Tuesday, January 21, 2020

OSR Campaign Elements in Play & Transit - A Look At James Mishler & Jodi Moran-Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1

Keeping your head in this hobby means sometimes going the extra mile deeper down the rabbit hole that is B/X Dungeons & Dragons & its respective OSR clones. I've been looking & searching for different adventure element. Fortunely I've got a few OSR resources at my finger tips.

I was looking to James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1 to help iron out some of the more daunting campaign details. The Hercynian Grimoire has handy stats for both Castles & Crusades and Labyrinth Lord games. That means that not only can you sweep the floor with the information within for old school games but can use it for a wide variety of OSR systems as well.

There is a ton of OSR adventure elements that can be added into an on going or starting campaign. This means that there's room to add in elements or subtract depending upon the player's intent & the campaign direction and the contents reflect this:
Gnolls, the Hyena-Men
Gnoles, the Man-Beasts
D66 Ferocious Fighters
Spells Arcane and Occult
Spell Songs of Salamacine
D66 Fairies and Nymphs
Gnoll Tribe Generator
Magical Miscellanea
Monstrous Menagerie
   Hyena, Cave
   Lycanthrope, Werehyena
   Mandayan Nyumbanyama
      Ardhirengo “Small-Wings”
      Chinajinyama “Butcher-Beasts”
      Hewarengo “Sky-Wings”
      Kidolekuta “Finger-Nippers”
      Kuvutanyama “Dray-Beasts”
      Milimanyama “Mountain-Beasts”
      Mindajikuva “Hunter-Killers”
      Mudahatu “Long-Striders”
      Vitanyama “War-Beasts”
D666 Demonic and Devilish Traits
D66 Underworld Oddities
Olden Lands Preview: Alspadia
Olden Lands Preview: The Oldenwood
Olden Lands Preview: The Blood God

There's a lot of OSR material to unpack here but essentially many of the D66 Underworld Entities encounters, the were hyena, the gnoll PC classes, & some other elements are getting added into my on going Cha'alt/Godbound campaign. Gnolls & their humanoid scum cousins are some of the most dangerous monsters in the annals of Dungeons & Dragons. James does an excellent job with this book &  I especially love the write-ups on the gnoll culture - it really breathes life into an oft overlooked monster species, and makes them much more than mere cannon-fodder!

I've been doing a ton of rereading through the Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg books that I have & love the fact that the humanoid races take center stage as the bringers of Chaos in ACK's campaign setting. But why are you mentioning B/X D&D along with ACK's?! There's a very good break down of both ACK's & B/X on the Stack Exchange rpg site and there's an excellent break down done by RS Conley of Bat in the Attic blog fame; "
It's design is basically an expansion of B/X D&D.
It still has race as class but expands the number of racial classes into a section labeled Demi-Human Classes for example there is a Dwarven Vaultguard and a Dwarven CraftPriest.
It adds proficiencies which are skill and abilities mostly non-combat oriented. They represent something that the character is better at than a non-proficient person.
The heart of ACKS is the campaign section where the author add several subsystems that allow the character to impact the setting beyond the usual adventuring locales. These include
  • Magic Research
  • Ritual Spells
  • Constructs
  • Crossbreeds
  • Necromancy
  • Divine Power
  • Strongholds and Domains
  • Sanctums and Dungeons*
  • Mercantile Ventures
The treasure type system has been tweaked to work with the various assumptions on wealth and income outlined in the above subsystems." 
Right so not only does this allow the DM to have OSR game flow between OSR systems but allows the DM's favorite monsters far more range then they might be used to.

This basically puts the 
James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1  within the OSR  ball court of other OSR game systems such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Sword & Sorcery games such as AS&SH use traditional D&D style monsters such as the gnoll but with their own Pulp or Weird Tales style spin. This means that monsters can get quite weird under the fat  bloated red sun of Hyperborea.

Given the information within the Hercynian Grimoire #1 I'm going back to some of the information first presented on the Gnoll race in original Dungeons & Dragons; "The gnoll, as introduced in the earliest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, is the literary descendant of Lord Dunsany's "gnoles", who were clever, evil and non-human. In the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), gnolls are described thusly: "A cross between gnomes and trolls (...perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale. Otherwise, they are similar to hobgoblins..." But I'm going to be combining this will some of their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons monster & setting details;"The gnoll and flind appear first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[12] and are reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[13]

The flind is also detailed in Dragon #173 (September 1991), in "The Sociology of the Flind", a variation on the "Ecology of..." column.[14]
The gnoll and flind are detailed as playable character races in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993).[15] The gnoll and flind are later presented as playable character races again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995)"

In my version of Venger Satanis's Cha'alt setting the Gnolls are literally a transiant pack  species of humanoids that moves from planet to planet selling their services as mercenary warriors, bounty hunters, humanoid exterminators, & raiders. They do this while scoping out targets for later planetary raids & full blown invasions. This is done all the while they work for petty tyrants & interstellar warlords.

James Mishler's Hercynian Grimoire #1  does is to add that little push of OSR goodness that campaign needs with adventure elements, memorable NPC's, OSR encounters and more. While not essential this is a really good resource to add into the dungeon master's tool chest of tricks & generators. This same tool box can also be used with Basic Dungeons & Dragons just as easily.

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