Monday, October 26, 2020

Campaign Matters Infernal : Beer & Judges Guild - Inferno By Geoffry O. Dale

 So on Sunday it was get together with friends over beer & discussing our  varsious campaigns over one of my player's houses. Things have been pretty chaotic in Connecticut with the Pandemic & the rise in cases. But not so much that we didn't get together but half our players were missing so it was a beer night. And things turned as they do to past games & one of which was TPK romp through Inferno By Geoffry O. Dale. Where do we start with this module? Well at the time it offered an alternative infernal cosmology to Dragon issue #75.  Old School hersey I can hear the AD&D first edition crowd screaming. Inferno By Geoffry O. Dale came out in Nineteen Eighty. 

So over the years my uncle Jack mixed,patched, matched infernal adventure & campaign elements as needed.  This is no slight on Geoffry O. Dale's creation & we gained a very healthy appreciation of Dante's Inferno. So let's jump right into the thick of things here;

"Inferno is based primarily upon the poem "Inferno" by Dante and is also fitted as a scenario into my campaign, Nidevellir. My purpose in writing it is twofold -- first, to answer the perennial question of Judge's when the party finds a cursed scroll: "GO DIRECTLY TO HELL!!" now what do I do? And secondly, to provide a power base to the evil immortals in the campaign. There may arise occasions in which an irate Cleric will geas some poor fighter into returning something that is on the Devil's plane and this allows the character somewhere to go for the adventure."

This brings up  where & when I would use O'Dale's modern creation looking into the classic review of this module from Dragon #44 (December 1980).

Which if you don't have is worth it for the classic 'Food Fight game alone. Simplier times folks. Anyhow, 
William Fawcett goes deep into the module hitting the high points;

"Inferno was reviewed in Dragon #44 (December 1980) by William Fawcett. He commented that "This is one of the more expensive and longest modules offered by Judges Guild. It is a mixed offering with some excellent points and some potential problems. Many DMs will like this module just because it is perhaps the one situation where they can validly play with Asmodeus as a wandering monster!"[3] Regarding the commentary on TSR's placement of the archdevils, he stated that "Actually there is support for both placements; the argument harkens back to the days of the “angels on a pin” discussions. Depending on their sources, both authors have them placed correctly (or relatively, incorrectly). In any case this is of little importance to the play as most characters will be reluctant to face any of the Archdevils anyhow."[3] Fawcett added: "Obviously, this is a very high-level dungeon. A party of no fewer than eight members and averaging no less than 10th to 14th level is suggested. Even for these levels, this is a very deadly place. This puts a strain on the judge; there is a fine line between playing this module well and playing it either so deadly as to be discouraging or crossing over into Monty Haul dungeoning. [...] This can lead to a party that is terribly over-encumbered with new major magic items."[3] He continued "Another problem inherent with playing characters and monsters who are this high in levels is that it takes a long time to resolve most melees. Either the characters have a lot of hit points or the more complicated magics take longer to roll up and compute. Several new spells are also suggested for use in the module, many of which would unbalance a campaign when (or if) the characters return. Even with these problems this module can be a real experience if played with a capable DM. There are some excellent descriptions in the early sections that set the mood beautifully for the players. The DM is further aided by suggestions throughout the book on how to play certain situations. These, for the most part, are quite useful. The module handles encountering and generating high-level monsters very well."[3] Fawcett concluded his review by saying, "If you are looking for something that will challenge players who have characters grown to great heights or are looking for a suitable ground to play high-level characters as a change, this is an excellent choice. This is definitely not a module for a new DM to attempt, but correctly run it offers an unusual challenge."" 
One of the ways of handling the magic item problem is very simple, some magic items don't work outside of Hell. Even escaping Hell is going to be problematic enough. 
So we started brininging this discussion into our Castles & Crusades rpg game. Now recently the Troll Lords are going to be producing a planes book. That's great but I really don't care. Most of my infernal goings on have come from the above sources & material that has appeared in Tome of the Unclean. 

