Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Horror Beyond Halloween - The Black Plague & Gary Gygax's The World of Greyhawk

Halloween is fast approaching but for me as a sewing machine repair guy its already passed. The hobbyists & sewers are already looking beyond to the next round of weddings, baptisms, birthdays, & million other holiday projects. I snuck in some time away from social media to sneak in some quality time with Dragon magazine#138 '88 Halloween issue. Its an iconic Jeff Easily cover & I've seen it grace a million D&D memes, social media posts, etc.  This issue has the classic Call of Cthulhu rpg  'The Black Book  & The Hunters' article. Which goes into a huge background on 'The Black Book of Shub-Niggurath'. Some invaluable information running a campaign where Shub-Niggurath is a central & main force of the Mythos. But I digress.

Regardless its an old favorite art piece  of mine by Easily.  But I want to speak about horror beyond Halloween & specifically about two articles that make Dragon issue#138 a stand out issue. The first one is the classic Tom Moldvay's 'Ungrateful Undead' Expanding the Ranks of the Ghostly Undead. Moldvay covers skeletons, zombies, & ghouls. The author pulls out all of the stops covering many major undead sub types that wouldn't be seen till the  3.5 Dungeons & Dragons days again. 
But the one article that never get's mentioned is ''The End of the World' by  Eileen Lucas 'Got an ailing fantasy campaign? Cure it with the Black Death.'  Yeah, this is where I want to pick up the campaign conversation. Basically this article is a tour de force for running a fantasy plague through a Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or other rpg  campaign. Not only did the Black Plague kill half of Europe's population but it continues to exist & flare up even today. Horrifying doesn't even cover the basics here of the Black Death. Ms. Lucas does a fantastic job in four pages of laying the ground work for bringing in the Black Death into your fantasy campaign; "Maybe you have an old, tired fantasy game campaign that’s going nowhere, one that you and your players are really sick of and seems to be beyond hope. But you hate the thought of trashing it altogether, after all the work you’ve put into establishing cities, terrains, weather, etc. What can you do? Well, perhaps a plague can help. In a fantasy campaign, a raging epidemic (a disease which descends suddenly upon a community, burns itself out, and goes away) or pandemic (the worldwide occurrence of such a disease) can eliminate unwanted NPCs en masse. Political, economic, and social systems can be totally restructured. Countless new adventures with interesting twists for PCs can be introduced. Then, too, the physical aspects of the campaign that you like will remain unharmed, and your favorite NPCs can be miraculously saved with your intervention, of course."

Sure Halloween is for the kids but let's face facts, its just as fun for adults to get in a bit on the spooky action. Especially the fact that this bit of history is unparalleled in the modern era so far. But what if  
'The End of the World' by  Eileen Lucas wasn't the end of a campaign but the beginning?  What if the adventurers could actually save the world as things started going around them in flames. New England & especially in Connecticut where ghost stories are told around the home fires. Christmas time is the right time for this tradition but horror shouldn't end at the stroke of midnight on Halloween.  Instead the black plague comes roaring into a campaign such as Greyhawk or even dark Europe. But this time Tom Moldvay's  'Ungrateful Undead' Expanding the Ranks of the Ghostly Undead variants begin churning the soil & roaming the streets. 

The PC's in this one are given the powers of demi gods ala Godbound  to deal with the coming plague. The campaign follows the cycle of infection, death, rebirth, undeath, & then the reveal of the NPC villain. In this case the personification of Edgar Allen Poe's 
The Masque of the Red Death

"The dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet". From Tales of Mystery and Imagination ... Illustrated by Harry Clarke, by Edgar Allan Poe. London : G. G. Harrap & Co., 1919. (British Library item 12703.i.43). Illustrating The Masque of the Red Death.

The outbreak of the plague attracts the god personification of evil & disease itself. Sure there's been the famous 2nd edition Masque of the Red Death box set. But this is completely different with the red death striking & crippling another version of Greyhawk. Here the focus shifts onto the player's PC 
"quasi-deities" which are where the party comes in. This types of divinities first appeared in the  March 1983 issue (Issue 71) of The Dragon. Gary Gygax defines them as follows; "quasi-deities," defined as "characters who have risen above the status of heroes, but who are not quite demi-gods."

