Sunday, July 12, 2020

Road To Mentzer - Dungeons & Dragons Mentzer Expert to Companion & the X1 The Isle of Dread By David Cook & Tom Moldvay

"This box contains all you need to continue the Adventure:

  • Endless hours of adventures.
  • The D&D Expert Set for character levels 4-14, including more combat rules, magic spells, treasures, monsters and added rules for Wilderness adventures.
  • Module X1, Isle of Dread. A combined wilderness and dungeon adventure on a remote island filled with savages and prehistoric monsters!
  • All the dice you need - six different kinds included, with marker crayon."

Over the last couple of days I've allowed myself to get drawn way to deeply into several controversies that are literally swirling over the OSR & table top hobby. Well that's gonna stop & I want to get back into Mentzer Expert Dungeons & Dragons 

Front 1989 box

The reason why the Eighty Three Mentzer Expert edition was a bit of a game changer was the change up in well just about everything: " The D&D Expert Set for character levels 4-14, including more combat rules, magic spells, treasures, monsters and added rules for Wilderness adventures."

See its the wilderness adventures that mean everything here or the great frontier. In Gamma World its the wasteland but in the Menzter blue box its the 'wilderness' of the adventures that allows the PC's to really get ready for next jump in the box sets! Expert is where your slugging through wilderness & dungeons to become the next royals. The Mentzer box set more then any other in the Mentzer boxes is the cross point into whole cloth of Dungeons & Dragons Set three Companion rules. 

Cover of Aqua Box Set

For our group it was Companion where things started to get very dangerous indeed. The players started to realize that we could & would either form alliances, treaties, and back stab the crap outta of each other in Eighty four. This is because we had seen that X1 Isle of Dread was very exploitable. Sure various old school & OSR folks will talk about having played X1 Isle of Dread but did they every talk about making treaties with the native rulers or exploiting the dungeons surrounding the island?! 

Front Cover - Orange

With excellent Tim Truman cover artwork this is one of my favorites & the Vaults of Pandius website has issue #3 of  Threshold magazine which contains a whole slew of articles on exploiting the Seas of Dread. The The Minor Islands of the Sea of Dread by Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 3 is perfect for expanding the dungeons or ruins of the former empires of the seas! 

This gives the player's PC's the perfect opportunity to jump levels & layers of PC baggage whist getting them on the road of royal play. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

More 'Old Earth' Campaign Inspirations & C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson & Jeff R. Leason

I'm being squeezed by a giant East Coast snow storm & a head cold but I've got to get my 'Old Earth' hybrid game off the ground. I need to fill out the Western Wastelands of Old Earth quickly & somewhat quietly. So once again I turn to 'an old friend' of Appendix N aficionados namely the 1920's master of dark fantasy A. Merritt.
Namely I'm looking at his 1932 book Dwellers in the Mirage specifically for adapting to use as a hidden ruined landscape for one of the Hyperborean style races in a lost valley in the former location of Alaska.

The book's details are straight on the nose for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. The time lost hero with past incarnation syndrome, the two love interests, the ancient lost technologies of another age, the traditional Lovecraftian foes of the various peoples of the valley. The plot as explained by Wiki is pretty spot on for almost all of the themes of AS&SH;

"The novel concerns American Leif Langdon who discovers a warm valley in Alaska. Two races inhabit the valley, the Little People and a branch of an ancient Mongolian race; they worship the evil Kraken named Khalk'ru which they summon from another dimension to offer human sacrifice. The inhabitants recognize Langdon as the reincarnation of their long dead hero, Dwayanu. Dwayanu's spirit possesses Langdon and starts a war with the Little People. Langdon eventually fights off the presence of Dwayanu and destroys the Kraken."

We see even more about the origin of the 'little people' of Robert Howard & HP Lovecraft from their letter in July of 1930. The hidden valley's people smack of the same sort of culture as A.Merritt's Moon Pool but there are echoes of H.P. Lovecraft's subterranean civilization  the realm of K'n-yan from "The Moundby H. P. Lovecraft (ghostwriter) and Zealia Bishop (original idea). The necromancer tyrants of these lands are long passed on but their legacies & subjects remain especially on 'Old Earth'.

This hidden valley routine reminds me of one of my favorite Advanced Dungeons & Dragons modules C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson &  Jeff R. Leason. 
The hidden valley of Tamoachan could be another hold over the necromancer tyrants on 'Old Earth'. A locked away gem in the depths of some new volcanic crater of  Earth created when Hyperborea was ripped into space.

