Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Artwork & Inspirational Works of John Berkey For Your Old School Campaigns

 If you were alive in the early Seventies into the mid Eighties & a Sci Fi fan then the artwork of John Berkey was very much a part of your life. The Seventies & Eighties  were the golden age of the Science Fiction paperback. And no other artist was working his craft like Mr. Berkey. For a young classic Traveller Rpg player & gamer, John Berkey's sci fi space artwork felt like the future. 

Berkey's work had class, depth, and seemed like the lap of luxury space travel. This was a future that we wanted to be in & his artwork always seemed to have a sense of adventure about it. And it seemed rife for use as inspiration for our Traveller rpg campaign. 

There's a sense of urgency about John Berkley's artwork and that there's another crisis being just around the corner. And this was the angle that we used for our own home campaigns. The idea of the lone space craft cruising through the galaxy and narrowly averting whatever came down the pike! 

Mr .Berkey's artwork defined a generation with his iconic Star Wars artwork helping to define a generation of Star Wars fans. 

Mr. Berkey's artwork also defined our monsters as well with his iconic King Kong poster for the Seventies film.  His King Kong was a savage menace evident for around the time that the poster came out in the Seventies the film seemed to bomb. But the poster seemed to be every corner around this time. 

Personally though its Mr. Berkey's sci fi artwork that comes to define him as artist. There's something so pure about his enthusiasm for the genre of science fiction. There are a few of his ruined space craft that might as well be space going dungeons. And its here that we find another intersect with old school gaming. The idea of the space going dungeon floating out in space waiting is a powerful crossover tool. 

The primal artwork of  John Berkey space craft seems to be the theme of traveling and machines in outer space. And yet, his artwork seems to have a timeless quality about it. And its this lost to time that calls both DM's & players to Mr. Berkey's artwork. Looking over some of Mr.Berkey's paintings its not hard to imagine one of his ships being a space going dungeon in an old school game of Traveller. Berkey's artwork remains timeless & another beacon of the Seventies & Eighties that calls something deep inside a gamer's imagination. 

Some Thoughts on Wererats In Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

 So I started looking back at some of DM Steve's notes on Thieves Guild by Game Lord, LTD. Now back in June of 2020 I covered some of my experiences with Thieves Guild but then that business didn't go anywhere. And I shelved those notes.

Zipping through the Stackexchange I came across this post about to 'To what extent were Dungeons & Dragons were-rats based on The Swords of Lankhmar?'  And the post got me thinking about using were rats controlled thieves guilds as their elite leadership & as one of the controlling forces for the local beggar's guild. And there's an Arduin connection where Daniel Boggs said, 'At this point, no one seems to remember, although the connection seems very likely. However it wasn't Gygax who introduced wererats to the game or coined the term. The were-rat was first one of the Twin Cities monsters introduced by Dave Arneson and his players. Who precisely is responsible is unclear, but wererat first appears in David Megarry's prototype Dungeon! game (1973) and next in Greg Svenson's Tonisborg Dungeon (circa Jan 1974).' 

So this begs the question, 'Are wererats the perfect monster hybrid to bridge the gap in a Sword & Sorcery' game?! I believe the answer is yes & there are several reasons why:
  1. Wererats are an urban monster & ideally suited to city life and flourish there. 
  2. Wererats are never alone and always socialize in packs. 
  3. They have inherit aspect that ties directly into giant rats which go all of the way back to original Dungeons & Dragons. 
  4. Wererats are masters of the sewers & the seedier parts of cities. This ideally suits the monsters. 
  5. Wererats are a dangerous part of an alien eco system that humanity simply doesn't understand. 

Flying Buffalo Catalyst system books coupled with Thieves Guild books gives legs to a possible network of wererat controlled thieves guild holdings. And as a part of an information selling network a perfect addition to a Sword & Sorcery campaign. 
According to the Forgotten Realms Wiki entry on Wererat's ecology;"Ratmen were cannibals, eating uninfected humans and subsisting on what they could scavenge or steal. Wererats were noted to rarely mate with other wererats, instead mating with uninfected humans. The progeny of a male wererat and a human woman was human, but the child would inherit many of the physical characteristics of its father in his human form. The child of a female wererat and a human male were giant rats with paws that resembled human hands known as ratlings. These ratlings grew to maturity by the age of two and had the ability to transform themselves into human children who appeared to be roughly three times their real age" 

So this speaks to the fact that wererats are being very careful to whom & where they're bestowing their curse or gift upon. 