There are endless ideas for PC's for this sort of a campaign but one of the best insights into an interesting bit of inspiration is Castles & Crusades Adventurer's Backpack. There are several reasons why & let's take a quick peek in: 
  • 13 new classes
  • New Non-derivative spells
  • A new approach on counter spells and canceling spells
  • 34 different backpacks offerings an easier and faster way to equip
  • A fresh easier to use approach to Unarmed Combat
  • Magic Items for classes who have few to choose from

If we start looking into a black plague campaign the reasons for this become obvious. The PC classes can easily be applied to both a dark Europe & a C&C Greyhawk campaign. If we wish to go past the incubation, infection, the rebirth, & the full on set of a plague of undead & into the realm of the gods or the world ending. Then look no further then Mayfair games Apocalypse box set. Written by Johathan Tweet (yes the Over Edge Rpg guy). This box set lines right up with the Demon & Sentinels box sets to give the dungeon master all of the tools to run the end of the world as we know & still feel fine.

So what does any of this have to do with the Godbound rpg or a campaign? Well let's go over that shall we? The godbound will have a heavy impact on a campaign world or setting especially with one like Greyhawk. Greyhawk is designed to be a gritty Sword & Sorcery style world of Gary Gygax action & adventure. The Godbound are literally going to impact the factions, the world setting, the NPC's, because the OSR game is designed to take full advantage of this factor. Luz & his cronies having access to the words, miracles, etc. of Godbound given their cults is giving the literal Devil the details?! Should Luz become aware of the PC's he's gonna stop at nothing to murder every last one of the PC's.

Not only is he going to want to see the black plague run its course but Luz would take full advantage of the chaos. Given Luz's history this isn't surprising because he'd begin to take over far more lands;
In 479 CY, a warlord in the Howling Hills left control of his land to his "son". By the end of his first year on the throne Iuz had assimilated the three surrounding fiefs. In less than three years, that territory was expanded, creating a small kingdom.  Refugees from his conquests told tales of a road of skulls leading from the hills to the capital of the land, Dorakaa.  They told tales of Iuz being the son of a demon and a necromancer, being a 7ft tall demon driven by destruction
This sort of a campaign might take years to resolve & would keep players going with all kinds of mayhem & carnage! 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Cha'alt / Godbound rpg - Session Zero Character Workshop Part II & Lovecraftian Adventure Location - The Winter Realms

What do you as a dungeon master do if things go a bit too well for your zero session?! One of my players right now is going over & making his PC with Godbound/Cha'alt. I've got another possible player coming up for this campaign. Originally I planned for this to be a one shot mini campaign to explore the system & create some adventures for a few months. Well that plan seems to have gone to crap! I kept staring at the cover of issue #42 of The Dragon magazine. That cover got me thinking about the Godbound product line & a specific book. 

I began to think about Godbound's Ancalia: The Broken Towers adventure/source book. This book is really interesting with some very different OSR takes on undead, fae, etc. I'd say that its one of the core books for Godbound in my opinion.  Its got a very different African Middle ages mythology feel about it. But its the book's take on the Fae that has me interested. Basically the Fae in Ancalia: The Broken Towers are the humans who have evolved into Fae during the time of the storming of Heaven.
So yeah these are not Fairies in the traditional sense but something else. The Dragon issue #42 has articles about adventuring on the inner planes. I've already mentioned the Tolgey Wood on this blog. The endless woods that are under the realms of Fairyland & connected with the lands of Fairy. Realms of dark woodland, endless forests, shadows so deep that they allow nightmares from the  the plane of Shadow to haunt these same woods.  The Tolgey woods are so vast that they are part of the endless Winter Realm of the kingdoms of ice. Places where the winds of the para plane of ice blows through the trees & its only Summer for one day of the year.  This is the realm of the immortal kings & queens of ice & snow. Some of these border the wastelands of the great wastelands of Cha'alt but these were blown open during the War of the Great Old Ones. 

John Elwood BundyWoods in Winter 

Royals whose power comes from the heart of the plane of ice & whose kingdoms are constantly raided by the chaos  forces of the Great Old One The Wendigo. These kingdoms are the realm of the frost kings & queens. Many of the richest dungeons & ruins are within the territory of 'Old Man Winter'. Glittering ice jewels full of mystic power & dripping with darkness tempt many a foolish adventurer.

