family of Castle Amber has. The numbers of the armed forces of the miliary  are very interesting;" First off is the size of Glantri's armed forces. After the WotI and the plague Glantri was left with a population of just under 600,000. Yet their standing army... was a mere eight divisions of 900 men each. That means they have a standing army of just over one person of their post war population in what is still a very dangerous world. IMC Glantri did demobilise their armed forces after the war ended but they did not downsize to the original 8 divisions but instead kept 16 full strength divisions in place which is still just over 2% of the reduced population figure. That is something Prince Jaggar would want.. and at that point no one was going to fight him on that. Doing some economic number crunching per Gaz 3 it is safe to assume that 'doubling' the size of their active military forces would come no where near breaking the bank, especially with all the principalities ... and IMC dominions that were formed and have served their purpose of greater control economically of previously 'free' territories. As I noted in an earlier post where I discussed my campaign, new principalities (4 since AC 1000) have not been the only additions to Glantrian political landscape. Made no sense to me to have more Princes than Barons so during the Great War Glantri created score of new baronies and viscountcies. There are now 20 baronies in Glantri, and 10 Viscounties to go with previously existing higher noble titles and lands. Now the noble balance is more linear which in terms of this subject has brought significantly more income and taxation to the capital.)With these 16 divisions, I thought I might take Ohad's work and expand on it a bit. As always.. thoughts and feedback are appreciated. I would like to thank Ohad in advance for his work which I am just perverting for my amusement.
I think the main question I had with what Ohad did was the absence of wizards in the divisions. Like None in Jherek's division.. and only 25 or so in Jaggar's. Recruitment of wizards has always been a priority of the military and canon sources speak of significant numbers of mages within the Glantrian military with a strong martial tradition among particular ethic groups of wizards.
What I did was give each of the 8 division commanding Princes a second division. Prince Malachie took over Volospin's division. Juliana taking over her father's division"

Now take in the kind of power that the Chateau d' Amberville has over the whole of the wizards & occultists of Mystara. Then their influence becomes apparent so not only are we getting an overview of the forces of the country but the sort of diabloic power that the Chateau d' Amberville has within Mystara.
One question that always comes to mind reading through 
X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)" is the module connected with Ravenloft? Are the mists coming to gather to take away the powerful  Ambervilles to Ravenloft after the latest bebacle or horridly ghoulish incident? 

Or could it be that the head of the Ambervilles is not only a powerful wizard of exceptional class but a dark lord of Ravenloft already?! Some of the secrets revealed in 

Mark of Amber by Aaron AllstonJeff GrubbJohn D. Rateliff,  & Bruce Heard may fall into this category. Mark of Amber is in my humble opinion one of the best products to come out for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition. But that's a blog entry for another time. 

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