Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Back to the Wilderlands of High Fantasy - Hacking the Wilderlands With Castles & Crusades Through The 'Witches of Court Marshes' By Bryan Hinnen From Judges Guild

 "The fifth book in the "Wilderness Series", danger awaits on All Hallow's Eve, Witches of the world are gathering en masse, the peasants of the area are going to leave, unless you can stop the wicked Black Mass.  26-pages of maps detail the area around the Witches Court Marshes and the village of Grita Heath.  Complete description of the Witch character class.  Many witch NPCs are detailed.  Three level lair of Mordridda Dungeon under the Marshes contains fabulous wealth and dangerous adventure."

So last night after work we finally got together with our friends at our favorite 'watering hole' which isn't known to the other local animals. We're going over campaign adventure options  for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy that we've been planning. And this one uses the Castles & Crusades options that James Mishler & co did over the years. Someone brought up the Wilderness series from Judge's Guild: 
The Wilderness Series
Mines of Custalcon
Spies of Lightelf
Pirates of Hagrost
Shield Maidens of Sea Rune
Witches Court Marshes

Everything here begins with 'Mines of Custalcon'
 which has its own internal Wilderlands history, mini dungeon, etc. which sorta of interconnects to the others in the series. Well comeback to 'The Mines of Custalcon' soon because of its important part that it plays out in 'The Wilderness series'. 

Now personally we've never been involved with 'Witches of Court Marshes'. But knowing its place in 'The Wilderness series' of adventures things have motivated me to grab it from my friend's thumb drive. Now interesting enough  'Witches of Court Marshes' isn't simply an adventure but a Wilderlands mini 
campaign sourcebook unto itself.  But we digress here, this is a massive Wilderlands campaign arch that came out in '82 & was written by Bryan Hinnen. This isn't a joke here. This module details out  the village of Grita Heath & the dungeons three level lair of Mordridda Dungeon under the Marshes. These dungeon works are no joke. The witches detailed here are nasty business. These witches  are right in line to the hags of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.  In fact the whole module reeks of Celtic influences right down the core of it. This isn't a bad thing at all. 

Black Annis from AD&D Monster Manual II 

Given how this played up a bit in some of the Wilderlands modules we can assume that there's a whole cloth feel to this source book/adventure that we didn't get from some of the other Wilderlands books. And there's a very good reason for this according to a blurb that we found on Rpgnet's entry on 'Witches Court Marshes';"An eighty page sourcebook detailing the wilderness west of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and the witchy inhabitants who make it worth a visit. As one of Judges Guild's later supplements, not approved for D&D, it uses their "Universal Fantasy" stats system to describe the area's resident monsters & humans, as well as a long description of the witch character class, including new spells. There are 26 hex-mapped pages of wilderness and a three-level dungeoncrawl"

This doesn't take away from the actual usefulness of the 'Witches of Court Marshes' at all. In fact if we were looking for a breakdown of  peusdo Celtic fortifications for the humans of the Wilderlands. A number of human race's settlements might look like the oppida. An oppida is 
a large fortified Iron Age settlement that makes an excellent example for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. These fortifications are perfect for the surroundings of the the Witches Court Marshes. 

 Kenny Arne Lang Antonsen - artwork of 

Celtic Oppidum Central Europe 1st century B.C.

These fortifications are perfect adventure set pieces because they allow the DM to tap into real world history to give that little inch of campaign promise to the players as seen in the  oppida wiki entry;"Oppidum is a Latin word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome, and applied more generally in Latin to smaller urban settlements than cities, equating to "town" in English (bearing in mind that ancient "cities" could be very small by modern standards). The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum, "enclosed space", possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *pedóm-, "occupied space" or "footprint".

In his Commentarii de Bello GallicoJulius Caesar described the larger Celtic Iron Age settlements he encountered in Gaul during the Gallic Wars in 58 to 52 BC as oppida. Although he did not explicitly define what features qualified a settlement to be called an oppidum, the main requirements emerge.[1]

They were important economic sites, places where goods were produced, stored and traded, and sometimes Roman merchants had settled and the Roman legions could obtain supplies. They were also political centres, the seat of authorities who made decisions that affected large numbers of people, such as the appointment of Vercingetorix as head of the Gallic revolt in 52 BC". 

This plugs directly into the themes & wants of the Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum 2nd Edition By Brian Young. The mythology of the 'Witches of Court Marshes' would have to be altered quite a bit but it could easily fit into the back bone of the themes of the Codex Celtarum 2nd Edition 

The problem comes about when combining too much of these things into a flowing campaign. The fact is that one adventure element at a time should be used. The 'Witches of Court Marshes' By Bryan Hinnen is that lens first that needs to be looked at by the dungeon master. Everything else will fall into place. The 'Witches of Court Marshes' By Bryan Hinnen is a huge campaign arch & the events of the module will have lasting effects within a campaign. The module could consolidate the power of the witch's coven within this area of the Wilderlands if the PC's fail. The 'Witches of Court Marshes' By Bryan Hinnen is a classic & still works quite effectively as a campaign motivator module. 

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