Winter – Night – Old Age and Death (from the times of day and ages of man cycle of 1803)By Caspar David Friedrich

The minions of Old Man Winter also constantly look for the souls of mortals at the edges of the Winter Realm. They drag them off to the edges of Hell to bargain for occult power & hell fire to keep warm against the elemental storms that rage through this region. Yeti stalk the edges of these storms for man flesh to eat.

Yeti Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual first edition

So this adventure setting comes from the New England tradition of telling ghost stories in Winter & around Christmas. The Winter Realms are directly inspired by Castle & Crusades 'Monsters & Treasure' book & the Castles & Crusades 'The Codex Slavorum' book both of whose monsters, classes are converted over into Godbound for all intents & purposes. C&C has to be converted completely over to make it usable & this is one of the strengths of Castles & Crusades in its flexibility.

A dungeon master has to use one system to take care of all the needs of the campaign & this is why I'm sticking with the Godbound system. The whole affair is me using some of my older campaign notes & stretching some of the D&D elements into a usable whole of a campaign setting.
How will the player's PC's fare? Only time will tell folks but I've got plans within plans coming up! 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Deeper Readings Into Dungeons & Dragons - The Ranks of The Succubus

Now I've spoken about the Wraith of the Immortals box set before but I've been quietly on the side tracing a particular favorite type of demon that I love to use. The Succubus has been a staple of Dungeons & Dragons going all of the way back to Eldritch Wizardry:
"The succubus appeared under the demon entry in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement (1976)" Then they appear in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Monster Manual in 1977.

 But its when we get into the release of 
the Wraith of the Immortals box set that things get interesting for me ;"This edition of the D&D game included its own version of the succubus, which is known as the whispering demon, first appearing in the Immortal Rules set, in the DM's Guide to Immortals (1986).[4] The whispering lesser fiend appeared in the Wrath of the Immortals set, in "Book One: Codex of the Immortals" (1992)"
The name 'whispering demons' describes a phenomenon on two levels of the name. The idea that these demons whisper forbidden secrets of magick & the occult to drive men mad. But the other idea that comes to mind is the idea that these demons whisper into the ears of rulers & kings. They whisper things to sew chaos, bloodshed, insanity, & insanity. A concubine or seductress ( or male paramour)  that shares the bed of a ruler or king's adviser could cause untold harm. Even the folklore & mythology behind the succubus supports this ; "
As depicted in the Jewish mystical work Zohar and the medieval rabbinical text Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam's first wife, who later became a succubus.[3][unreliable source] She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with the archangel Samael.[4] In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with the archangel Samael. There were four original queens of the demons: Lilith, Eisheth, Agrat bat Mahlat, and Naamah.[5] A succubus may take a form of a beautiful young girl but closer inspection may reveal deformities of her body, such as bird-like claws or serpentine tails.[6] Folklore also describes the act of sexually penetrating a succubus as akin to entering a cavern of ice, and there are reports of succubi forcing men to perform cunnilingus on their vulvas, which drip with urine and other fluids.[7] In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.

Throughout history, priests and rabbis, including Hanina Ben Dosa and Abaye, tried to curb the power of succubi over humans.[8] However, not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Map in the satire De Nugis Curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) was allegedly involved with a succubus named Meridiana, who helped him achieve his high rank in the Catholic Church. Before his death, he confessed of his sins and died repentant."

Right now I've talked about one of the more forbidden aspects of the succubus but their ability to reproduce could cause all kinds of havoc with the forbidden aspects of royal birth lines;

According to the Kabbalah and the school of Rashba, the original three queens of the demons, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, Eisheth Zenunim, and all their cohorts give birth to children, except Lilith.[10] According to other legends, the children of Lilith are called Lilin.