DM choice for their campaign trumps rpg creator, writer, & company's vision every single time at the table top level. This is something that going all of the way back to the first 'official' world setting has been a problem. Homebrew campaign world's settings  always beat the above. I'm not picking on Troll Lords in particular at all but over the last forty years numerous incidents have rammed this point home. Games should be bought, read, torn apart & the dungeon master along with his or her players should make it their own. This is part of the philopshy that one sees with some of the Troll Lord Kickstarters.   This level of customization on the DM's part doesn't equal micromanagement. That get's thrown out the window by the players as soon as they start playing a high level adventure like Inferno. It takes a steady hand to do these adventures. Because players are gonna screw your plans up royally and its glorious folks. 

What I don't agree with is  Ron Shigeta review about Inferno  in The Space Gamer No. 31;"Ron Shigeta reviewed the adventure in The Space Gamer No. 31.[2] He commented that this adventure "is for those that have gotten cursed scrolls saying, "Go to Hell!!" or owe a Geas to some Lawful Good cleric. Hell is everything it's cracked up to be. Not just anybody can dash in and out of this place. As a matter of fact, it would be the achievement of a character's career to get out alive, as it should be. Everything is covered, from Tiamat's cave to the palace of Minos – and nothing is easy; both new and old Devils and monsters abound here."[2] He continued: "But not everything is as it should be. Minos' Palace has 13 rooms and Tiamat's cave has four paragraphs, where it should have a book of its own. Often a description of some new magical item will take up more room than the overall description of the level it's on. Usually the only major encounters are those on the road through, leaving the rest of the circle one big random encounter area."[2] Shigeta concluded the review by saying, "I bought Inferno because I wanted the plane of 9 Hells in my campaign and didn't have the time to do it myself. Anybody who wants to spend a few weeks on it can probably do as well or better, and with the gaps in Book 1, I feel little confidence in the forthcoming book 2, which contains the remaining five levels, the infernal City of Dis, all the Monster Manual Arch-Devils, and the only way off the plane .... Perhaps Mr. O'Dale should be playing Napoleon instead.""

Sigh, Hell has been the back bone for my campaigns for over thirty years.
Here's how it works, Hell is main stage & the Abyss is the backstage of Hell.
The whole cloth of the game campaign is based around it. Anything even romotely 
associated with the infernal is choatic.

Things of Earth & the material don't last 
in the infernal at all. Hell adapts as it wants & needs to but
 its always evil, destructive, & destructive. That brings up Hell coming into its own 
with its latest incarnation in the Metallic Tome by 
Rafael Chandler.

But if you want to deal with the hardcore metal forces of the infernal darkness along side the Metallic Tome. Then I suggest going with 'The Dragon' magazine issue #20. This issue has quite a few variations of the usual infernal themes that would fit along side of horrors of the Metallic Tome. Especially 'Demonology Made Easy' By Gregory Rihn. p. 15  a perfect article for those lawyer demons;

"Any demon or devil should be a hard bargainer in making a pact of service, attempting to get as much from the operator as possible in return for as little actual work as can be. The demands of lesser fiends will be in the area of material rewards. They will demand a small animal sacrifice each time they appear, or else a small taste of the operator’s blood or tears. This is because the lesser fiends cannot bind the operator’s soul to perdition, or enforce their will upon him once he is in their clutches — the big ones will take him away!" 

So there are only four levels to O'Dale's Hell? Getting a party of adventurers to even get past the first would be a trick unto itself. But this isn't very Dungeons & Dragons at all. Well let's talk for a moment about Michael Moorcock's The Warhound & The World's Pain. An aspect of the eternal champion takes up the familial search for the Holy Grail. 

To run this campaign in a more modern setting I turned to an older game that happen to love because its easily adaptable and that's The Lion & Dragon rpg. Not only did I use it with a modern infernal game but used it quite nicely with adventure elements from Inferno By Geoffry O. Dale. 

Gaming is what you make of it and always has been. Judges Guild material is very adaptable to old school & OSR campaigns as needed. Beer often leads to Hell but this time it lead down several memory holes and perhaps a campaign hook or two.. 


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