The place is a seething location of sacrifice & corruption by a people who have been brain washed by the technologies of the valley long ago. These peoples believe themselves to be the Olman culture of the World of Greyhawk, but are not simply another lost group of refugees who have been manipulated by a far older and more dangerous elder being (more on this puppet master villain later on). The cults & tales of the Hidden Shrine fuel many of the outside world cults who see the lost valley as a type of religious 'Heaven' while the reality is very different.
I'd be adding even more mythos elements and keep the various A.Merritt story & novel locations as adventure locations for the Western Wastelands. There are several adventure elements already in play that I've got to flesh out. I've used the brainwashed
Olman culture bit before and its worked like a charm. Fantastic Novels v03n03 (1949 09) has a version of the  Dwellers in the Mirage  for download but its the one with the tragic ending. "There are variant endings of the work. In the original, Leif's love dies, but the publisher inartistically has her survive. The original tragic ending has been reinstated in some/many recent reprint"

House Dungeons & Dragons Systems - Some Eighties Thoughts on the Grand Game of Arneson & Gygax

Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set | RPG Item | RPGGeek

Its hitting about Eighty five or so degrees & we've been going full guns here at Casa De Fabiaschi. I want to take a bit of time to talk about our house system back in the Eighties. The house system  was a combination of a hybrid of AD&D/ Mentzer - Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X Dungeons & Dragons.  Why is this important because it will help to clarify my position in the OSR as well. 

Connecticut is an rpg wasteland especially the Northwestern corner of the state. Therefore anything Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons related that we could get our hands on through mail order or locally  as kids back in the Eighties was fair game. 

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (Second Edition) | RPG Item | RPGGeek

Why?! Because our Dungeons & Dragons game  was literally a down in the basement out of sight activity. In the Eighties the Satanic panic was in full swing. My uncle's group consisted of every outcast imaginable, math geeks, bullied kids of every nationality & ethnicity, you name it & we were there. 

1982 Dungeon Hobby Shop Catalog - Catalog - Noble Knight Games

And we played & played hard! There were times when games went on late into the night. 
 The house system  combination of a hybrid of AD&D/ Mentzer - Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X Dungeons & Dragons was one done outta of necessity & invention. We used our books until they were raw & ragged. But those were games back then so my personal preference still is hybrid Dungeons & Dragons. 

Ten reasons why this still works : 

  1. House rules not rulings allow the players more flexibility and allow the flow of play to continue. 
  2. A hybrid of AD&D/ Mentzer - Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X Dungeons & Dragons takes the burden of the system to allow the dungeon master to concentrate on the actual play. 
  3. OSR systems & clones essentially are hybrid systems & works very well with this style of play. 
  4. Modern rules & rolls allow the following of actual role playing allowing for actual campaign play. 
  5. There are infinity numbers & style of genre to bring the game to life as the players & DM like. 
  6. OSR Modules can be customized to fit the hybrid system & style of play not the other way around. 
  7. Classic modules fit & can fix the holes that crop up in hybrid play allowing for smoother flow of play. 
  8. Appendix N Sword & Sorcery fits into this campaign style & world play really well. 
  9. Hybrid games service both the classic style of play & modern sensibilities without losing the integrity of the campaign during play. 
  10. Its all Dungeons & Dragons! 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Some Thoughts On Mentzer Edition Dungeons & Dragons Along With the Box Sets

"From the back of the box:

"Your first step on the road to Adventure!"

This is a game that helps you imagine.

"As you whirl around, your sword ready, the huge red fire-breathing dragon swoops TOWARDS you with a ROAR!"

See? Your imagination woke up already. Now imagine: this game will probably be more FUN than any other game you've ever played!

The DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game is a way for us to imagine together - sort of like reading the same book, or dreaming the same dream. But it's a book that YOU can write, without putting a word on paper - just by playing a D&D game. This New Popular Edition has been completely revised to include ONE-PLAYER GAMES as well as group games for Players and Dungeon Masters. YOU can start playing RIGHT AWAY!"

Mentzer edition Dungeons & Dragons is a whole cloth departure from the normal of original Dungeons & Dragons. Everything from slick editing, to whole cloth rules slimming & tucking from Holmes Dungeons & Dragons, to a fresh coat of Larry Elemore cover paint. Mentzer Dungeons & Dragons is a slick package. In Eighty three this box set was a revelation after playing my way through original Dungeons & Dragons. Thanks to Rpg geek for the trip down memory lane. 

The (Not-so) Secret Origin of D&D | Dungeons & Dragons

Mentzer Dungeons & Dragons was & is a very different animal then original Dungeons & Dragons. The core is there but its tilted in a very different way that make the game primed for the 'Known World' that would come with it. Everyone talks about Rules Cyclopedia from Aaron Allston, &  Frank Mentzer. To tell the truth with the whole cloth Wizbros PC rebranding the Dungeons & Dragons brand from the ground up with politically correct paint I don't think 
Aaron Allston, &  Frank Mentzer get nearly enough credit these days. To tell the truth its actually Hasbro that's pushing this agenda. The Wizbros just are trying to keep their jobs at this point. I've already got my copies of these box sets so I can literally do whatever the Hell I want with my box sets.  Hasbro has no control over my or your table top.  