The wererats are certainly masters of the night & given their abilities within urban environments make formidable NPC adversaries; " Wererats were weaker than normal humans but they were more intelligent. Only silver or magical weapons could harm them and they were adept at surprise attacks.[6]

Wererats shared the animal instinctiveness of all lycanthropes and were markedly more dexterous than humans as well as a little more hardy. Any damage caused by a weapon not made of silver or coated in alchemical silver would be reduced. Wererats were often carriers of filth fever due to the environments that they lived in". 
I have no idea what 'fifth fever' is but wererats are perfectly suited to the role of thieves guild leader or as chaos priest go between for the forces of darkness. In Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea they were the last surviving true Ancients according to them. An analog surviving hold over of some of the Hyperborean's human slaves. They used foul magicks to curse themselves with the wererat curse. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Encounter With The Unknown - Play Session Recap #3 - ACK's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu & Colonial Troopers Knight Hawks rpg

 So the PC's have located the post 'After The Fall of Man' already and this blog post is going to go right back into the other day's blog entry here. 

We've been really busy with work so I've had to fall back when it comes to making plans for our crossover campaign 'After the Fall of Man'  a part of our on going ' The Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu'  & Colonial Troopers campaign. And question came up who caused this colony world's devastation?! And I had to think fast?! Then one player piped up that it was intergalactic warlords of course! And I had to think fast so I rolled some dice, 'yes, yes, it was!' 
'And so let's try & locate their lair or base of operations!', & they began rolling dice as my heart began to melt. Or did it?! Earlier in the day I had a copy of B1 'In Search of the Unknown' by Mike Carr with me! And as they flew closer to only E type world in the system the player's starship detected structures & lifeforms down below on the planetary surface. Deeper scans revealed that they were over twenty five years old. 

Now I had a couple of tricks up my sleave from using B2 'In Search of the Unknown' by Mike Carr before for various sci fi OSR games over the years. And this included a couple of automatic defenses including a couple of missile batteries planet side, and defense sat equipped with laser cannons. And did I mention the automatic messages by Rogar and Zeglin the two mercenary warlords(the names were changed on purpose. Now during the smoke break I had a bit of time to draw myself together get a few details changed up. The Caverns of Quasqueton is only one of the pair of mercenaries lairs & this threw the players who have never been run through B2. And to change it up further I went back to Jeff “Bighara” Sparks 'pay what you' want adventure 'The Hidden Serpent'. This location is another of the fortresses that  Rogar and Zeglin the two mercenary warlords own. 
Were  Rogar and Zeglin the two mercenary warlords evil?! And why were weapons of mass destruction levied against the Thundarr The Barbarian exo planet?! What happened to Rogar and Zeglin?! And why are there several strange planar readings on the planet?! For the planet dress I employed Skirmisher Publishing's Ray Guns & Ruins to up the unexpected tech, weird ruin aspect and this was a part of the Mutant Bundle for Cybermonday. 

This is probably going to keep the party busy for a couple of months. And they could possibly settle down in the fortresses once they've been cleared out. But their wizard is already itchy because he thinks there could be bugs in the area. And he's right! 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Commentary On Modifying the Free OSR Adventure Module 'Grandfather's Rain' By Kevin Crawford For - ACK's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu & Colonial Troopers Knight Hawks rpg

 So for the past couple of days I've been quietly working on a campaign world of a post apocalyptic nature & so far there are some campaign notes that I've got in DM Steve's note book. According to him we're going to be using several wildly variant sources. To start with is Kevin Crawford's Other Dust a post apocalyptic Stars Without Numbers add on supplement that doesn't get nearly enough traction as it used to. And next is the free intro adventure Grandfather's Rain. Now again Grandfather's Rain doesn't get nearly enough OSR limelight as it used to. 

