Friday, June 12, 2020

OSR Commentary Castles, Crusaders, & Deeper Clark Ashton Smith Zothique Dreams With X2 Castle Amber By Tom Moldvay

Last night I sat down with a group of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons players & it was an interesting walk through about their game campaigns. Their dungeon master is going on vacation & asked me to step in. Whoa.. I took a very large step back from this. I'm already engaged with an on going OSR  campaign which has been running for a very long while. So I'm putting the breaks on stepping in & taking on another commitment. Why?? Because I don't think that I can give my full attention to stepping into another friend's campaign.
In the meantime I've been rereading & going over my copies of Castles & Crusades books & materials for my on going weekly game. I already talked about doubling down on the OSR resources the other day. 

One of the books that I really like is the Castles & Crusades Arms & Armors book, this is a solid resource with some great weapons of the ancients in it. I started thinking about Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. So I started looking into expanding the free D20 Zothique booklet into a fully functioning campaign world. This was a process that I started about six or so months ago. There are a few isolated towns & villages that have had some contact with other  worlders. Various legends within the Zothique Pulp setting that hint at this. And in fact when Clark Ashton Smith describes his world setting its interesting from the Wiki entry; "Clark Ashton Smith himself described the Zothique cycle in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp, dated November 3, 1953:

Zothique, vaguely suggested by Theosophic theories about past and future continents, is the last inhabited continent of earth. The continents of our present cycle have sunken, perhaps several times. Some have remained submerged; others have re-risen, partially, and re-arranged themselves. Zothique, as I conceive it, comprises Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, parts of northern and eastern Africa, and much of the Indonesian archipelago. A new Australia exists somewhere to the south. To the west, there are only a few known islands, such as Naat, in which the black cannibals survive. To the north, are immense unexplored deserts; to the east, an immense unvoyaged sea. The peoples are mainly of Aryan or Semitic descent; but there is a negro kingdom (Ilcar) in the north-west; and scattered blacks are found throughout the other countries, mainly in palace-harems. In the southern islands survive vestiges of Indonesian or Malayan races. The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days. Oars and sails alone are used by mariners. There are no fire-arms—only the bows, arrows, swords, javelins, etc. of antiquity. The chief language spoken (of which I have provided examples in an unpublished drama) is based on Indo-European roots and is highly inflected, like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin.
Darrell Schweitzer suggests the idea of writing about a far future land may have come from William Hope Hodgson's novel The Night Land, noting that Smith was an admirer of Hodgson's work.[2] However, this theory was conclusively disproven by Scott Conner’s "Dust and Atoms: The Influence of William Hope Hodgson on Clark Ashton Smith" in Sargasso#2 (2016), the scholarly journal devoted to Hodgson."
Zothique is not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg' Hyperborea  but a separate time space continuum millions of years in a plane Prime's alternative future. This means that there are millions cultures that have come & gone to this Earth's dust. Basically this means that I can take the Castles & Crusades Mythos Bundle & use it too fill out the settings gaps as needed.
Take a look at this map of Zothique by Miihkali  its his own work, based on a map by Crates it gives an idea of the scale & just how far into Earth's future we're talking.

Map of Zothique by Miihkali  its his own work, based on a map by Crates 

Now Africa, all of Eurasia, have come to form the backbone of this world. Its old, fickle, demonic, & very dangerous. The type of place that will devour adventurers & its just the sort of a place that one might find explorers of the Unconquered Sun's Albion  trying to stake a claim to the deserts of Zothique. 

When the start of the Rose War begins it throws empire of Albion into full chaos. This is going to leave any explorers isolated & perhaps vulnerable. I've already written about the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville)'s interests on Zothique. But things get much more harry then that X2 Castle Amber  places several Mystara resources at the feet of the Amber family. Their roots run very deep indeed into the sands of Zothique as they do on Mystara.

The Castles & Crusades Keeper's Guide has several magical options built into it. Allowing the dungeon master to potray on the whole spectrum of wild & woolly Zothique magicks. This is especially true if the DM marries it with the Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg.

But why would the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) be so interested in Zothique? Two things immortality & possibly averting his on coming death curse that he can't seem to escape. He's angry, desperate, but not stupid or reckless. But where does all of this lead? We'll get into that next time. 

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