Front 1989 box

1983 - Dungeons & Dragons Set 2: Expert Rules  completely changed the neighborhood Dungeons & Dragons game. The cross over with the whole of the other Mentzer box sets meant that on going campaigns could continue for years! I said years & that was exciting to us. 

Cover of Aqua Box Set

Sure I'll hear different folks talk about various aspects of Mentzer or Companion rules but never the fact that these rules are so easy to cross over with various incarnations of the OSR clones. The easy of use is so attractive to me even to this day. But we'll get to the why & how coming up. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thinking about my love of Holmes & Mentzer Dungeons & Dragons

There's a lot going on at the moment but last night I took the time to go back over my copy of Holmes Dungeons & Dragons. Holmes is a whole different ball game by comparison to original Dungeons & Dragons. Mentzer is a step up in some respects from Holmes because of revision & presentation You read all about the differences over here. 

So I started to poke around the Zenopus Archives for some of the Holmes Dungeons & Dragons rules expansions options. 
There's some really interesting stuff there. The idea of taking Holmes & expanding well past what was intended while customizing the rules to fit & fix you home gaming is very intriguing to say the least. 
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (First Edition) | RPG Item | RPGGeek

If your unfamiliar of the Holmes D&D box's contents let me update & fix that from Rpg Geek's Holmes entry;" In 1977, this was essentially the second version of Dungeons & Dragons to be produced. The second printing of this version was published in January 1978. (The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual was published in 1977 and the Players Handbook was published in 1978.)

This boxed set included the following:

and depending on the printing either:

OR (fourth to sixth printing)

OR (sixth and seventh printings)

Apparently this version was produced to clean up the game's presentation of essential rules and to make the game system more understandable to the general public so that it could sold in common toy stores for a retail price of $9.95.

It was marketed as "The original adult fantasy role-playing game for 3 or more players" for ages 12 and up.

The game book includes 4 pages of spells, 12 pages of monsters, and a 5-page game adventure. The four character classes were fighting men, magic-users, clerics, and thieves, and the four character races were men, elves, halflings, and dwarves."

Why is this important because it gave the general public hard access to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. This box set would later be completely streamlined,revised, &  edited  by Frank Mentzer. 

Holmes D&D | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

Mentzer's work is incredible & hasn't been underscored in the hobby lately in my humble opinion. Holmes feels like a completely different game completely from the ground up & I think it is. The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia or the collected Menzter D&D box sets by Aaron Allston
 takes the 'grand game' of Gygax & it takes it places that make campaigns soar. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

1d10 Random Ancient Treasures from Beyond HP Lovecraft's DreamLands For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

From the time haunted shores of the Dreamlands there have always been treasures pulled by men of renowned and ancient aspects from the minds of dreamers. But many of these weird and ancient relics and things are relics from nightmare haunted bygone ages.
What weird or strange treasures will your adventurers pull from the stuff of dreams in time haunted lands? Here are are some tables to fill your adventurers coffers with treasures from the edge of sanity and the deepest gates of nightmare itself.
Filigrana de chiapa de corzo.JPG
“By noon Carter reached the jasper terraces of Kiran which slope down to the river's edge and bear that temple of loveliness wherein the King of Ilek-Vad comes from his far realm on the twilight sea once a year in a golden palanquin to pray to the god of Oukranos, who sang to him in youth when he dwelt in a cottage by its banks. All of jasper is that temple, and covering an acre of ground with its walls and courts, its seven pinnacled towers, and its inner shrine where the river enters through hidden channels and the god sings softly in the night. Many times the moon hears strange music as it shines on those courts and terraces and pinnacles, but whether that music be the song of the god or the chant of the cryptical priests, none but the King of Ilek-Vad may say; for only he had entered the temple or seen the priests. Now, in the drowsiness of day, that carven and delicate fane was silent, and Carter heard only the murmur of the great stream and the hum of the birds and bees as he walked onward under the enchanted sun.” 
― H.P. LovecraftThe Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