The free intro adventure Grandfather's Rain actually includes ready to go NPC's, the village of Broken Tree fully mapped out, Digger Springs, a mud-mining settlement, and The Ashbrook Research Center again fully mapped out & ready to go.  And these are perfectly aligned with what we want to run. In our case its a Thundarr The Barbarian style campaign but set on another  colony world as a part of our 'After The Fall of Man' campaign setting.  
'After the Fall of Man' is a part of our on going
The Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu'  & Colonial Troopers campaign. The idea is that certain sectors of hyperspace have only recently opened up. And here's where strolling through the Frugal DM's blog came in very handy for our campaign. He highlighted Tim Snider's Free Mutant Future Supplement 'The World of Thundarr The Barbarian' 

The idea is that someplace out in large arm of ' 
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)' is a failed exoplanet that has been sending out signals into the hyperspace ether. Several black wizard warlords have arisen to power on this lost colony world. 
And things are getting desperate for the former colonists as the bugs have been moving in. The world is resource rich and its prime real estate for the PC's to take on. And here's where things get dicey as the PC's have a world to tame. 
Unknown to almost everyone is the nanite swarms & other nanite created monsters that are lurking on the edges of the wilderness. 
And its here that a few traditional D&D style monsters are going to come in! 

This colonial world is going to have gone fully over into the wilder aspects of the 'wilderness' theme that we've seen in 'Original Dungeons & Dragons volume 3 The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures'. 

The idea of the wilderness or wasteland being one of the most dangerous areas on an alien exoplanet goes with some of the spirit that we find in Gygax's & Arneson's 'Original Dungeons & Dragons volume 3 The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures'.  And its this same spirit of danger to PC's that we see in some of the dangerous monsters in Colonial Troopers Knight Hawks. 
Now here's the thing, this failed colonial exoworld is going to become hotly contested because of several things: 
  1. Hot headed black wizards causing mayhem for the PC's 
  2. Other planar vortexes becoming an issue once the hyperspace byways opening up
  3. Are the old dead colonists actually gone?! Could they actually be lying in wait?! 
  4. Are their other agencies on this exo world waiting to claim it as their own. 
  5. Since this world is a part of  The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)' the Greys will be taking a very high amount of interest in it. 
  6. There will be military action headed towards this world and perhaps the world may become an asset for the PC's?! 
You can download the Free OSR Adventure Module 'Grandfather's Rain' By Kevin Crawford here 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Underworld & Underclass Issues - Commentary 'House of the Rising Sun' (Arduin Grimoire volume 6) By Dave Hargrave From Emperor's Choice

 House of the Rising Sun (Arduin Grimoire volume 6) By Dave Hargrave has been one of those missing pieces of my Arduin Grimoire collection. Well, no more thanks to Emperor's Choice Miniatures & Gamers. 
And this goes back to October when I found a copy of the contents of House of Rising Sun on The Ruins of Murkhill forums here. 