According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or "Witches' Hammer", written by Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) in 1486, succubi collect semen from men they seduce. Incubi, or male demons, then use the semen to impregnate human females,[11] thus explaining how demons could apparently sire children despite the traditional belief that they were incapable of reproduction. Children so begotten – cambions – were supposed to be those that were born deformed, or more susceptible to supernatural influences.[12] While the book does not address why a human female impregnated with the semen of a human male would not produce regular human offspring, an explanation could be that the semen is altered before being transferred to the female host. However in some lore, the child is born deformed because the conception was unnatural.[citation needed]
King James in his dissertation titled Dæmonologie refutes the possibility for angelic entities to reproduce and instead offered a suggestion that a devil would carry out two methods of impregnating women: the first, to steal the sperm out of a dead man and deliver it into a woman. If a demon could extract the semen quickly, the substance could not be instantly transported to a female host, causing it to go cold. This explains his view that succubi and incubi were the same demonic entity only to be described differently based on the tormented sexes being conversed with. The second method was the idea that a dead body could be possessed by a devil, causing it to rise and have sexual relations with others. However, there is no mention of a female corpse being possessed to elicit sex from men"

I want to go back to the origin point of original Dungeons & Dragons Eldritch Wizardry for a moment. Succubi are some of the most dangerous NPC villains a group of adventurers can encur the wraith of. These beings of the Abyss use every single trick in the book to sew the seeds & fruits of chaos within the hall of power & in the bed chambers of the elite. There were scores of these succubi in the Abyss according to the original demons entry in OD&D's  Eldritch Wizardry book. But where are these demons actually coming from?

What would happen if the endless planes of the Abyss are merely the production facilities for the demonic evil for all of the multiverse of the prime material  planes? The manufacturing point for every demonic entity that exists? These demonic horrors are traded & modified among the evil entities & overlords of the multiverse. While doing research into the succubi I remembered my Dante's Inferno & the Malebolge.  The Abyss could be thought of as the factory or production area for Hell. Hell is the main attraction for the damnation of man across the planes. The succubi & incubui are created from the lustful, the murderous, & the damned from the Malebolge; "In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, part of the Divine Comedy, Malebolge (/mælˈbl/) is the eighth circle of Hell. Roughly translated from Italian, Malebolge means "evil ditches". Malebolge is a large, funnel-shaped cavern, itself divided into ten concentric circular trenches or ditches. Each trench is called a bolgia (Italian for "pouch" or "ditch"). Long causeway bridges run from the outer circumference of Malebolge to its center, pictured as spokes on a wheel. At the center of Malebolge is the ninth and final circle of hell." 

Succubus often find themselves traded among demons, devils, gods of evil, etc. but their loyalties always belong to the Abyss. Why? Because the so called 'Prince of Demons' is their lord & ultimate master. Demogorgon might not seem like the likely creator of the Succubi. Make no mistake the Lord of the Ninetieth layer of the Abyss craves power & knowledge above all else. The succubi & incubui are hand picked from the most twisted souls of men & women his demonic lords can find. Then the bizarre & humiliating process of demonic transformation happens. I said his but in reality Demogorgon is beyond our human understand of sex or gender; "
In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, Demogorgon sometimes goes by the ancient name "Ahmon-Ibor", or "the Sibilant Beast". He is responsible for corrupting the paladin Sir Kargoth and transforming him and thirteen of his fellow Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom into Oerth's first death knights." And within Mystara, "Demogorgon is described as female in the 1986 Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Rules."

All of this corrisponds to Demogorgon's place in the Abyss & his alien demonic horror nature;

Demogorgon lives on the 90th layer of the Abyss, known as Abysm, the Brine Flats, or Gaping Maw. This is a layer consisting of a great sea of briny water broken by tall, sharp, ugly, rocky prominences rising out of the endless murky water into a sky of yellow mist. Demogorgon's palace is two twin towers shaped very roughly like tightly coiled serpents that are covered with sharp, ugly fin-like features and spines, and crowned at the top with skull-shaped minarets. The two towers are linked by a bridge near the top. Beneath the fortress are reefs and caverns where aboleths, kraken and ixitxachitl dwell, constantly warring with each other and worshipping Demogorgon in his palace above. His towers are said to extend so far beneath the sea that they connect to the layer beneath him where he speaks with the obyrith lord Dagon.
Numerous isles dot the layer, but they all resemble Demogorgon's palace: twin rookeries rising straight out of the sea and into the sky. The only significant landmass of the layer is a vast jungle-covered continent. Here, Demogorgon's capital city of Lemoriax is located."