1d10  Random Treasures from Beyond HP Lovecraft's DreamLands Table

  1. A broach formed from the blackest nightmare whose surface shines and shimmers with the souls of those who have parished insearch of the original hoard from which it came. The working was from the dreams of a jeweler and wizard from Asia Minor during the Roman Empire. It grants visions of myriad Heavens or Hells every New Moon. Worth 600 gold pieces 
  2. A wizard's stick pin formed from twin demons intertwined in damnation or sexual union. The pin allows one to peer into the sleep of the waking world once per week and pull a memory or dream from one sleeper. Worth 760 gold pieces. The pin is +1 vs creatures of dream. 
  3. A golden carved box containing one perfect dream of a child, this piece bursts with the energies of its creator and sleeping with this box under a bed will allow one to help from the insanities and terrors of the Underworld. The thing has a gug's tooth locking mechanism. Worth 800 gold pieces to the right collector. 
  4. A jeweled memory piece of glass spun from the memories of a lost lover. This piece allows one to pull the dream memories of the dearly departed and interact with the illusion as if they were real. The piece is worth quite a bit at 1000 gold pieces to a necrotic collector of such curiosities. 
  5. The jeweled eyes of a Cat From Saturn taken at great expense. These eyes allow one to peer into the underverse of the Outer Darkness and view sights beyond. They are worth 750 gold pieces to a collector or wizard and are quite striking. 
  6. A jeweled ruby box containing sand from the pouch of the Sandmen who guard the far shores of sleep. Able to instantly put anyone into a deep sleeping trance but these sands are also an addictive drug of the most dangerous type. Worth 5000 gold pieces to jaded and degenerate royalty and personages. 
  7. A single cut diamond container holding the ever frozen snows of distant icy dreams of loss and heart break. These snows will instantly freeze a dream in place and allow one to delicately collect the reality from the very air around a dreamer. Worth 5000 gold pieces to a dangerous wizard of icy and weird aspect. 
  8. An iron wrought bracelet of hellish aspect enclosing a piece of solidified jeweled nightmare. This cut and sharp shard of a child's terror gleams with the inner fears of its former creator. The thing will allow its owner to detect the nearest door into deeper realms of nightmare and shadow itself. A very valuable tool in the right hands or a weapon of very dangerous aspect. Worth 1000 gold pieces because few would valuable such a collector's piece. 6000 to a wizard of nightmares but be warned of such insane and dangerous individuals. 
  9. A cut piece of ancient and ground demon gold bathed in the waters of Order and polished by the tears of angels. This golden bracelet allows one to gather the dreams of hope and bravery against the most dangerous of dark dreams. It will heal the mind of its owner's target once every month and allow the energies of order to rebind the victim's mind and heal all of the insanity and depravity of recent experiences. Worth 10000 gold pieces to a temple of Order, a very rare find. 
  10. An emerald of clarity and illusion, this jewel has been formed from the dreams of ancient and lost angels during a world's creation by the dreams of its god. This emerald gives one the ability to construct realistic dreams for others to inhabit. Worth 700 gold to the right healer. It has very dangerous and addictive qualities though. 


1d10 Random Figurines of Power Loot Table For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

"He was very squat and pot-bellied, his head was more like a monstrous toad than a deity, and his whole body was covered with an imitation of short fur, giving somehow a vague sensation of both the bat and the sloth. His sleepy lids were half-lowered over his globular eyes; and the tip of a queer tongue issued from his fat mouth."
 "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros"
Clark Ashton Smith 

Bronsfötter till kärl i form av björnar - Hallwylska museet - 100126.tif

Scattered throughout the ruins & dungeons are trinkets & small fetishes that have been left behind when the tide of the dream lands recedes from the waking world. The hell born wrought occult rites of the unreal intrude upon our world. These small fetishes are often left behind to bring misery to lives of many adventurers. The names of demons & the places of scared Ioun are often carved into them. Many of these figurines seem to have a strange mythic  life of their own. 

Figurine of Yhoundeh or Y'houndeh (The Elk-Goddess)  the wife of Nyarlathotep
This figurine allows the owner to observe three times a day through the eyes of any elk in a 2 mile area around the owner. These figurines were often used by the powerful inquisition of the goddess to hunt down any non believers trespassing on their lands for sacrifice. 

1d10 Random Figurines of Power Loot Table

  1. A small soap stone figurine of Cthulhu that allows the owner to breath underwater for a full day should the word of power be activated. The owner can't use the figurine more then once a day or grow gills similar to a Deep One & lower their charisma by -2.. Worth 200 gold coins 
  2. Carved figurine of a humanoid figure with a giant tongue. This figurine allows the owner to taste the dreams of those within 20 feet and bestow a taste into the mouth of a target anything from offal to the sweet taste of the candy of the gods. The owner may develop a deep blue & purple tongue should they rely on this figurine more then once a day. 
  3. This figurine represents the sin of sloth & allows the owner to inflict a sloth curse on a target within line of sight. The target of the curse is subject to a feeble minded spell. 
  4. A figurine of some otherworldly demon, the figurine has no face & allows the owner to teleport within a twenty yard block radius. The teleportation is without error but there may be 1d6 faceless demons waiting at the destination. 
  5. A strange idol figurine allows the owner to read the surface thoughts of any target within a 10 foot radius. The strange idol will cause the head of the own under go random mutation unless the owner saves vs wands or suffer. 
  6. This strange bird figurine allows the owner to fly as per the spell. The owner can also talk with birds within a two mile radius. The down side is that demonic avian races are now aware of the owner if they take advantage of certain other dark powers of the figurine. 
  7. This figurine of an Elven princess allows the owner to locate any Fey within the area. The figurine can also summon a fairy. But the owner glows very brightly when using any of the powers of the figurine. 
  8. The figurine of the eye allows the owner to have true sight, dark vision, & even an optic blast that does 1d6 points of damage to a target within the line of sight. Any beholders will know of the owner's intentions. 
  9. Abraxas's figurine allows the owner to cast phantasmal force within line of sight. The owner can also use the proper name of the demon lord as per a word of despair. The target will indeed be subject to a spell like effect of the word & can only rock themselves in a fetal position. 
  10. The smile of the demon - This figurine of Yhoundeh or Y'houndeh (The Elk-Goddess) is the wife of Nyarlathotep. The owner can stop time for 1d6 rounds but their own local time space continues as normal. Over use of this statue's powers will age the PC by 1d10 years. 
Many of the figurines count as being will be in a strange small lead line container. Most of the figurines are worth at least 200 gold pieces or better. They often seem to have a mind of their own & seem to have a life of their own. The dangerous ones count as closer to the 1000 gold pieces mark & often have heavy bounties associated with these items are often very costly because the cults that create & leave these items often does so with the understanding that they can be very dangerous. Monsters seem to be attracted to those who own such figurines there will be a 30% chance per month that random monsters will be attracted to the owner. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Appendix N Delving - Greyhawk, H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' & 'A0-A4 Against The Slave Lords' By David "Zeb" Cook, Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, Tom Moldvay

