Friday, April 10, 2020

Robert Kuntz, Dr. Holmes, & The Lovecrafian Angles of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Greyhawk Adventures

Today I want to step back from all of the 'alternative Earth publishing' of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons source books. I want to talk briefly about the Cthulhu Mythos in Deities & Demigods. At about four A.M. I sat down with the Zenopus Archives articles on the Cthulhu Mythos, Robert Kuntz  & Dr. Holmes here. 

When it comes to the sanity blasting goodness of the Cthulhu Mythos in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. I can't stress the dangerous aspect of one of the most glossed over & yet dangerous Lovecraftian races like the Elder Things & the Mi Go.
Elder Thing copyright & trade mark Wizards of the Coast.
Jeff Dee artwork used without permission.

All of this goes back to Dr.Holmes contributions or more like partial invention along with Robert Kuntz in the second part, "
Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part II"

Recently I came across an article that Robert Kuntz had written for AFS magazine issue#2 on Facebook for his 'Three Lines Studio' facebook group;
""Advent of the Elder Ones: Mythos vs. Man in the Lake Geneva Original Campaign, 1973-1976"
(Originally appeared in AFS #2)
By Robert J. Kuntz
©2012, Robert J. Kuntz. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are property of their respective owners and are used for historical purposes only and as provided for by the Fair Use copyright clause.
In early 1973 I created the beginnings of an ever-expanding story arc involving the advent of the Elder Ones in the known planes of existence. That beginning grew to span most of my published career, has informed play from that point forward in its most granular aspects, and has been responsible as a launching point for so many projects, both published and unpublished that I now need a list to track the interrelatedness of it all. I have appended that list (with short descriptions) hereafter and will explore a selection from this in the main article (*asterisk notes the selections covered).
RPG Matter
*Lost City of the Elders: See entry below.
Zayene the Accursed: Plagued by his investigation of the Jungle of Huhm, Zayene (prn: Zay-Een) is driven mad and flees Kalibruhn for what he terms “The Gray Lands,” this with Mythos-like beings hot on his trail.
Fomalhaut: Off world adventure; very large, with many mythos beings described therein as well as creative expansion of new material; access point was in the Temple of the Latter Day Elder Ones.
Cosmodious: An intergalactic freebooter and scientist who is dead set on stopping the spread of the Elder Gods anywhere and at any time; major tech and dimension-hopping.
The Star Demon: First conceptually rendered as a totally alien outside force; then attached to adjunct matter for The Seven Cryptic Books of Hsan (q.v.).
Six (Mythos) Monsters: Note the material included about them in this volume.
The Seven Cryptic Books of Hsan: See the TOC for the adventure included in this work.
Tome of Black Mold: Original City of Greyhawk sub-level adventure; one more of those tomes that “one best not open.”
Bottle City: Many references to off world beings and entities; four new mythos-like demi-gods are referenced therein: Aza, Lalatha, Zirx and Phannon.
*Greyhawk City Sewers: Mythos aligned beings still have outposts here to secure underworld passages to and from the Temple of the Latter Day Elder Ones; their war with the Thieves & Assassin Guilds whom are attempting to control all underground traffic beneath the city.
*Temple of the Latter Day Elder Ones: Greyhawk City/Castle environs sub-level; access to ancient magic, mythos monsters and planar locales therein.
*The Annex: An experiment by the priests of the Temple of the Latter Day Elder Ones; this produced 3 different humanoid species that soon turned to warring with each other. Located near the aforementioned temple and accessed through it.
Maze of Zayene: #1 has a plant demon in the art gallery which was painted while Pynyck visited an unearthly plane of existence; #2 Baal’s Realm has many books relating to Mythos subject matter; Nym Sleevus’s first occurrence as chronicler of strange outside events; #4 has much latent Mythos matter, including the wizard, Zydelic, whose special crystal ball allowed him to access visions of nether realms (and for creatures there to access him).
Garden of the Plantmaster: located in the Lost City of the Elders (q.v.).
Tharzdu’un: Alien outer god conceived from CAS’s Thaisidon; 1.5 pages of typed matter given to EGG and used by him to create Tharizdun. Revisited in Dark Druids (q.v.).
Demonworld: Fraz-urb’luu’s lieutenant, Sahazruul, occupies a strange edifice it found abandoned that sinks and rises at peculiar times. Many more off world intrusion records, all ancient even by demon-kind reckoning.
Ancient and Dimensional Magic: 20-page treatise describing alien magic that is archetypal of Uerth’s.
Node Magic: Alien magic that drove Zayene insane and at the same time exposed him to those that guard it.
Daemonic & Arcane: Steps of Zayene artifact; found in the Jungle of Huhm; allows inter-dimensional access if used by those with knowledge of dimensional magic.
Dark Druids: Tharzdu’un story line.
Maure Castle: Worship of “Y” and other rites connected with many cross sections of powerful beings (some in disguised aspects); time manipulation brings them into confrontation with several converging power cycles wherein they are “Noticed” and finally dealt with; LCotE tie-in.
Whool Priests: World of Kalibruhn; they’ve encountered servants of the Elder Ones and have built complex technological devices to detect the formers’ entry to their home world.
Fictional Matter
The Flight of Marloc: short story; lost 1989; CAS-like; long abandoned temple raid by a lone thief who meets his end therein.
The Six Threads: World of Kalibruhn; full chapter-by-chapter novel treatment and first 3 chapters; Loz-Toron and the demon-haunted tower; the samite that summons an alien god that consumes the wizard.
The Jungle of Huhm: World of Kalibruhn; 90% completed short story; a younger Zayene’s adventure in an ancient, ruined city found deep within the Jungle of Huhm. He is driven insane by what he experiences there and manages to escape, with those seeking his destruction it hot pursuit. Precursor to his in-game fleeing WoK for the “Gray Lands.”
H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith Influences
I’d like to note here, just to put speculation in abeyance, that I was influenced to create such matter by reading both H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. I separate the overall influence thusly: Lovecraft’s stories rooted the matter behind-the-scenes with broadly building hints. I transferred parts of his style into play to build mystery and a rising tension. Smith’s style is the finalization of Lovecraft’s, as he willingly moves to pull back the curtain and reveal in stark detail what it is we see rather than what we feel. Both rooted you in the inexplicable.