What's really happening is that Demogorgon's heads are in telepathic contact with his vast spy network across the multiverse & planes. It rather enjoys spreading its own sinister brand of mayhem plus chaos where & wants to. In fact it loans out succubi to many other powers including various Great Old Ones & Outer Gods. 

DCS Demogorgon from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 
Monster Manual..

With such a demonic  spy network in place across the multiverse is it any word or turn of a phrase is instantly at the beckon & call of the Abyss. Suddenly those tidbits of information add up to nothing but trouble for those adventurers who come under the  baleful eyes of the Prince of Demons. For no good reason the succubi not only are in the bed chambers of the powerful but in the halls of damnation spying on the very essence of their prey. 

The Veneer of Dungeons & Dragons In Old School & OSR Campaigns

Michael Weaver's cover for Dragon magazine #162 screams to Ravenloft second edition setting to me. 

So the character workshop went alright folks but I've down with the Autumn sickness that seems to go around here in my neck of Connecticut. Its a very gloomy Sunday which is in keeping with the Halloween season. One of the things I want to talk about is using the veneer of Dungeons & Dragons while using OSR systems. This is an issue I think that's very important for maintaining a consistent campaign feel. It really doesn't get discussed all that much. Dungeons, characters, etc. should feel as if they stepped right out of the original Dungeons & Dragons set of books or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. 

Of course this isn't always the case if your running say other campaign settings with other table top rpg systems. But the best way of using the varnish of original Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Using the Godbound rpg I've come to the startling conclusion that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods is a solid resource for this campaign. But there's a lot of conversion work needed to  bring the mythology of the book to life within  the bounds of the setting for play. 

 The plane Prime is the chess board of the gods why? Because humanity is the resource of the gods & monsters across the multiverse. This is the 'bread & butter' of the prey vs hunter dynamic behind many of the monsters of Dungeons & Dragons. A game of divine heroes the perfect vehicle to bring the characters into the fray. 

The incomplete pantheons of both books point up to the fact that there have been battles of cosmic importance in the past this is one of the central axis of both Kuntz & Ward's Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods. This can & should be used to the dungeon master's advantage when prepping & constructing adventures. We find a solid old school resource in The Dragon issue #57 'Modern Adventuring' by Ed Greenwood.

This brings me to Venger Satanis's Cha'alt & the war of HP Lovecraft  Great Old Ones. The war cycle is simply another part of the ever continuing alien weirdness of the Great Old Ones but what about the vaulted Elder Gods? These are some of the more wholly  alien aspects of conventional gods that were introduced by August Derleth & his ilk. More information right over here. 

Cha'alt itself permeating modern culture would be extremely dangerous as the influence of the Old Ones weaves itself into the modern landscape. The whole affair smacks of Clark Ashton Smith's far future Zothique cycle. The Old Ones are still active on Zothique but to far greater extent then say Cha'alt. 

The influence of CAS's Zothique just feels like Appendix N's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide but the whole cycle feels like a solid old school Dungeons & Dragons campaign to me: 
  • Black Abbot of Puthuum, The (1936)
  • Charnel God, The (1934)
  • Dark Eidolon, The (1935)
  • Dead will Cuckold You, The (1950)
  • Death of Ilalotha, The (1937)
  • Empire of the Necromancers, The (1932)
  • Garden of Adompha, The (1938)
  • In the Book of Vergama (1934)
  • Isle of the Torturers, The (1933)
  • Last Hieroglyph, The (1935)
  • Mandor's Enemy (1989)
  • Master of the Crabs, The (1948)
  • Morthylla (1953)
  • Necromancy in Naat (1937)
  • Shapes of Adamant (1935)
  • Tomb-Spawn, The (1934)
  • Voyage of King Euvoran, The (1931) [Illustration "Quest of the Gazolba" By Boris Dolgov]
  • Weaver in the Vault, The (1934)[CAS Illustration]
  • Witchcraft of Ulua, The (1934)
  • Xeethra (1934 [CAS Illustration]
  • <Zothique (1951)