"Incantations of black magic unearthed unspeakable horrors in a quiet town near Providence, Rhode Island. Evil spirits are being resurrected from beyond the grave, a supernatural force so twisted that it kills without offering the mercy of death!"

Thinking back to the Eighties the unassuming paperback stared at me from the spinner rack in Dobson's Tobacco Mart in '87. The cigar & smoke shop was a head shop if there ever was one on the Massachusetts Connecticut border. There was a smattering of horror paper backs & the occasional gaming product. We used to stop there on our way back from making runs up to New York state.  'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' was of particular interest to me. This paperback was under the Del Rey imprint

'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' is particularly important if the dungeon master is going to run '
Driven young antiquarian Charles Ward investigates his ancestor, the necromancer Joseph Curwen, and gets more than he bargained for.' routine. The novella could easily be turned into an epic Sword & Sorcery campaign with little issue. There are a bushel of monsters , corpses, ruins at midnight  and haunted  labyrinths. 
Charles Dexter Ward.jpg

What really makes 
'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' so pivotal for a Sword & Sorcery dungeon master is the fact that there's a whole cloth history of a group of secret Illuminati style necromancers who are raising the dead for nefarious purposes. The implication is that this organization exists across the world. Their resurrecting  is horrific & deadly its perfect as an add on for 'A0-A4 Against The Slave Lords' By David "Zeb" CookAllen HammackHarold JohnsonTom Moldvay as a sort of back handed adventure subplot. 

The necromancers of the slave lords are resurrecting old wizards & rivals to pry their secrets from them then send them back to the grave or turn them into mindless undead travesties or guardians. This leads me back to some of the NPC's that are in the Rogues Gallery book, they make excellent fodder for this angle of the Slave Lords. 

Hell several of the NPC wizards, clerics, etc from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons  Rogues Gallery might be victims of this group of necromancers & black wizards. What really sets this off the chain is the idea that this organization in 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'  might be operating both in the 1920's & the world of Greyhawk. In fact Count Dahlvier the master of Castle Dahlvier and head of the hexad of liches, might be perfect as an addition to this Lovecraftian cabal. 
Greyhawk Box Set - from 1983. All materials included (2 booklets ...

Because numerous  cross Lovecraft references the whole cloth of the 'Case of Charles Dexter Ward' is great to spin as the DM wants or needs for his players. And I think this is one of the novella's strengths is how adaptable these stories are. 

This is also one of the strengths of the old school modules as well. They flex & bend to the dungeon master's needs & wants for his or her players. If you wanted to really do the player's heads in one of the wizards of the party might be a member of such a cabal sent to spy on the player's PC's. 
Any love for The Rogues Gallery - TSR 9031 ? - Page 1 - Dragonsfoot

Saturday, July 4, 2020

1d10 Random Sword & Sorcery Occult Fetish Skull Table For Your Old School Games

There are black zones of shadow close to our daily paths, and now and then some evil soul breaks a passage through. When that happens, the man who knows must strike before reckoning the consequences.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Thing on the Doorstep

There are artifacts & occult talisman's left over from rites & rituals in the remote corners of ruins,dungeons & other gathering places of the supernatural. These artifacts often gain power from the very nature of the far flung fabrics of unknown universes between the shadows. 

“The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!”
― H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon et autres nouvelles de terreur

Each of these skulls has been around for more then a few hundred years. During these times the skulls have accumulated powerful curses, weird energies, & dangerous sigils. Should the owner concentrate on trying to unravel the occult & dark meaning. There is a 20% chance of any demonic sigil having the powerful devil, demonic lord, or lady to appear before the skull's owner. 
These skulls are actually cursed objects as per the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide & they will uncannily follow the owner appearing randomly even if destroyed. 
File:Sigil of Lucifer.svg
The "sigil of Lucifer" By Ssolbergj

These skulls are often abandoned or left in ruins or  dungeons as traps for the stupid & unwary. Often an aura of power seems to surround these skulls & they appear to be worth 100 gold pieces or more. 

