Wednesday, September 11, 2019

More Operatic Campaign Design Memories & Commentary With X13 Crown Of Ancient Glory by Stephen Bourne

So last night I was watching some 'Jonny Quest' episodes with my father on a Wednesday night, hey that's just how we roll in my family folks. But it got me thinking about X13 Crown of Ancient Glory which came out in '87. Crown of Ancient Glory is a weird little module, it gives a taste of ruler ship to PC's as a future taster for ruling your own kingdom in other words domain level play. Let me pull some of the background & quick history on this module from Wiki:"
Crown of Ancient Glory is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It was published by TSR in 1987, and designed by Stephen Bourne. Its cover art is by Keith Parkinson, with interior art by Chris Miller and cartography by Dave S. LaForce. The module's associated code is X13 and its TSR product code is TSR 9218. This module was developed and intended for use with the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set and Companion Set rules."

The rule sets are the important part of this module, the adventure is for PC  levels seven through ten and that's where we need to start.


"You must find the long-lost heir to the kingdom and recover the Sonora Crown, the mystical device without which a king cannot be crowned. Standing in your way are traitors and spies from within and invaders from without the kingdom of Vestland. Time is running out! Can you save Vestland from disaster?"

In '87 my uncle had been running a full blown operatic style campaign centered around the gods, demi gods, and mythological elements of Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) by Wagner with equal parts Jack Kirby & a solid foundation of TSR's Saga mini game. Now we as players thought we were pretty hot stuff and had conquered everything Uncle John had cooked up for us kids but he was a sadistic bastard. He hadn't even begun to pull out the stops on us kids. For the Fall campaign there was another TSR mini game classic he'd kept under wraps all Summer.

For his Fall campaign we found ourselves fighting the forces of Ragnarok once again! No the bastard pulled out "The Viking Gods Minigame: The Gods vs. Chaos in Deadly Final Conflict" from 1982! I watched him purchase this game back in '82 down at War & Pieces in West Hartford & suddenly this was going to become our party's downfall!  I'd read the back panel and my heart sank like a stone.

"Odin, Chief of the norse gods, broods in his great hall Valhalla and prepares for battle. As time grows short, his warrior maidens, the Valkyrie, bring him noble Norse warriors who have died bravely in battle. Here the chosen warriors will feast and fight, training for Ragnarok — the final battle of the Gods.
On that day, the evil god Loki will lead an army of fire giants, and huge monsters against the Norse gods and their human allies. The earth will shake as the greatest battle begins.
Lead the Norse gods in their defense of the Tree of Life, or storm across the Rainbow Bridge in search of final victory. Which side will YOU command in this exciting game of Ragnarok?"

So how does all of this tie into the background of Crown of Ancient Glory? Each of the powers, kingdoms, etc  from the module are aligned with the ancient powers of Norse mythology and events from the Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) which impacts on the over all outcome of the module in a very operatic fashion. PC's died in flights of operatic violence and heroic death. Did I mention that we listened to the opera several times during the fall and took trips to a local museum.

There were several things that this Fall's campaign taught me:
  1. The module or adventure is always modified to the needs and expectations of the players but not necessarily what they're going to get. Many DM's twist & play with player expectation. Sure we were powerful PC bad asses but when we as PC's were messing around in mortal business we had to possess a human suit.
  2.  More power brought more headaches and puzzles to play on the players minds. 
  3. Operatic means that like the operas of old PC's familial ties are going tie tragically. Sure these are NPC ties but like in operas they can go down and provide the DM a revenge plot hook later on. 
  4. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There are all kinds of headaches that DM's can inflict whist the PC is trying on the 'big chair' ala Star Trek this gives some very interesting latitude. 
  5. Mythology is filled with weird and unknown monsters don't be afraid to pull out some weird, dangerous, etc. that isn't in the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, or The Fiend Folio. Mythology is the mother of chaos 
  6. Glorious death can be fun if its for a heroic purpose. 
  7. Give PC's kingdoms if they've earned it and want to A.Retire their PC's or B. They want to actually provide a safe harbor for the rest of the party. Yes this actually came up during play. 
  8. Sword & Sorcery is operatic and more then slightly melodramatic so its alright to go over the top with the violence, action, and magic! 
  9.  The kingdoms of Vestland &  the Ethengar Khanate are always going to be forever at odds, the holy Sonora Crown has been stolen can be & should be fleshed out as the DM sees fit. Again this ties back into the mythological aspect. Artifacts & relics are always a headache. 
  10. Leave yourself several leads as a DM to continue the campaign. Don't wrap each & every damn adventure hook up in a neat little bow  
  11. Deities & Demigods is an essential book for pulling this sort of a campaign off. All of the major players is in there.

    Here's where my uncle did a bit of shuffling around of using actual historical stand ins for the various
     module locations  from Ruthin Monastery, to the Red Fangs the lost isles, to Seaforth Tower, & Narvendul and more. This made us go through lots of old history books to find clues to certain battles in England, Norway, Wales, etc. I'm beginning to see a pattern to '87's Fall campaign.  We ended up with an isolated kingdom ruled by Ricky one of our warriors but this was a hard slog of a Fall campaign adventure. Winter was a whole other matter as the force of Hel began to pump up her efforts but that's another blog entry.

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