  • Any of these settings really need parties of adventurers, heroes, & nay demi gods are needed to combat the darkness that seems to push the edges of existence. Dungeons & Dragons vineer is both pervasive & very compelling to pull players into the game. 
  • Friday, October 25, 2019

    'Breaking The House' Cha'alt / Godbound rpg - Session Zero Character Workshop & Lovecraftian Adventure Location - The Tolgey Woode

    Just below Fairyland & connected with the lands of Fairy are the Tolgey Wood, a region of dark woods, wastelands, & mysterious shadows. Shadows so deep that some connect to the plane of Shadow.  These woods are home to many species of Jabberwocky. They are also connected with many lands through mysterious gates of old which lead to many planar bolt holes of ancient species much older then man. Here red caps hunt the locals  with with vorpal knives sharper then surgeon's steel. These have been made for them by fey who collect elemental iron from the winds that blow between worlds. These woods are deceptive for there are kingdoms of humanity within them. Made of the lost, the royal, the insanes, & those who have fallen between the dimensional cracks. Many species of lizard men, kobolds, & troglodyte make their homes here in the fens, swamps, & edges of the many pools that dot the landscape.

    Dave Trampier Lizardman
     Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Monster Manual

    These monsters have ancient rivalries with the many Jabberwocky that make this place their home. These tribes are the ancient servants to the lands of Mnar & Ib which the Tolgey Wood connects. Though those other worldly places the wood connects with wastelands of 'the forgotten universes' where the echoes of Thomas's Moore's lines still waffle down the future epochs of mankind's doom; "A reservoir of darkness, black
    As witches' cauldrons are, when fill'd
    With moon-drugs in th' eclipse distill'd
    Leaning to look if foot might pass
    Down thro' that chasm, I saw, beneath,
    As far as vision could explore,
    The jetty sides as smooth as glass,
    Looking as if just varnish'd o'er
    With that dark pitch the Seat of Death
    Throws out upon its slimy shore."

    These wastelands were once the domains of the mummies lizard kings of far future Zothique. They loath mankind for they were from elsewhere & when. Their forgotten cities cross gulfs of time & space. The elder gods banished them from the Earth in time lines long forgotten. Yet their cities & ruins make the crossing from time to time slipping through the cracks onto the planes Prime. The cults of the Jabberwocky & the hated mummies of the lizard kings even now hold court in the deserts around Las Vegas.

    So tonight is the zero session & character workshop in my Cha'alt/ Godbound rpg crossover Las Vegas campaign.  I wanted to leave the door open for Zothique, Dungeons & Dragons elements, & especially Lovecraft. So I'm toning down the gonzo at this point & turning the fantasy elements up to eleven with the Lewis Carol  'Through The Looking Glass', HP Lovecraft's 'Dreamlands' cycle including the Nameless City , & Clark Ashton Smith 'Zothique'  adventure elements.

    Dave Trampier artwork from The
     Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Monster Manual

    The reason for this is because I've got several touch stones with other OSR & old school campaigns that I've run in the past. The reason for the zero session is simple, get all of the players on the same page right outta of the gate. I'm using all of the tools at my disposal to get the players on the same page right out of the gate & then get moving on Vegas next week. The best use with the time I've got is the best way to get everyone on the same hymn sheet! 

    Thursday, October 24, 2019

    Review & Commentary On Castles & Crusades Rpg The Hanged Man Adventure By Davis Chenault For Castles & Crusades Or Your OSR Game System

    "A long journey under an azure sky filling with brackish, boiling clouds ends at a large oak tree. Here, from a muscled branch, a man hangs limply by a thick rope strangled around his neck. Beyond, a dim, rising, yellow moon silhouette’s a village. Snaking, ashy tendrils of smoke coil above rooftops, lights glitter in windows while a miasmal fog creeps down upon the village from freshly churned fields. Then, as sudden as lightening, a fife and fiddle begin a joyous tune. This stops as abruptly as it started. All that now can be heard is a rope straining and groaning with the weight of the hanged man.
    A bizarre and humorous adventure where absolution is as important as keeping one’s head."