1d10 Random Sword & Sorcery Occult Fetish Skull Table
  1. A small bronze & gold covered skull belonging to a small humanoid. The eyes have been replaced with small garnets. The skull allows the owner to cast a 'speak with dead' spell once per week. 
  2.  Ancient beyond belief this man's skull has been covered with silver wire & the eyes replaced with two rubies. The skull allows one to gaze two weeks into the future during the new moon when seven drops of blood is placed on the skull's forehead. There are instructions writ in common on the back of the skull. 
  3. A giant humanoid frogoid's skull has been worked & carved with a strange glyph & alien writing. Once per week the skull allows one to dimensionl door into Shadow Realms. 
  4. There is a deadly alien worm living inside this small humanoid skull. The thing attacks like a flesh eating rot grub of unusual size & intelligence. 
  5. This bejeweled skull of some unknown humanoid is the home to an alien ghost of level draining capacity. The ghost will try to engage its own in a telepathic conversation hinting at its dire occult secrets. This is a ruse to get the owner to give into the influence of the skull. The thing will slowly level drain the owner every seven nights until the owner is dead. 
  6. A strange onyx skull is home to a possessor demon that uses the skull as base to spread its evil influence among teens & the unsuspecting. The thing will use a 'magic  jar' ability to remove the spirit of a victim & replace it with a demonic thing. The skull appears to be worth 200 gold pieces. 
  7. A very heavily painted & old skull is the home to a very malevolent jinn. Thing is guarding a priceless ruby within the skull & will engage a telepathic riddle contest to try to consume the soul of the victim. 
  8. This skull is actually made of gold & provides the owner with true sight every new moon. This skull's owner can see through illusions, cons, & even elaborate spell disguises.The skull is made from the head of former high priest. '
  9. The living skull of an adventurer named Ernie. The skull provides a map to two nearby dungeons. 
  10. Two former adventurers now make up this composite skull. The owner is able to commune with spirits. These spirits will try  to direct the victim toward the nearest death dealing trap.. The skull itself will try & consume any stranglers that it can! 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Blackness Rising - Bad Moons & OSR Lovecraftian Evil

Over the last two nights I've been going over Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Carcosa. I was an early adapter & advocate of Geoffry McCanney's campaign setting & vision. I grabbed my copy of Carcosa off the shelf last night. Its been a very long hard time since this tome has drawn me back to it. 

Lamentations of The Flame Princess Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney ...

Carcosa & I have a very long drawn out history together. Once upon a time way back before the first Disney Marvel movies came out I ran a quite extensive Marvel/Carcosa crossover game that consumed two Summers back in '08 & '09. Lately I've been going over lots of notes for this campaign & familiarizing myself with the campaign. I watched a pretty extensive review of Carcosa on GrimJim's channel last night. Can't really say that I'm a fan of his, I love Machinations of the Space Princess rpg. But our rpg processes & rpg politic are way too far apart. 

The thing I took away from the review  was the Cha'alt/Carcosa as one whole planet bit?! Why $$# didn't I think of that? The rules for randomizing Hit Dice with every combat are quite bewildering & we never made use of them. While I can't really agree with Dungeons & Possums review of Carcosa there are some points in it. So out comes the Lovecraft's 'The Dream Quest of Kadath' & I begin brain storming.  
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series ...

Anything from Carcosa is going to read as 'Chaos tainted' in my mind. I've made use of both Dark Albion & the  Lion & Dragon rpg when it comes to anything Carcosa &  Dreamlands. This goes back to several mini Dark Albion rpg campaigns. 

Its that Cha'alt/Carcosa Jack Kirby comic book vibe that goes back to my early OSR blog days in '08 and stumbling upon Giorgio Comolo's artwork. His artwork's inspiration 
 made that campaign extend way beyond the mini Summer campaign
it was supposed to be. 

modokgiger | Comic book villains, Marvel villains

So how does a  dungeon master get a heavily armed group of Carcosa cultists into their campaign?! Well I've gotten a bit sick of using Michael Moorcock's elements but let's go back to Lovecraft & one particularly nasty group of Lovecraftian monsters. The moonbeasts are prone to going to all kinds of worlds to sell their wares & slaves through their black ships. The ships are crewed by their hybrid turbaned slaves. Again this plugs into HP Lovecraft's 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' where they first appear. 

Portuguese black carrack in Nagasaki, in the early 17th century
 are good stand in for the black ships of the moonbeasts. 

