Thursday, November 28, 2019

Rumbles of the OSR - X1 The Isle of Dread By David Cook & Tom Moldvay, & More OSR Campaign Madness

Most of my American friends have spent their day with their American families for Thanksgiving. And we've had a fantastic Thanksgiving but something has been at the back of my mind. I'm talking about the appearance of X1 Isle of Dread off the coast of California in my campaign. Let's get that pesky history of the X1 module outta of the way first;"X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981), by David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay, was the first "expert" level adventure for Basic D&D. It was released in January 1981 - both as a standalone module and packaged with the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Rules (1981)."

So I've just spent an entire day eating metric ton of turkey & being thankful to God that I've made another year around this blessed ball of Earth with my family. But besides that I've spent the better part of two weeks rereading some of my favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs books the Pellucidar series: 

  • At the Earth's Core (1914)
  • Pellucidar (1915)
  • Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)
  • Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929)
  • Back to the Stone Age (1937)
  • Land of Terror (1944)
  • Savage Pellucidar (1963)

    I've been running my Cha'alt/Godbound campaign for a little while now but something has occurred to me. This campaign takes place during early stages  the time of Ragnarok when the Lovecraftian forces of darkness are trying to retake the surface world. 

    Dust-jacket illutration by J. Allen St. John for At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    This has been one of my campaign themes that's been running through several of my 90 day campaigns for years now. Is this the same Earth where the forces of  the Hyperborean Empire  retake the surface world and then go on to much later establish Hyperborea floating in the void around Saturn ala the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg ? 
    Well its very possible given the fact that AS&SH is a solid choice of a system to add to this OSR mix plus looking over Northwind Adventure's Black Friday sale on their adventures makes this a tempting choice.

    Now this isn't the first time I've used AS&SH to run within a Hollow Earth campaign & these were my plans to begin with. AS&SH was one of the systems that I've used in the past to run a couple of Sword & Sorcery adventure one shots with several of the empires within ERB style Hollow Earths. Not only that but L1 Dwellers of The Forbidden City by David Cook  worked very well with a Hollow Earth campaign.

    I'm thinking of reusing L1 for another of the islands that materialized just west of the isle of Dread. But what are these adventure locations significance within the context of the Hollow Earth or the uptick in strange & uncanny cults that sprung up around the California countryside?!
    What of the strange rumors of incredibly tall warriors stalking the countryside, reports from sea side tourist towns of strange murders by fish men, droves of tourists who have joined the legion of the 
    kopru, & tales of strange men & women raising armies of the dead! 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Immortality's Price - Cha'alt & The Gods of B/X Dungeons & Dragons

Now I've spoken at length about the real need for heroes & adventurers in OSR & old school campaign. I've spoken at length about the veneer of Dungeons & Dragons as well as it use in old school campaigns.  But when you start looking into the mind set of Dungeons & Dragons especially the length & breath of campaign several things become apparent. Even with large groups of players & their PC's they might not cover every event in a world spanning campaign. Take a look at Wraith of the Immortals box set for exactly the sort of weirdness I'm talking about.

Now start thinking about campaign shattering locations as well & let's look at the recent inclusion of Venger Satanis's Cha'alt.  The appearance of the world setting of Cha'alt in my own game campaigns has caused a complete shift of attention from the Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence.   And this is fine with me because the islands could & will comeback to bite the players in the ass again. The same way that events from the Wraith of the Immortals box set can & will bite player's PC's in the ass. Just because you might be high level or even demi gods in my campaign's case because I'm using Godbound as my base system doesn't mean that events in a campaign don't continue to unfold around the PC's!

Los Vegas has been ravaged by the appearance of Cha'alt & the black pyramid! The events continue to unfold between sessions as factions get stronger & weaker. There are other NPC adventurers & player  heroes in play all of the while that my main group of player's PC's are working their way through Vegas. Both Godbound & Cha'alt have built in faction event generators built right into the systems. As the dungeon master I'm taking prime advantage of this fact! 

Right now I'm using those same rules & random generators to pull material & update stuff from the Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence.   Especially some of the weird alien factions that aren't complete fleshed out in the main island book.. These are being taken to the next level. The Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence have in fact manifested right of the Gulf of Mexico in my Friday night game. Several US army officers have come under the influence of The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o. But this version of the Mighty Servant has its own ideas & I'm incorporating some of the ideas from 
Dead God Excavation. 

Now all though this may not seem like its straight out Basic/Expert  Dungeons & Dragons campaign don't let the gonzo paint job fool you. I've been reading through Frank Mentzer 's Immortals box set along with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition's Deities & Demigods.  The gods from these sets are at a whole other level of reality then any of the Godbound. But they may not be put into an adversarial NPC position but instead their help might be needed to help put reality right in this campaign. 