But when it came to hands-on play, Smith’s “what we have feared has come to pass” was indeed the culminating point to it all. His influence became the “upper-cut” added to Lovecraft’s feints and jabs. And it was meant to be the knock out punch in game terms. There are similarities in both, especially for endings, but whereas Lovecraft released an unsustainable shock, Smith immersed one in bearable pre-ending imagery via quickly emerging events that ultimately engulfed his protagonists. One was unknown—zap! The other, yes we sort of know, but let’s see—zap! Their styles work well together, but in my opinion then and now, Smith’s work better within the D&D RPG framework. In his stories there is that lingering feeling of chance recovery (as almost occurred in The Seven Geases); and even though recovery never really manifested in their stories (with the exception of Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, which was more of a break-even/escape for Carter), if it were to ever have occurred I sense it would have been in Smith’s tales.
In summary, I found in Smith’s stories a very fine tightrope that D&Ders in our shared campaign had been so carefully walking down. In his stories his “walkers” always fell. In game terms the PCs were always weighing that balance as they teetered one way or the other. Would they fall? One never knew for certain until all the steps had been taken. Even that last step was but 100% of what could happen if it went askew. Tightrope indeed.
Lost City of the Elders: In very early 1973 I created an adventure now known in my collected works as the “Terrible Iron Golem.” This was later updated and expanded (albeit changed in some spots) to WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure; and this then became updated to yet another incarnation of the original through its publication as Maure Castle. Confused yet? It gets better when folks started assuming that all of this was my original Castle El Raja Key (which it wasn’t, but I’ll reserve that topic for another time).
The gist of the “TIG” partial was to get Gary’s PCs involved in an off-world adventure (or more precisely, “out of campaign” adventure, as we had no real “world” then but shared the same outdoor environs via the Outdoor Survival map). That adventure was Lost City of the Elders, the very first planar adventure in D&D history and a precursor to my world as then envisioned, Kalibruhn. The original “TIG” adventure had within it coral tablets carved with reliefs upon them; and these corresponded to the places I had in mind for creating off-world, or Kalibruhn, adventures. These places were in turn accessed via the 8-pointed star puzzle. One of these places was LCotE. Gary’s party found the first bit for the 8-pointed star puzzle and was transported to the city near a waterfall; he made limited investigations of the city and then left, never to return. Ernie Gygax, many months later and while playing Tenser, followed in his father’s footsteps and spent some time investigating the city. Not much was deduced by either one of them mostly due their reticence to proceed below ground or to enter the many strange structures there. My impression is that they were in awe of the city’s sprawling grandness that now lay empty before them; and this (and rightly so) produced great doubt in both of these otherwise unshakeable adventurers. This was, of course, my intent.
It was only at an early Lake Geneva Gaming Convention that the LCotE came to be finally explored in depth and appreciated. A high level party tackled it, fighting many major encounters and discovering alien magic.
Tie-Ins: There is a major tie-in for an alien god who has been driven to the point of madness by outside sources that it tampered with. Some of these sources were uncontrollable i.e., such as Lamash the demon who feigned service when summoned to the Garden of the Plantmaster located in the city. Powers, etc., from Node Magic and Ancient and Dimensional Magic occur therein and as part of the many intersecting plots. Repositories of ancient magical formulas and rites and more otherworld knowledge is strewn throughout the city, most of it guarded by beings summoned through their use. This also (but briefly) ties into the Maure Family who had tampered with the time lines and through these manipulations found their way to the city, only to be pre-empted from discovering more about it by the signatures they had left throughout time and space. These fatal “planar foot prints” were to be used against them to unimaginable levels by the original city inhabitants, and just before the latter’s demise (that’s time manipulation for you). In all this represented a very involved plot in tune with an expansive, although alien, campaign setting. This was not just another “lost city.”
*Composite (Temple of the Latter Day Elder Ones; The Annex; Greyhawk City Sewers): There was a lot going on between these areas. The city sewers were a battle-zone for forces opposing the TotLDEO. The Thieves and Assassin Guilds attempted to maintain black market operations (including drug smuggling) while opposing the summoned forces of the Temple and Annex. There were more insidious plans afoot above ground (the opening of two gates to Demonworld, for instance).
The main intent of the Elder Ones in this area was complete control; and the replacement of the population in stages through their organic experimentation (as per The Annex). The Elder Ones had infiltrated many lofty stations in the city’s political structure. They disrupted the balance by manipulating gates in Demonworld, especially the timed one that their masters once resided at, this being Sahazruul’s Emerald Citadel.
The campaign was ripe for taking the PCs away from simple dungeon delving for treasure to a more involved atmosphere as I was presenting it via the city and its nearby environs. This overflowed to off world adventures, strange city intrigues and sub-city quests.
All of the aforementioned listed matter was sluiced into the campaign at different times. I had a storehouse of resources and adventure hooks aplenty, eye-popping stories and roughly 20 maps. Some of this continued to evolve beyond 1976 (Maure Castle and LCotE, for instance); but the majority of it was created and tested during those play-test years of the original Dungeons & Dragons game.
In retrospect I had wanted to examine this to its greatest extent. But I was unable to do that for telling reasons. By 1977 I was no longer DMing in our original shared campaign and no longer working for TSR, as I had quit my position there. But I always imagined this: What if the Elder Ones had won? What would it have been like? Dying Earth? Night Land? These concepts forever tugged at me; and I always found them much more enticing than green fields, castles deep and strong, medieval clones and the whole Arthurian motif, no matter how well these had been done. Fantasy to me was about exploring the unknown, stirring up imaginative matter and investigating what was behind it all. It was about worlds, not just areas within them; and the stars, not just the faded matter that these squinted at.
And this is why Lovecraft and Smith held my attention then just as they still do to this very day. They did not squint at this type of matter, but saw it for what it was: pristine gems delicately mined from untold depths of the mind and thereafter offered to anyone who would appreciate the iridescent glory of the imagination.""

