Saturday, August 8, 2020

Swords & Sorcery With Some OSR Campaign & Game Commentary

 Sorry that we've been off line for three days because of a massive power outage & the resulting stumbling around in the dark because of it. So one of the things that's been evident too me is the fact that I spend way too much time in the realms of social media. That's gonna change pronto. Anyhow besides being in the dark there was a lot of time to do some reading & mine was filled with two systems. One was Troll Lords  Castles & Crusades books which are always entertaining. But I've really been missing my Swords & Sorcery taste. 

Now for years back in 2004 I ran a very successful Conan D20. Now there's always been friction between the 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons crowd & the D20 Conan crowd. Why?! D20 Conan was plagued with all kinds of editorial issues, systems gaffs, etc. This was mostly cleaned up in CONAN THE ROLEPLAYING GAME ATLANTEAN EDITION which got a B- on Rpgnet back in the day. The reason why the D20 Conan books are still used by many OSR designers is the game system is both OGL & one of the Open-source tabletop games. One of the big open secrets of the OSR is that the underbelly of the 'movement' is the OGL & D20 mechanics. Quite frankly I've been getting a bit sick of writing, designing, & playing everyone else's copyrighted & trademarked world setting or campaign. 

Over the last couple of years the closer the OSR & lately the Wizards of the Coast  controversies have come to my table the further away I wanna get from them. So its either going to be me leaning into D20 Conan more or the Siege Engine. Its gonna be me leaning into Siege as time goes on. But it might just be me combining, adding or stripping away the system elements of C&C as the players need or want. 
The real kick in the teeth for me has been grabbing a physical copy of 'The Spider God's Kiss' By Xoth Publishing. I'll review that lovely Sword & Sorcery product coming up. If you haven't toured around 'The Hyborian Age site' I highly suggest you do. 

So why the switch up?! An Amazon review by 

Trulle Yors reminded me of one of my loves of the D20 Conan rpg. This review hits the high points of the magic system ; "Onward to magic! What can I say? This is what D&D spell casting should have been. The spell list is not too long, although you can easily enough drag a spell from a Conan book into this system. The spells are relatively powerful, most require only Verbal and Somatic components and Material ingredients aren't designed to to empty your purse.

All the magics are arranged into Styles (schools). The Hypnotism style, for example, has mesmerizing tricks that are available early on and that would be high-level in D&D. Here it doesn't take years of adventuring before you can be the Sorcerer and turn make a guard or several into brainwashed zombies at your beck and call, but neither can you fire off spells at every tun, thus cheapening the effect. Spells cost Power Points, and no wizard has too many of those, even though it is possible to go into the negative at the risk of fatigue. Spell Points are slowly recovered, but Mongoose unabashedly presents a wide gamut of means for regaining them and acquiring a temporary heap of new ones. You can sacrifice people, in game terms, by delivering a coup de gras to a helpless creature or, better yet, by torturing it to death, or you can inhale the narcotic fumes of Black Lotus.

You can also make pacts with eerie entities and demons which, however, will tend to increase your Corruption score, eventually making the sorcerer so obviously inhuman not just in thought but in appearance that he will have to go NPC. To the careful player, however, even this presents unique opportunities: if you manage to avoid crossing the final threshold, you can be a paragon of vice, whereupon you'll get to add your Corruption score to Intimidate checks, even when dealing with demons! Other rules make sure magic remains your obssession, since you begin to lose power if you become distracted with love or worldy pursuits. The wonderfully amoral game practically bedazzles with excellent, sinister ways of running a sorcerer - although if you really want to, you can try to stay "white." There are fairly innocent tricks like prestidigitation or non-magical mesmerism.

Ensorcelled items are rare and very expensive and hard to make, they tend to have specific bonuses rather than confer a wide range of benefits. Created minions acquire Corruption until they turn on you and so on. Still, magic can save an entire adventure, although its main goal, I believe, is to emphasize the lush and exotic nature of the setting. Hyboria is fairly low-magic but deadly and serious; you'll not find any of the cheese from D&D paperbacks in Howard's succint, vivid tales which have been influenced, as any fan will tell you, by H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Horrid things lurk in ancient ruins, vampires stalk their own tombs, cannibals feast on strangers, memories of Acheron still waff of fear, but there is also zest, drink, women and plenty of great steppes, seas and jungle to cross beneath an open sky. Your best friend, as befits Conan fiction, is a good trusty sword or bow."

One of the other OSR products that really started me down this path was 
CASTLE OLDSKULL - The Oldskull Necronomicon I. This isn't really an OSR book as its a splat book ala some of the older original White Wolf game system books. This is a fluff book through & through written as the actual account of the Mad Arab prophet himself. 

I long to be able to use the OSR as a platform to launch game campaigns that have a sustainability & a far reaching end. There's a really solid review of CASTLE OLDSKULL - The Oldskull Necronomicon I. right over here
Some of the material in the CASTLE OLDSKULL - The Oldskull Necronomicon I is perfectly suited to roll into a Sword & Sorcery game. There's lots of kit bashing that can be done with this book to really bring home the scope of such a campaign. 
I'm thinking of switching up my campaign notes on David "Zeb" Cook's X4 Master of the Desert Nomads for this campaign. But we'll talk about this one coming up tomorrow! 

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