According to the poster oldskolgmr who posted a break down of the contents of the Dragon Tree Press version of the book; 
"Arduin Grimoire Vol. VI; House of the Rising Sun  [Note all writing and spellings in the original except bracketed, italicized material, by the poster].
By David A. Hargrave
Copyright 1986
Illustrated by Roland Brown
Published by Dragon Tree Press
Second Edition 1988 
Pg. 2           Foreward, Dedication, Undedication, and Special Thanks to Dragon Tree Press [Ben & Mary]
Pgs. 3 - 7    The Adventurer Class (A new character class)
Pgs. 8 - 11  The Street Urchins of Arduin 
Pgs. 12 - 14 The Beggars Guild (And New Character Class?)
Pg. 15         The Assassins of Arduin [general]
Pg. 16         Arduin Law and Redress by Assassination 
Pgs. 17 - 20 Unique Weapons of Arduin Assassins
Pgs. 21 - 23 Poisons of Arduinian Assassins
Pgs. 24 - 25 Commercial Medicines of Arduin
Pgs. 26 - 28 Arduin Food
Pgs. 28 - 29 And Beverages
Pgs. 30 - 31 The Natural Denizens [animals/fauna] of Arduin
Pgs. 32 - 37 Arduinian Avians 
Pgs. 38 - 39 The Special Pets of Arduin
Pgs. 40 - 44 More Monsters of Arduin
Pgs. 45 - 46 New Magiks [mages]
Pgs. 46 - 47 New Druidical Magik
Pgs. 47 - 48 New Priestly Magik
Pgs. 49 - 50 New Runesinger Magik
Pgs. 51 - 54 Dragon Magik
Pgs. 55 - 59 More Arduinian Alchemical Goodies
Pgs. 59 - 60 Special Alchemist's Note, Alchemists Character Individualization Chart
Pgs. 61 - 65 More Orcish Alchemical Mayhem
Pgs. 66 - 68 New Mystick Artifacts and Treasures 
Pgs. 69 - 70 Bardic Oddities of Arduin
Pgs. 71 - 73 Rare and Legendary Gems and Jewels
Pgs. 74 - 75 Old Legends of Arduin
Pgs. 76 - 83 The Old Gods [of continents five and three]
Pgs. 84 - 88 The Noble Families of Arduin
Pg. 89         Super Heroes and Sword Swingers
Pg. 90         Final Note [from David A. Hargrave] and Abbreviations [used]      
From the World of Arduin [advertisement for Arduin Grimoires published by Dragon Tree Press]
    More Arduin books by Grimoire Games [advertisement]
      From the World of Delos [advertisement, Dragon Tree Press publications not related to Arduin]"
       There are two PC classes that have me intrigued, 
       'The Adventurer Class (A new character class)' & '
      The Beggars Guild (And New Character Class?)'. Both of these classes are mostly two classes that form a hodgepodge of abilities for the player's PC . The adventurer class goes all of the way to level 100 and the beggar does as well.  The adventurer is a highly trained & dangerous profession with the PC starting training at age ten to fifteen years of age. The training is very serious. And the PC is something akin to a D&D rogue but far more of a tomb breaker. They have elements of assassins, courtesans, and alchemists. The adventurer class is a child of the urban environment and they compliment the beggar quite nicely. This is a rough & tumble class and its by invite only. Mostly human & Elven types go for the adventurer class. Proto  Adventurers  are taken away for training a minimum of seven years. 

      Beggars can be of any race, color, creed, etc. with any physical deformity and they go through a training course of three years. And they are one of the most respected guilds on Arduin because they are information brokers par excellence. And they have incredibly close ties to the Arduin Thieves Guilds. A beggar gets three thieves skills They are not real thieves per say. And gain levels as traders & they often have rats or creatures of the rodent variety as trained pets. Beggars eyes are everywhere on Arduin. 
      So what do these PC classes say about Arduin?! Well to me it says volumes about Arduin's urban underworld & how its cityscape is interconnected in with the criminal element.  'House of the Rising Sun' also contains 'The Street Urchins of Arduin' which has incredibly strong ties the beggar's guild within the cities. The PC's are incredibly wise to keep on the good side of these social & adventure element. 
      Adventurers are whole different level with life being an adventure as a part of their credo. And its very possible that there are any number of abandoned ruins, cities, & even urban  dungeons where & when their particular skills are needed. The adventurer's class strikes me as 'Laura Croft' years before a proper 'Laura Croft' game ever debuted and far less of an 'Indiana Jones' style adventurer. The adventurer speaks volumes of treasure seeker and far less of deadly thief of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons fame. That being said I can see these three PC & NPC  classes working very well together to form another pillar of the underworld that crosses over into certain circles of academia on Arduin. 

      'House of the Rising Sun (Arduin Grimoire Volume 6) Is Available Right Here... 

      Grey Alien Megastructures - ACK's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu & Colonial Troopers Knight Hawks rpg

       Yesterday afternoon, I took a bit of time to refine some campaign ideas when it comes to our ACK's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu & Colonial Troopers Knight Hawks rpg affair which has been taking on a life of its own. But a question came up last night post Thanksgiving meal in our local coffee shop, 'How are the Greys moving their interstellar assets  from one place to another.'  This is going to pick up right from where we left off here. 