Please note in no way shape or form I'm I trying to violate the copyright nor trademark of Robert Kuntz. This post is for educational & entertainment purposes only to show that the Lovecraft Mythos has always had its history in D&D stretching back to OD&D.

Robert Kuntz brings the hammer down in this article by laying bare many of the behind the scenes secrets of his own campaigns & adventures. This ties back into the  Zenopus archives 

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part III.
What it means is that many of the deadly secrets that I speculated in 'Call of Cthulhu' - A 'What If' Overview & Review Of A Greyhawk Source book & Lovecraftian Campaign Setting Set Up For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Or OSRIC.

The 'minor races' of Lovecraft are some of the most dangerous foes that a dungeon master can trot out in an Original Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons campaign. But one thing thing bothers me still and that's Dalt. According to the Greyhawk Grognard blog entry Lovecraft & Greyhawk; "
 obscure god Dalt, “The forgotten lesser god of portals and enclosures” who gave the archmage Mordenkainen the Silver Key of Portals, as Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure tells us. However, RJK gives us a bit of additional flavor that puts the lost god in a Lovecraftian perspective (from Dragonsfoot)"
My feeling is that Dalt is another aspect of the Elder God Hastur & this puts a whole other spin on his role in Greyhawk. There are many things to consider for my upcoming games


Deities & Demigods Cthulhu entry on Hastur copyright & trademarked to Wizards of The Coast. This blog entry is for entertainment & educational purposes. All material is copyrighted & trademarked to their original writers. 

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