An extra moon rising over the upside down city of New York 1870 when the black galleons of the moonbeasts make port to sell rubies, moonwine, and rare wares. Meanwhile Carcosa & Cha'alt mercenaries, mutants, & marauders  make extensive off loading into the city. 

Now this is all going to tie into the extensive set up I've been doing all year with Frog God games 'Encephalon Gorgers on the Moon' Swords & Wizardry Edition adventure. 

The reason behind this is the extensive & harried history of the player's PCs with the brain lashers over the years. This is another nugget of weirdness that's slowly growing behind the scenes of my campaigns festering & bringing with it some real nastiness. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Lion & Dragon Rpg Redux - Some Thoughts on The Lion & Dragon Rpg As Campaign Fodder

"Lion & Dragon is a Medieval Authentic OSR game. Until now, you only thought you were playing "medieval fantasy"!

With Lion & Dragon, the rules of the original tabletop RPG have been adapted to create a more historically authentic medieval experience, to reflect the grittier and yet more mythic world of a magical medieval Europe.
L&D includes new rules governing social class and materials on culture to help a GM craft a world that feels closer to the world of the 100-years war or the War of the Roses. It has a grittier and more dangerous feel to reflect the cheapness of life at the time. Also included are sections on medieval economics, law & justice, and chapters with monsters and magical items based on authentic medieval legends. Finally, a completely revamped magic system is based on actual grimoire-magic as the medieval magicians really envisioned it."

Last night out came my copy of Lion & Dragon by Rpg Pundit which is a complete table top rpg unto itself. The game takes place within a dark fantasy Europe of the War of the Roses & its really more of a neo OSR game. While it takes the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons Lion & Dragon is more of its own beast even though its modular OSR  system as its publisher has stated; "Publisher’s note : Lion & Dragon is a complete OSR game in itself. However, even if you prefer to stick with traditional fantasy RPGs featuring dwarves, elves, spellcasters, and the like, L&D can still provide a lot of options that will help you give much flavor to a more usual campain world. For example, the sections on alchemy, herbal medicines, poisons, or law & justice, could be imported in any other fantasy game."

Now I'm not the only one whose noticed this modular approach to the design of Lion & Dragon. A great unboxing video was done by Kenny Johnson & pay attention to the bit about the retro clone Swords & Wizardry.

At this point Lion & Dragon is criminally underappreciated & after speaking with one of my players & DM Steve we all feel that its a shame. Both DM Steve & I used Lion & Dragon along with its OSR original  companion setting Dark Albion to flesh out rival  Cymirol bards for both of our campaigns. Steve got into using the seventeen maps that came with Dark Albion to flesh out parts of his Rose War campaign. I used Lion & Dragon to flesh out some of the herbalism, occult, and other PC areas of my player's bard along with familial history etc. all through actual  play. Questwise put out a similar review of the Lion & Dragon rpg that made this same observation.

The Lion & Dragon rpg  vs Dark Albion can summed up easily. Dark Albion works well with the Lion & Dragon rpg but Dark Albion is an OSR setting book through & through with tons of research. I have both books but its not necessary. Lion & Dragon is its own rpg that's designed to stand on its own.
This brings me to what I'm using Lion & Dragon for & that's as an OSR  campaign resource. At the center for this rpg is the main reason that I got it & that's the War of the Roses; "The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, associated with a red rose, and the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, unfolding the structural problems of feudalism, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI which revived interest in Richard of York's claim to the throne. Historians disagree on which of these factors to identify as the main reason for the wars"

The War of the Roses is legendary as well as historical. This is the actual history that inspired the Game of Thrones books & TV show. To me its so much more interesting then the pop culture creations.  There were royal personages that were erased from history in the blink of an eye. Families scattered to the four winds & the threat of chaos lurking at the edges of England during the events of history. Those all have their fantasy equivalent in both Dark Albion & Lion & Dragon. In my campaigns those adventure elements  appear in the most unexpected places.

Framed print, "Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens" after the original 1910 fresco painting by Henry Albert Payne (British, 1868-1940) based upon a scene in Shakespeare's Henry VI, the original in the Palace of Westminster and a later similar painting by Payne in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, this print marked "copyright 1912 in London & Washington by "The Fine Art Publishing Co., Ltd. London", sight: 20.25"h, 21"w, overall: 27"h, 27.5"w, 9.25lbs.

In the past I've used many elements from both Lion & Dragon & Dark Albion. I'm dusting off some of those to use once again. As DM Steve reminded me on Sunday,"No adventure element is ever completely done if the player's feel its unresolved". The Lion & Dragon rpg stands on its own merits & system. You don't need anything else to use it for table top play. That being said I'm going to be using it coming up OSR game play.

Lion & Dragon is available right here. 

'The Drive in Effect & Strictly Local Talent' - The Primal Order Rpg & Pulling Together the Bits, Pieces, With The Divine!

Mythology & religion in table top role playing games can be a complete pain in the rear. Unless you happen to have a system that can solve all of the problems that come from the centered spoke of the problem. The problem?! The gods themselves or as I like to refer to it, 'The Drive In Movie' effect. 