Yes I totally stole this picture from wayne's books but the fact is that words of godbound have a limited influence within a campaign's time space continuum. But the immortals use spheres of influence over such as time, space, entropy, etc. This takes full advantage of the fact that immortals take the place of gods as agents or arbiters in other realities. The PC's might need their help repairing the damage that the Lovecraftian agents of chaos have done. That is if they can?!
This takes campaign events full circle & brings it back into the D&D fold once again. But more importantly it pushes a Mythological adventure narrative unto the campaign.. 
Happy bday Venger & the Satanis family! 

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Jaws of Gnolls - Session Report Number Two - Appendix N Goodness

 Gnolls by LadyofHats 

In tonight's Cha'alt/Godbound Las Vegas campaign  the PC's freed a number of slaves from a group of Skeevers slavers who were operating right on the outside of main city. The PC's had to deal with two groups of Skeevers with over forty slaves in toe.  The Skeevers were infiltrated with the Hyena men or Gnolls. They were led by several Flints. What the Flints actually were a cell of the cult of Yeenoghu. 

Flint straight from the Fiend Folio.

 The gnolls have some very interesting Appenix N origins according to the Wiki Gnoll entry; "
The creature described as the gnole first appeared in 1912, in Lord Dunsany's story "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles", and reappeared in Margaret St. Clair's The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles. In Middle English the word noll could refer to a stupid or very drunk person.[2]
Lord Dunsany's story gives little or nothing in the way of physical description of the gnoles, but they live on the edge of a sinister wood and watch intruders through holes bored in trees. They are said to own emeralds of very large size. In St. Clair's story, they also live on the edge of a wood, watch through holes bored in trees and prize emeralds, but a "senior gnole" is described as looking "like a Jerusalem artichoke" and, although he has feet, has tentacles rather than arms and no ears. His eyes are small, red and faceted like a gemstone."
Lord Dunsany was the originator for many of the later pulp writers. 
The inspiration for tonight's wasteland terror came straight from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. 

Gnolls make excellent bounty hunters & escaped slave trackers. Flinds are smart enough to use relics & minor artifact weapons. With the added benefit of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition Monster Manual's demon lord Yeenoghu.  
At first it might seem that AS&SH might not be a good fit for the wastelands of Cha'alt. But that's simply not the case here given the alien wilderness & wastelands of Cha'alt. The gnoll tribes  & their flint leaders are the perfect addition to the already horrid alien wastes of Cha'alt. AS&SH just provided the right hint of science fantasy goodness. 
B4 The Lost City by Tom Moldvay is still extremely useful even if the players might remain remember the module.  Once again this is where Tim Branna & myself completely disagree in the several points. For example there are tons of lost levels that the module has & Cha'alt  can provide just the right amount of science fantasy goodness.  
The second near TPK encounter in tonight's game was the spider droid that was haunting the ruins around in the ghost town sanctuary. But it looks like the players are not gonna go for this sanctuary at all. The spider droid really seems to have them spooked. What they don't know about is the cult of Zargon operating near the outskirts of Vegas. They will next week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Into The Fire Game Session Report One - Eldritch Wizardry & The Sword of Kas

Deep in my heart, as in the hollow stone
And silence of some olden sepulcher,
Thy silver beauty lies, and shall not stir—
Forgotten, incorruptible, alone:
Though altars darken, and a wind be blown
From starless seas on beacon-fires that were—
Within thy tomb, with oils of balm and myrrh,
For ever burn the onyx lamps unknown.
And though the bleak Novembral gardens yield
Rose-dust and ivy-leaf, nor any flower
Be found through vermeil forest or wan field—
Still, still the asphodel and lotos lie
Around thy bed, and hour by silent hour,
Exhale immortal fragrance like a sigh.
Sepulchre  (1918)  by Clark Ashton Smith

If you've been keeping up with my Cha'alt/Godbound Las Vegas campaign then you might have found out that last week that my player's PC's got sucked from the campaign fantasy world into the vast alien desert right in the middle of the Cha'alt rift!

What no one realizes is that since I took a bit of time off I've been rereading my original Dungeons & Dragons collection. One of my favorite OD&D books is Eldritch Wizardry. The Original Dungeons & Dragon's Eldritch Wizardry rule book by Gary Gygax & Brian Blume which hit the book stands in 1976. This book has an amazing array of artifacts  &  these would later be republished in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. 

