Friday, March 6, 2020

The OSR Campaign Cycle of X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

"To arms! To arms! The battle lines are drawn as desert men and inhuman tribes wait poised to strike on the fertile and rich lands of the east. The call has gone out through the civilized lands. The armies have been raised to match the invading foes from the west. Nobles and peasants have joined swords to greet the foes. 

But Fate or Chance has decreed another role for a small few. No glorious banners will wave on their march. No squadrons of knights will charge at their word. Instead, they will fight the war through stealth, secrecy, and cunning. The risks they will take are great, but the fates of both armies lie with them. 

It begins one night for your party far from the fighting. Suddenly you are entrusted with the most dangerous missions of the war. Can you cross the Sind Desert, occupied now by enemy armies, to find the Great Pass? Can you find the one known only as The Master? What will you do if your do find him? "

I just got home at about five A.M. or so, because of the nature of my job I don't have a choice but to deal with what comes down the pike as far as circumstances. So I've been thinking of X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd edition again. Just in case you don't know the history of X4 here's the basics in a nutshell;" X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook, is the fourth adventure in the Expert series for Basic D&D and the first adventure in the Desert Nomads duology. It was published in 1983. X4 is  the first module of a two-part adventure that can be concluded in the exciting "Temple of Death" or played entirely on its own. X4 is for character levels 6-9."

Now I've written about X4 before but when it comes to AS&SH & X4 Master of The Desert Nomads there are few connections & ideas that I've recently had. Lets start with the fact that X4 is easily one of David "Zeb" Cook's most Swords & Sorcery adventures of the X  series. The whole set up is straight out of something that Robert Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs may have written but in my opinion its actually Clark Ashton Smith that's the real Appendix N influence here. Well let's start with the fact that the Diamond Desert of Hyperborea is a region of highly unstable magical energies & they might connect to the far future world of Zothique. Now let's say that the characters are 1st level PC's & that they need to investigate some weird goings on out in the deserts for the crown heads of  the dismal City-State of Khromarium. Now let's assume they need to get up to ninth level to really be one of the movers & shakers out in the desert.
Now this is where B4"The Lost City" (1982) By Tom Moldvay comes in very handy. If we design parts of the 'lost city' to intersect with X4 where the Master's men have uncovered a Hyperborean relic or wonder weapon then things start getting very interesting.

The imprisoned  the Lovecraftian demon lord Zargon has been nursing his cults & feeding the 'Master'  from B4 bits & pieces of information. The next step is the fact that Zargon knows a bit about   the skeletal remains of Ymir’s Serpent, a legendary Viking longship & the crew of Sigtrygg Forkbeard who led his company into the pages of history in Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes. Zargon knows a lot & its been sprinkling seeds of strife into the mix but this takes the PC's deeper into the desert & up the latter of advancement from 1st possibly through third or forth level. 

That doesn't matter because the cult of the master is already onto the ancient occult city, Xambaala, clinging to the edge of the Zakath Desert. Dangerous forces might take the PC's out & its in Xambaala that the PC's learn more of the 'Master's' plans & of his lust for the secrets of a dangerous ruins &  deeper dungeons. The Anthropophagi of Xambaala  By Corey R. Walden (author) has some great PC set ups for a campaign run in AS&SH.

Corey Walden does an excellent job of really set up the occult desert city of Xambaala as a viable adventure location. But its really a solid place to set up an adventurer's base of operations in such a dangerous location. All of this of course depends up the PC's survival. We are not talking light weight adventure here.

The 'master' of course wants the lost secrets of The Beasts of Kraggoth Manor by Tim Callahan (author). Because by this time Zargon's cult forces may have realized the extent of the 'Master's' ambitions. See here's the thing about  The Beasts of Kraggoth Manor & The Anthropophagi of Xambaala  are ideally suited to expand into a Hyperborea campaign with classic Dungeons & Dragons modules at their core. 

Part of this goes back into B4 The Lost City & exploiting the cult factions of the module to my advantage.  Part of this involves using the various peoples and factions from within the module itself. Thanks to the Vaults of Pandius website most of the hard work was done for me.

Let's face facts that AS&SH feels like Zothique & its fine because the rpg encompasses many of the same themes, ideas extra as Clark Ashton Smith's creation. In fact bits & pieces of B4 could be used with Empire of the Necromancers to show the fall out of a competing faction of NPC's working for the 'Master'. Zothique is a mini plane in my games from the far future of an alternative Earth or the current Earth accessible through Earth's Dreamlands. The world of Hyperborea sometimes silently merges with this plane in my games. Give the sheer breath of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique this is quite understandable; 

How does all of this fit together with the final leg of X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook second module? Well you'll have to tune in tomorrow.

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