Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sword & Sorcery Hex Crawling, Campaign Comprise, & Vault of the Dwarven King From Maximum Mayhem Dungeons Actual Play

Sometimes you've got to go back to basics & in this case its working out the internal adventure elements of our 'Old Solar System' campaign. So last night I popped a couple of beers with a friend & watched Ralph Bakshi's Fire & Ice.

When your getting into Fire & Ice your getting into some of the top talent in the fields of animation, fantasy artwork, film production, artwork, etc. including comic book writing and more. Yes this film is an underappreciated gem of the sword & sorcery genre. Just take a look at the film & street cred that this film has according to Wiki;" The film, a collaboration between Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which also distributed Bakshi's 1977 release, Wizards. The animated feature, based on characters Bakshi and Frazetta co-created, was made using the process of rotoscoping, in which scenes were shot in live action and then traced onto animation cels.
The screenplay was written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, both of whom had written Conan stories for Marvel Comics. Background painter was James Gurney, the author and artist of the Dinotopia illustrated novels. Thomas Kinkade also worked on the backgrounds to various scenes. Peter Chung, of Aeon Flux fame, was a layout artist." And that's just some of the talent that worked on this film back in '77. I saw this at the tender age of seven years old & yeah it made a huge impact on me.

Something my friend Steve & I noticed is that there is an internal flow to the story that one finds in animated films but there's also that same sort of flow in old school hex crawls. This was particularly true of B/X Dungeons & Dragons modules in campaign mode. A look at the basic plot overview of Fire & Ice will show you exactly what I'm talking about;"

From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana (Eileen O'Neill) and her son, Nekron (Stephen Mendel), send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarol (Leo Gordon) in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana for Nekron’s sub-humans to kidnap Jarol’s barefoot, bikini-clad daughter, Princess Teegra (Cynthia Leake); Queen Juliana feels that Nekron should take a bride to produce an heir.
But Teegra makes an escape and comes upon Larn (Randy Norton), a young warrior and the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf (Steve Sandor) to save Teegra and then travel to Icepeak to stop Juliana. Darkwolf faces Nekron and kills him as Icepeak succumbs to lava released by King Jarol and is destroyed.
The film finishes with Larn about to kill a beaten sub-human until Teegra stops him saying that "it's over" and embraces him. Darkwolf is seen atop a cliff; he watches the pair, smiles and then disappears. Teegra and Larn kiss as the credits roll."
You've got all of the basic factions aligned where they need to be for the adventurers find them along the adventure path. This is something we'd later see during the evolution of adventure video games especially the text based ones like Zork. Yes I'm that old. There's another way of looking at this in the point crawl system of the Hill Cantons & there's an excellent series by Chris Kutalik. This sort of adventuring uses an absaract map to great effect but does put a bit of the pressure on the DM.

Basic placement of the factions of a campaign is going to determine the balance or lack there of when it comes to the adventure flow in an old school campaign. Sword & Sorcery campaigns don't often have a lot of balance they are punctuated by the violence & pulpy weirdness of the medium.

"Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a subgenre of fantasy characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent adventures. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.[1] Sword and sorcery commonly overlaps with heroic fantasy."When it comes to hex crawling one or more factional powers are often the fixed points of 'law of the land' on the map. A good example of this is the minor witch queen or wizard that has carved out their own section of the map. These sorts of factions are the bread & butter for Adventurer,Conqueror, King & the game handles this sort of dark & dangerous figures quite nice as they make very portions of a campaign and even sub adventures unto themselves. Again this is where ACK's handles and excels at this sort of a campaign. What we're talking about today is where the Hexcrawl is actually driving the campaign itself. How to Hexcrawl From  Taskboy Games is a really good primer on just this sort of a game campaign. It gives a good solid overview & step by step guide for establishing and making your own hexcrawl for Labyrinth Lord.

So let's bring this round does this preclude a dungeon master from using a high fantasy adventure in a sword & sorcery campaign setting? Not at all, there are several ways that this can be done but for me one of the most successful is to have the high fantasy adventure become its own internal setting beast. A good example of this is my use of the recent Vault of the Dwarven King  From   Maximum Mayhem Dungeons  in my own 'Old Earth' setting. I've done this by having the entire adventure take place in an isolated hex area of the campaign.

Now this isn't the first time I've done this sort of adventure campaign set up & compromise but there are reasons for this including my buddy Steve whose nuts for Dwarves & the fact he brought beer, pizza, & his brothers as players as bribery material. Besides which I've already been ready for this sort of a player issue. Now the answer to this comes from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea  whose dwarves are the maggot people who fell from Ymir the ice giant. The goblin races in my campaign came from his feces & fungus!

Both were collected & refined by the Ancient Ones a mysterious Lovecraftian race who spliced them with a bit of humanity we'll get into another day. Most of these two races have gone extinct but the Dwarves are making a huge push to comeback from the brink of extinction in the ruins of Europe. The country that +Mark Taormino 's Vault of The Dwarven King takes place in is going to be an isolated country. The Dwarves were/are a modified race that is occasionally used for outer world work where their expertise in metallurgy is often needed.  Vault of The Dwarven King has more then enough campaign module stuff to create a whole hex country/kingdom unto itself. The events of the module are weird/gonzo enough to take place without actually damaging a campaign in progress. Alright let me address the obvious, yes I think this module is worth getting and after watching Steve & his brothers have an awesome time dying it was worth the writing I did. I'll be more then ready for the traditional D&D players who come down the pike. The module is very deadly and there was a TPK last night in which the PC's were fried badly. 

There are several elements that Mark's choice of artwork has worked very well for last night's actual game. The dwarves were very distinctive & so stood out from the usual run of the mill fantasy artwork seen in many products. This gave last night's game a distinctive feel.

The fact that several of Vault artwork pieces convey exactly what the players wanted worked in my favor & might connect up with an idea that I had. Its easily possible to place an adventure or gonzo setting  within a hex and still keep things moving along within a sword & sorcery game without completely and utterly destroying the entire mood of the campaign. This is something I'm going to have to keep in mind and I'm at the moment considering resurrecting the operatic campaign that my uncle did back in the Summer of '87.

Vault of the
Dwarven King Is Available
Right Here

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