Friday, August 21, 2020

Past Incarnations, Free Classic Adventure Fiction Downloads, Domain Management, & Old School Campaigns

 I was speaking with an old friend of mine last night about Appendix N from the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. What came up in conversation was the fact that there have always been connections within shared universes & heroes of fiction's incarnations. The first name that popped up was Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champions books. But the challenge was in using some less traditional sources for campaign building.

But actually the idea goes back much further and crosses into the Lost Worlds genre in several places. One of my favorites is the  prehistoric adventures of James Allison's pre-incarnations in the Aesir stories of Robert E.Howard. Here the protagonist James Allison is a crippled shell of a man dying in the heat of the Texas day who can remember all of his past incarnations including Niord who leads his stout warriors across the face of the world until they come upon a nation of Picts and then things get really bloody. Swords swing bodies fly and then reason takes over one of the Pictish tribesmen is spared & our hero's tribe settles into a former valley of the Cataclysm. The two tribes intermarry things settle down, time moves on, and eventually a splinter group goes out into the world to settle into another ruined jungle valley. This is the set up for the rest of the story as Niord goes out and faces not one monster but in fact four the last one being the Lovecraftian horror of the Worm. This thing is something out of a Lovecraftian nightmare, another of Howard's Mythos hold overs hiding out in a hidden valley. The worm leaves quite the impression though as a thing born from the imagination of Howard via his own take on his mythos.
"... a night-born demoniac intelligence such as men in dreams vaguely sense throbbing titanically in the black gulfs outside our material universe."

Down Load The James Allison Collection
By Robert E. Howard HERE

There are a lot of things to mine from the story. The second James Allison story in the public domain is Garden of Fear, it touches on many of the same themes as Valley of the Worm. But many Howard fans don't consider it in the league of Valley but it touches on another incarnation of James Allison & has a few trappings that can be mined for old school gaming. According to Wiki;The Garden of Fear and Other Stories is an anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories anonymously edited by William L. Crawford. It was published as A Crawford Publication in 1949 in an edition of 48,000 copies. The H. P. Lovecraft story first appeared in the magazine The Rainbow. The other stories originally appeared in the magazine Marvel Tales."
Howard has many of his central concepts on show in these stories such as the migrations of his Hyborian tribes and races, hidden gems of lost world valleys filled with steaming jungles & mysterious god like survivors of his Cataclysm. Many of these tales of Howard have entire eons, city states, heroes, and eons separated by cycles of death and rebirth with only ancestral blood ties binding our heroes together. Or so it would seem but in Kings of the Night by Robert Howard we have Bran Mak Morn conjuring up the spirit of King Kull to do battle with the Romans! Some of the  themes of racial superiority don't go over well today, they can be taken in stride as part of that era's outlook. They are are relics of their time and deserve to be left there but that doesn't take away from the fact that these stories kick ass and are still a fun read even today.
The second offering today is "The Eternal Lover" (The Eternal Lover Part 1) All-Story Weekly, March 7, 1914 which is an Edgar Rice Burroughs novella that appeared in All- Story Weekly and could be considered one of Burroughs shared universe Lost World/ Custer novels. The Custer novels are interesting because events of the Mad King happen between the events of 'The Eternal Lovers" or that is to say;"While the four Custer sibling novellas were first published in an alternating fashion; chronologically-speaking, the events of the two halves of The Eternal Lover/Savage occur between the two halves of The Mad King" Barney Custer is cast into the role of the king of Lutha set against the backdrop of WWI and the Eternal Lover comes right into the middle of the events of the novel.

You Can Download The Mad King HERE
The Eternal Savage concerns,"Barney's sister Victoria Custer. These stories take place between Barney's two Luthan adventures, when he and his sister are the guests of Tarzan on the latter's African estate. When cave man Nu is released from suspended animation, Virginia discovers that she is the reincarnation of his great love Nat-ul. The story covers her adventures with Nu."

You Can Down load The Eternal Savage From Gutenberg Australia as All four novellas—as they were serialized in All-Story Weekly—are in the public domain in the United States but check your home country for details before downloading.

Nu is no one to screw with as a cliff dweller from 100,000 years ago whose kept up his hunt with Oo a sabertooth tiger of deadly aspect. There's all sorts of other worldly weirdness about the Eternal Savage but the bottom line here is that time as it stands in the ERB universe is flexible and the action in the Eternal Savage is fast paced with lots of prehistoric hi jinks to keep the reader interested. There's also a ton of ideas here to mine the least of which being to take PC's out of their context and place them as their needed in an adventure.

So what does this have to do with OSR gaming? Quite a bit actually, one of the topics that came up in conversation were the links between sword & sorcery & Ruritanian romance. The
Ruritanian romance is defined as follows;"
Ruritanian romance is a genre of literature, film and theatre comprising novels, stories, plays and films set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe, such as the "Ruritania" that gave the genre its name.[1] Such stories are typically swashbuckling adventure novels, tales of high romance and intrigue, centered on the ruling classes, almost always aristocracy and royalty,[1] although (for instance) Winston Churchill's novel Savrola, in every other way a typical example of the genre, concerns a revolution to restore rightful parliamentary government in the republican country of Laurania. The themes of honor, loyalty and love predominate, and the works frequently feature the restoration of legitimate government after a period of usurpation or dictatorship." 
One thing that I've noticed with Ruritanian romance sword & sorcery cross over games is that domain management is key for the end campaign game. This means that DM's have to be ready for domain mangement when one of their PC's seats their behinds on the throne.
For domain management in such Ruritanian romance sword & sorcery cross over games I'd use either Dark Albion The Rose War or Adventurer, Conqueror, King, or both since these systems actually play very well together.
I was recently involved in an OSR game with my buddy Steve where we were all playing AS&SH Hyperborean castaways facing down the terrors of Basic Fantasy's Monkey Island while the real villains of the lost world adventure were actually Dark Albion royals hell bent on claiming the island for their king. We were helping the liege of the island to be restored to her rightful throne. The Dark Albion royals had guns and there were other time lost castaways on the island who were incarnations or parodies of famous sword & sorcery figures. While it was a fun game there were implications that the royalty of the island was not what she appeared to be.  There was also an indication that we the party might actually be incarnations of WWI soldiers ourselves lost to time and space.

There were subtle & evil magicks involved as our party came across several items that the players recognized as WWI era items scattered about in the queen's chambers but it was a book of real world black magick that sealed the deal for the players. The game however has yet to be resolved but what it showed me was that potential for mixing and matching classic old school fiction and OSR material.  All of this ties in with my Atlantandria Port City of Accursed Atlantis as the PC's have unfinished business with some wily Dark Albion merchants there.

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