    I picked up Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man'  adventure up from Drivethrurpg to sort of take a break from my writings & ramblings on about Godbound/Cha'alt for a moment. The adventure clocks in about nineteen pages & the layout as well as cartography are up to Castles & Crusades rpg standings.
    This is a Halloween themed adventure & since I've been reading through the old Dragon Magazine Halloween issues the Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man'  adventure is a welcome bridge gap adventure. But be warned this is middle of the road & higher level adventure for the Castles & Crusdes rpg. The adventure is solidly done but its for PC levels 4 -6. Note that Castles & Crusades goes up to level ten but that ten is a king of the land or lady royal queen. 

    The adventure location, the adventure elements, circumstances, etc. are all handled with a deft hand by writer/designer Davis Chenault. He turns in a solid adventure with all of the bells & whistles that you expect from Troll Lord games. The material here is straight up fun & very much in the vein of old school Halloween & Dungeons & Dragons weirdness.
    I don't want to give the adventure details & Halloween horror themes away in 
    Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man'  adventure but this adventure wouldn't be out of place being dropped into a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign.  The Hanged Man has legs enough to be run with a solid OSR system behind it.
    With a bit of work I can see simply dropping this adventure into the Ravenloft setting. 

    All in all Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man'  adventure is a solid go too adventure for experienced Castles & Crusades Rpg players & their characters. The adventure ideas here are original enough to keep the DM interested & the players coming back for the three or so sessions that it would take to run this advenure. Would I run Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man'  adventure? Well I bought the adventure with my own cash & so in a word yes! For some reason Drivethrurpg isn't taking my reviews today? But no matter I've already emailed them & I've got another trick up my sleeve.

    There's Castles & Crusades NPC Almanac! kickstarter & this thing has been going & going. I've been keeping track of it & it looks amazingballs for the Castles & Crusades fans.


    Wednesday, October 23, 2019

    Appendix N - Strange Aeons of Frank Belknap Long & OSR Campaign Construction

    Sleep sometimes eludes me for days at a clip & when that happens I reach back to my days reading 'The Dragon' Magazine, my uncle's collection of Pulp magazines, & my thoughts of 'those things'. My own particular brush with the writings of  Frank Belknap Long came in the Fall of '86. I was sick with pneumonia & my uncle brought my folks a stack of Pulp magazines. In the stack was the July '37 issue sealed in it's acid free mylar bag. The cover art was by Virgil Finlay & by today's standards it doesn't seem like much. But the contents of this issue?


    The contents of this issue of Weird Tales read like a whose who of the Lovecraft circle of writers;

    You can read the July '37 issue of Weird Tales for free right over here. But let's get back to the fact that I was running a hundred plus temperature & had the most vivid dreams about the Hounds of Tindalos. On Youtube I came across a fantastic video on the Hounds of Tindalos from the folks at Pulp Crazy.

    So what do the Hounds of Tindalos have to do with old school Dungeons & Dragons or its titular retroclones? Since I've been messing around with time travel as of late because of writing up & zipping around the Godbound Rpg & Venger's Cha'alt megadungeon/rpg. There's been a lot of thought about H.P. Lovecraft's Shadow Out of Time on my mind lately. This always brings me back to Star Trek especially the classic episode  City on the Edge of Forever.  Those damn time/space gates from City on the Edge of Forever leak & ooze Great Race of Yith technologies to me. Harlan Ellison once called this sort of thing,'f@#king nonsense'. But to a kid watching evening Star Trek episodes out of New York's channel eleven on Monday afternoon. The fannon connections were made. In my mind these Guardians were created to keep the Hounds of Tindalos at bay.

    The Guardian straight from the Memory Alpha site. 

    Not only were the 'Guardians of Forever' created to keep the local time space continuum's safe but for the Great Race of Yith to experiment on their own time & alternative world projects. We saw this sort of time alteration &  time manipulation happen in the  episode of Star Trek 's 
    City on the Edge of Forever.  This sort of alteration seemed almost routine for the Guardian.
    Which means could there be alternative alien time lines & worlds or mini planes created by the Great Race as means of experimentation?! Place & time so dangerous or weirdly immical to humanty or places where even the gods fear to tread?! These may be the hunting ground for the Hounds of Tindalos. This brings up Advanced Dungeons & Dragons  Kuntz & Ward's Deities & Demigods. 

