Saturday, December 31, 2022

Castles & Crusades, Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique & Adapting The Free D20 adventure Shadows in the Moonlight by Wesley Connally Updated

 If there is one artist whose work to me has established Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique its Rodney Mathews.   And looking over the CAS stories, Mathews artwork, etc. the influences on my small Seventies childhood brain are certainly there. And I don't wanna hear that this isn't OSR enough be cause this material can easily be applied to Dungeon Crawl Classics.

A witch & her demon guardian by Rodney Mathew artwork used without permission.

So the last time I was playing a Castles & Crusades/Amazing Adventures rpg hybrid game it was set on Clark Asthon Smith's Zothique. I had to pull the entire campaign setting out of my butt & it was a royal pain from my perspective. So while I do have the D20 Zothique rules I decided to sit down for a moment & really rend it the setting out from the back end of the CAS Zothique stories.
The stories within the millions of years in the future world of Clark Ashton Smith go something like this; 

<Zothique (1951)

Right since the last time I went down this OSR rabbit hole there are several things that have occurred to me. First off is the continuing factor that I can use the older D20 Conan rpg books for filling in many of the gaps in this sort of a campaign. Last night I ran across an old 2009 thread on using D20 Conan with Castles & Crusades. The very heart of this thread is a forum post by ThorII;"Defense in Conan is broken in to "Parry" and "Dodge". "Parry" requires you to be armed in some fashion (melee weapon, shield, improvised device, etc) and is Parry modifier + Str + shield +feats or class abilities. "Dodge" requires a 5' space ajacent to you be open (for wiggle room) and is Dodge modifier + Dex +feats or class abilities. 

Each class has a fixed parry and dodge progression, similar to a Saving Throw progression. Certain classes get better dodge than parry, others have better parries than dodge.

Player must decide weither to parry or dodge each round. There are optional modifiers for parrying depending on weapon size.

This is a simplified breakdown of it, based on memory.

Personally, if you were going to convert it to C&C, I'd just use a fixed defense progression (1/2 bab mabe) and leave it simple. I'd also just keep armor as AC, and add defense to it."
Pretty much simplicity itself really but I've stated for my game campaign that I wanted a bit more of a classic Golden Age jungle comic book & Sword & Sorcery feel to this campaign. I already own several D20 resources that can be used to create this end. The first place to start with this is the Castle Keeper's Guide.  There are several systems within the Castle Keeper's Guide for converting material.

Dealing with Zothique many of the native tribes away from civilized lands are some of the most dangerous foes player's PC's can run across this isn't the trackless wilderness, this is wilderness we can hardly understand filled with dangerous ruins & dungeons CAS himself describes it; "Clark Ashton Smith himself described the Zothique cycle in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp, dated November 3, 1953:

Zothique, vaguely suggested by Theosophic theories about past and future continents, is the last inhabited continent of earth. The continents of our present cycle have sunken, perhaps several times. Some have remained submerged; others have re-risen, partially, and re-arranged themselves. Zothique, as I conceive it, comprises Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia, India, parts of northern and eastern Africa, and much of the Indonesian archipelago. A new Australia exists somewhere to the south. To the west, there are only a few known islands, such as Naat, in which the black cannibals survive. To the north, are immense unexplored deserts; to the east, an immense unvoyaged sea. The peoples are mainly of Aryan or Semitic descent; but there is a negro kingdom (Ilcar) in the north-west; and scattered blacks are found throughout the other countries, mainly in palace-harems. In the southern islands survive vestiges of Indonesian or Malayan races. The science and machinery of our present civilization have long been forgotten, together with our present religions. But many gods are worshipped; and sorcery and demonism prevail again as in ancient days. Oars and sails alone are used by mariners. There are no fire-arms—only the bows, arrows, swords, javelins, etc. of antiquity. The chief language spoken (of which I have provided examples in an unpublished drama) is based on Indo-European roots and is highly inflected, like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin.
Darrell Schweitzer suggests the idea of writing about a far future land may have come from William Hope Hodgson's novel The Night Land, noting that Smith was an admirer of Hodgson's work.[2] However, this theory was conclusively disproven by Scott Conner’s "Dust and Atoms: The Influence of William Hope Hodgson on Clark Ashton Smith" in Sargasso#2 (2016), the scholarly journal devoted to Hodgson. 