File:Cumberland Drive In Regular Habit.jpg

Jrosenberry1 own drive in artwork. 

Anyhow 'The Drive In Movie' effect into play during last year's Cha'alt/Godbound rpg sessions. That is that the 'heavy hitters' from original Dungeons & Dragons were striding across the Earth. Things were going not so much down hill as side ways. When your playing with gods & immortals you're gonna see PC's get broken. You really need a compelling adventure line & background to your campaign. Otherwise the players end up at the drive in watching their PC's turning screen into an effect & not an adventure. Here's where I'm going back to Peter Adkison 's Primal Order rpg system. I'm thinking about pairing this up with Castles & Crusades


I get along with Venger quite a bit but we differ widely in opinion sort of. For Venger & many OSR guys is all about the reductionist side of adventure & system writing. For me as a wargamer its all about the world & the setting. I don't want to kill gods no I want to play the world in all of its epicness. So for me Cha'alt isn't a grim dark world but a world of sacrament & terror. 

When it comes to Cha'alt its all about that old time Kirby fourth world religion for me. That little trace of New Gods & Dune that over arches the whole cloth experience of the setting. 

I'm not looking to kill gods but play on the same chess board & then some. The Earth as we know it has been messed with by these powers for a very long time. The Cha'alt wave has been altering & consuming as it goes across the multiverse. The winds of the black pyramid have been blowing for quite some time. 

All of it reminds me of  Robert Heinlein's story ' The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hogg'. Which means that the deities in question are going to be strictly local talent with some of the invasive deities that I've been toying with. 
Unknown Worlds v06n03, October 1942 | SF MAGAZINES

All of this works quite nicely with Frank Mentzer's Immortals box set of books & ideas to really pull this together for the next phase of the campaign. Its gonna be wicked & wild so stay tuned! Buckle your seat belts! 

The Other Side blog: BECMI: Immortals Set Review

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Deeper Down the Dreamhole - Plunkett,Poe, & More

Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany.jpg

Be a dungeon master for as long as I have or longer eventually you become the very thing you fear. In Nineteen Seventy Seven I DMed my first original Dungeons & Dragons game sitting on my uncle's lap. Well that's how I remember it & I'm sticking too it. At eleven years old I read  my first Lovecraft Dream cycle story but it wasn't until age twenty that Lord Dunsany entered my life. 'The Book of Wonder' by Lord Dunsany  hit me like a ton of bricks; "The Book of Wonder is the seventh book and fifth original short story collection of Irish fantasy writer Lord Dunsany aka 
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, considered a major influence on the work of J. R. R. TolkienH. P. LovecraftUrsula K. Le Guin, and others. It was first published in hardcover by William Heinemann in November, 1912, and has been reprinted a number of times since. A 1918 edition from the Modern Library was actually a combined edition with Time and the Gods."  When it comes to iconic Dusany influences "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles"  is an old favorite of mine. Yes its where we get the Gnoll race's name but there's more to it then that. 

Not only does it have the Dusany Appendix N influence but the Dungeons & Dragons Gnoll race takes their name from it.  But my question is this. What happened to the treasure vaults of Nuth afterward? We know he was quite taken with tapestries,gems, various artworks,etc.  
Instead of going whole cloth into  Dusany's gods, & entities I going back to 2012 I let the players fill in the gaps. I learned my lessons after reading through 'Lords of Ultra Realms debacle blog entry  from DC comics going the way back to 2012; "It’s clear from both the overblown Who’s Who entry for Lords of the Ultra-Realm and the work itself that Moench put a good deal of work into creating the lore for his fictional universe. But like a dungeon master who devotes the bulk of his time to meticulous world-building and not enough to narrative, he assumed that the end user would necessarily be as intimately familiar with and personally invested in the litany of fantasy babble as its creator was."

Just because something is a part of a quarter long box at a comic shop doesn't mean its good. There's tons of useless fantasy concepts that litter the pop
culture landscape & even more now. Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons has seen to that with an e market glut that makes the late Eighties comic book run look like Sunnybrook farm. 

Always go back to the purer source as my uncle would say. Sometimes that means looking past the bargain bins of imagination! Instead grab X2 Castle Amber & drop in the Dunsany influences along with the Clark Ashton Smith. Why?! Because the Clark Ashton Smith literature is becoming a bit too in vogue these days. 

Now its time to trot out that good old Edgar Allen Poe action going right in there. Castle Amber is perfect vehicle to launch our campaign into 'The Twilight World's'. Or your own version of Ravenloft or your own home campaign world of OSR horror. 
Poevember: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER – Nut Free Nerd

Its a moment in time when D&D players don't bother to read the Appendix N stuff. Poe really does need a bit of a resurgence among Dungeons & Dragons players. But the Ushers will be having some lime light coming up!