    If these sorts of trans cosmic time ghettos & dungeons do exist then perhaps part of the reason that the Godbound might be recruited to shut these places down before the Hounds of Tindalos invade the normal flow of space time. I can see the Egyptian patheon god Ptah doing exactly this sort of adventure hook.
    Gotta love that classic Jeff Dee artwork here.

    What makes the Hounds of Tindalos so utterly alien & dangerous? The wiki entry on the Hounds of Tindalos makes it utterly clear but doesn't do justice to the sheer terror of these horrors from beyond time; "In Frank Belknap Long's original story, which deals with the main character experimenting in time travel with the help of psychedelic drugs and esoteric artifacts, the Hounds are said to inhabit the angles of time, while other beings (such as humankind and all common life) descend from curves.

    Though the Hounds are sometimes pictured as canine, probably because of the evocative name, their appearance is unknown, since neither Long nor Lovecraft describe them, arguing they are too foul to ever be described.[2] Long's story states that their name "veils their foulness". It is said that they have long, hollow tongues or proboscises to drain victims' body-fluids, and that they excrete a strange blue pus or ichor. They can materialize through any corner if it is fairly sharp—120° or less. When a Hound is about to manifest, it materializes first as smoke pouring from the corner, and finally the head emerges followed by the body. It is said that once a human becomes known to one of these creatures, a Hound of Tindalos will pursue the victim through anything to reach its quarry. A person risks attracting their attention by travelling through time." 
    Seriously go read the original story by F.B. Long for the real impact of the sheer cosmic weirdness that the Hounds play. Even with the word of Time from Godbound I somehow doubt that the PC's might be able to handle the sheer alieness of the Hounds. They are & remain one of my favorite though feared creations of Mr.Long. 

    An asside here for a moment to say that I'm eternally grateful to the fans & admirers of Mr.Long who made sure that he recieved a proper burial with his beloved wife after his passing in '94; "Long's literary output slowed down after 1977, with his gothic The Lemoyne Heritage. He published several scattered stories in the 1980s including the story chapbook "Rehearsal Night" (Pub: Thomas L. Owen,1981) and one episode in the round-robin sequence Ghor Kin-Slayer (Necronomicon Press, 1997). He and his wife lived in extreme poverty during the 1980s and 1990s in an apartment in Chelsea, Manhattan - a period documented in Peter Cannon's memoir Long Memories (1997).
    In 1987, Long was awarded the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (from the Horror Writers Association).
    Long, though confined to a wheelchair, was a Guest of Honour at the H.P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1990, where he spoke on panels regarding his memories of his great friend and literary mentor.
    Long died of pneumonia on January 3, 1994 at the age of 92 at Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan, after a seven-decade career as a writer and editor.[1] He was briefly survived by his wife, Lyda.
    Due to his poverty, he was interred in a potter's field for indigents. Friends and colleagues, on learning of this indignity, had his remains moved and reinterred at New York City's Woodlawn Cemetery, in a family plot near that of Lovecraft's grandparents. A graveside ceremony on Nov 3 1995 was attended by such figures as Scott D. Briggs, Peter Cannon, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Ben P. Indick, S. T. Joshi, T.E.D. Klein and others and with a poignant homily delivered by the Rev. Robert M. Price. On Nov 17, 1995 the actual interment of Long's body took place, an event witnessed by Peter Cannon, Ben P. Indick and S. T. Joshi. Long's fans contributed over $3,000 to have his name engraved upon the central shaft of his burial plot.[9] Lyda died shortly after Frank;[9] her ashes were scattered on his grave." 

     But back to using the Hounds of Tindalos,many wizards who use divinitation to gaze into the far past at the creation of the planes & multiverse could attract the attention of the Hounds of Tindalos. The victim must save vs wands to avert the attention of the hounds when using his or her tool of divinitation.
    The hounds themselves if they appear within the angles of a wizard's laboratory will level drain a victim every two or three rounds. Only a dispel creature of time & space or a Wish spell will banish the alien foulness of the hounds.

    Hound of Tindalos miniature  by Reaper 

    October seems like the proper month to be thinking of the dread Hounds of Tindalos & their creator. I'm thinking of releasing them onto an unsuspecting group of players very soon! Mr. Frank Belknap Long is gone but far from forgotten!