The player's PC's are about to run smack into a horde of zombies summoned by one of the factional villains of my game. The Sword of Kas has for its host a Godbound of dangerous aspect. The Sword itself has control of its host body. For those of you not familiar with the Sword of Kas here's the updated history of it from the Wiki entry;

"Kas the Bloody-Handed was the most trusted lieutenant of the despotic lich Vecna, and wielder of the Sword of Kas.
After many years of loyal service to Vecna, Kas eventually betrayed his master. It is said that the sword itself whispered to Kas, convincing him to slay his master and usurp his power. The battle destroyed Vecna's Rotting Tower, and cost the lich his left hand and eye. Kas himself was flung across the multiverse to Vecna's Citadel Cavitius on the Quasielemental Plane of Ash. The time he spent so close to the Negative Energy Plane changed him into a vampire, and he decided he would be called "Kas the Destroyer".
The first edition of Dungeon Master's Guide does not specifically state that Kas severed Vecna's hand and eye, only that they, and the Sword of Kas, were the only objects that survived the battle. Vecna: Hand of the Revenant depicts the lich losing his left hand and eye to destructive magic casts by priests of Pholtus (presumably to be restored at a future point in the story). Numerous third edition sources state with certainty that Vecna's hand and eye were severed by Kas's blade. Sources are also not in complete agreement as to when or how Kas became a vampire, as some state he gained his dark gift before his betrayal, while others state that he gained it after.
When Vecna was defeated during his bid for control of Oerth, Kas was freed from his centuries of imprisonment, only to find himself facing a shapeless wall of mist. When it cleared, he was master of the domain of Tovag, across the Burning Peaks from Vecna's domain of Cavitius. Kas waged an endless war of attrition with Vecna's forces in the hopes of retrieving the Sword of Kas from Vecna's citadel, where he erroneously believed Vecna held it.
The Burning Peaks cluster did not appear in the 3rd Edition Ravenloft Campaign Setting, because White Wolf Game Studio did not license characters that are explicitly tied to other D&D campaign settings.
When Vecna escaped from Cavitius, both realms were destroyed (explaining, in-fiction, their absence from 3rd edition). Kas was caught up in the destruction and very nearly obliterated; he survives only as a vestige, a soul outside time and space whose powers can be used by binders.
Kas is known to have authored Legendry of Great Arms and Fabulous Heroes.[83]
In the adventure Die, Vecna, Die!, a death knight calling himself "Kas the Bloody-Handed" serves Vecna in the deity's palace in Ravenloft. This death knight is not the true Kas, though he believes himself to be, and his real name is not given. This false Kas seeks to redeem himself for "his" betrayal of Vecna centuries ago."

The Sword of Kas has its own agenda & has been brought to Vegas because of the blood, violence, bloodshed, slaughter, & mythological divine battles. Let's also not mention the two Greyhawk quesi divinities walking around. Can Vecna or Orcus  be far behind?! There are rumors about the powers of the Sword of Kas & according to the Dungeons & Dragons fan wiki ; "In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, the Sword of Kas was the mighty blade used by Kas the Bloody-Handed, the dreaded lieutenant of Vecna. It was by this blade, some say, that Vecna lost his Hand and Eye.
The sword, variously described as a short swordlongsword, or greatsword, was crafted by Vecna. The blade is said to have been magically honed to a razor's edge, enhanced the wielder's strength, and could be used to call down lightning bolts from any storm clouds that might be overhead. The sword itself is intelligent, possessing a vile and murderous spirit."
The sword has its own agenda & is in possession of a vile & murderous spirit plus its able to shape shift from short sword, to long sword, or great sword. If you've been paying attention then you know that I'm using 
Eldritch Wizardry which means that I can randomly fill in the powers of the Sword of Kas myself. 

The Sword of Kas is more then capable of slaying a godbound or god all on its own. The question is whom has the sword possessed & what evil agenda is the sword following? The Greyhawkery blog goes into a very solidly done & well researched blog entry on the various incarnations of the Sword of Kas. The fact is that I might crack open Vecna Lives by David Zeb Cook after the suggestion of the Greyhawkery blog.

What's so damn important about WGA4 Vecna Lives! a 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons box set from 1991? We have Vecna going from mysterious background lich to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition villain of renowned. The whole plot hinges on events in Greyhawk; "and so, after the Rain of Colorless Fire, the One-Named-In-Whispers ascended to the Spidered Throne. In the third year of his ascendancy, Burgred, King of the Mara, refused the tribute of heads the Whispered One demanded. The One-Named-In-Whispers took only himself and Kas, his evil counselor, and devastated the land of the Mara with his magic. Burgred paid with his own head.
Upon their return, Kas struck against his master, so that he might become the master of the Spidered Throne. In the end, both were slain and good people rejoiced.
It is said that not all of the evil Lich was destroyed. So great was his power that his Hand and Eye have lived on, working evil over the centuries....
For centuries, Vecna - archmage, despotic tyrant, the most fearsome of all liches - has been nothing but a fearful legend to the honest folk of Greyhawk. Once the supreme master of all undead sorcerers, even today his Hand and Eye are objects of immense power.
Now something evil is stirring in the lands around Greyhawk. The Hand and Eye of Vecna have been found - and Vecna wants them back."

The pot is just starting to be stirred now with the players in the cross hairs of the Sword & the undead hordes making their way across the desert. Yes this blog is back but because of work my blog entries are going to be sporadic at best for the next couple of months.