      So the Greys are some of the most dangerous interstellar powers around. The Greys move military & exploration assets into other intergalactic star systems & outer galaxy points. They use interstellar megastructure known as stellar engines. Specifically the Grays use the Shkadov thruster set up because the Greys are  a Type-II civilization on the Kardashev scale. The Shkadov thruster set up enables the Greys to take full advantage for the star systems that they settle in. But why?! Because let's look at the Wiki entry on the system set up; "One of the simplest examples of a stellar engine is the Shkadov thruster (named after Dr. Leonid Shkadov who first proposed it), or a Class A stellar engine.[4] Such an engine is a stellar propulsion system, consisting of an enormous mirror/light sail—actually a massive type of solar statite large enough to classify as a megastructure—which would balance gravitational attraction towards and radiation pressure away from the star. Since the radiation pressure of the star would now be asymmetrical, i.e. more radiation is being emitted in one direction as compared to another, the 'excess' radiation pressure acts as net thrust, accelerating the star in the direction of the hovering statite. Such thrust and acceleration would be very slight, but such a system could be stable for millennia. Any planetary system attached to the star would be 'dragged' along by its parent star. For a star such as the Sun, with luminosity 3.85 × 1026 W and mass 1.99 × 1030 kg, the total thrust produced by reflecting half of the solar output would be 1.28 × 1018 N. After a period of one million years this would yield an imparted speed of 20 m/s, with a displacement from the original position of 0.03 light-years. After one billion years, the speed would be 20 km/s and the displacement 34,000 light-years, a little over a third of the estimated width of the Milky Way galaxy." 

      A digitally colorized pen & ink drawing of two grey alien By MjolnirPants

      The Greys move their star systems where they want & before you know it they will be on your PC's doorsteps. The Greys came up into their own right at the point when the Elves were worshipping Chaos. The Chaos gods ascended into several worlds where the Greys had established colonial holdings causing conflict. The Khepri took full advantage of this conflict to establish themselves. The Khepri are the interstellar equivalent of cockroaches. They take advantage of races by making beach heads in many worlds. 'The Secrets of the Nethercity' have a killer example of these Khepri outpost. Are the Khepri a precursor race?! We shall see. 

      And its within this point that the Greys became a bit corrupted by Chaos & began to cross breed their own humanoid Chaos based troops. But these are seldom used because of the swath of destruction that they cause. The Greys have a number of Dyson spheres that they use to sometimes for stellar engineering & the occasional star system cleansing. 
      But it is only recently that the Greys have began to build  
      Caplan thrusters; "Astronomer Matthew E. Caplan of Illinois State University has proposed a type of stellar engine that uses concentrated stellar energy (repurposing the mirror statites from Class A) to excite certain regions of the outer surface of the star and create beams of solar wind for collection by a multi-Bussard ramjet assembly. The ramjets would produce directed plasma to stabilize its orbit, and jets of oxygen-14 to push the star. Using rudimentary calculations that assume maximum efficiency, Caplan estimates the Bussard engine would use 1012 kg of solar material per second to produce a maximum acceleration of 10−9 m/s2, yielding a velocity of 200 km/s after 5 million years, and a distance of 10 parsecs over 1 million years. While theoretically the Bussard engine would work for 100 million years given the mass loss rate of the Sun, Caplan deems 10 million years to be sufficient for a stellar collision avoidance.[5] His proposal was commissioned by the German educational YouTube channel Kurzgesagt
      Much of this technology came from a technological exchange with the 'Cloud Giants' and has been stolen by the Skinnies. But the Greys are working on several  secret project and its here that the PC's have very recently began to inquire. 

      The alien necromancers of Narri have been at war with the Grey over several star systems causing the Greys to field plasmas based weapons. We've been looking into using  Alternative Armies Ion Age miniatures to simulate one or more of the races we're playing with.  And the bat just got moved up.