To really bring this wilderness home I decided to dig out my copy of D20 Conan's Across Thunder River. "Conan the Roleplaying Game has been widely accepted by gamers as the most dramatic advance in gaming since the arrival of the d20 system. Filled with innovative ideas and exciting concepts, it's the most talked about RPG of the year. The range of successful Conan releases has only reinforced this, and Across the Thunder River continues that tradition. Across the Thunder River is the first campaign supplement for Conan the Roleplaying Game, dealing with the wild and untamed western frontier of Aquilonia, the perilous Westermarck. This massive, 200 page hardback campaign will detail the Aquilonian frontier in never before seen detail, creating a superb and involving campaign setting which will be both extensive and immersive. Players will thrill to Pictish border raids, terrifying ambushes and fast paced adventure. Written by award winning Conan savant, Vincent Darlage, Across the Thunder River is certain to be one of the most popular additions to Conan the Roleplaying Game. Combine this with the 128-page full colour format and the book has 'winner' written all over it."

There are some fantastic guidelines to bring to life the jungles & horrors within the setting of Zothique. 

The Picts make excellent stand ins for the  far future cannibal & tribes of devolved humanoids that inhabit the fringes & jungles of Zothique. Converting the free D20 Conan module 
Shadows in the Moonlight: Written and edited by Wesley Connally from the site. It has  the feel that I'm going for here in my version of Zothique. So everything here is keyed into that feral wilderness of hoary age. This is an adventure for PC's levels three to four. So the overarch here isn't way out of the PC's range. But will the PC's survive?! That's another matter entirely. The PC's might be caught within the battle & then encounter  Shah Amarath as an NPC.
"The PCs are survivors of a great battle. They come upon the leader of their foes, Shah Amarath who is re-capturing a runaway girl. Continuing to run for their lives, the party makes for an island on the Vilayet Sea. Here they find mysterious ruins with an ancient past. The party will also encounter a band of pirates toward the end of their adventure'

For Amazing Adventures! Rpg this is an adventure where perhaps Zothique overlaps the campaign setting & the party finds itself in the jungles of the far future world. Or the party comes across an ancient gateway built by a long forgotten race. A relic of the long forgotten gods that are at play in Zothique is another option.
But what about the deserts, magicks, etc. of Zothique we'll be getting into that coming up. None of the table top role playing companies are anyway responsible for this its strictly my own thoughts. 

Goa'uld On Planet Kaiju -An Alternative Earth Clement Sector Rpg one shot !? - Session Report

 There are times I love being a DM & today was one of em. We played a three sided game of Cepheus Engine in which DM Steve controlled the forces of a systems lord. Again we ran a very different 2d6 game mini adventure using the fan made Stargate Rpg for Traveller available in this thread on Mongoose's forums here. 
And this time the 
Goa'uld unknowingly landed on 'planet Kaiju' out on the fringes of  a 'Clement Sector' so this isn't our 'official' Clement sector campaign. DM Steve had no idea that he was going to be encountering these horrors. 

The first thing that the Goa'uld encountered was a multi tiered science facility & academy. And they were going to land near her. Well that didn't go well as their drop pods alerted more then a few Skull Crawlers. 
Five Skull crawlers made short work of the drop pods & thier occupants. It was glorious! DM Steve wanted to avoid the swamps & deserts. He knows my passion for using certain types of Kaiju. And well that didn't go well with a forrest assault coming face to face with several acid spewing Big Ass Reptiles. 
Now Paul our colony player had a few missions of his own & those included moving out personel or staying to direct the Kaiju under the facility's care. He used the  Rock Critters to take out the next wave of Goa'uld from thier next landing zone. 

Don't mess with  Rock Critters because these things can be vary nasty when they get annoyed. And all Paul had to do as a player was to get word out to the Hub subsector forces! And meanwhile I was going to start bringing in some of the other Kaiju who were annoyed that their home was being invaded. 
Ships of the Clement sector were used to represent the back up ships. 

And when the next wave came I unleashed one of my secret weapons on DM Steve's forces! A 1954 version of Godzilla that had been secreted on the planet ages ago! 
# appearing 1
5/10, Move 30 m, Armor 8, Claw (melee 2d damage) Bite (melee 3D damage), Atomic Breath  (range 100 meters damage 5d), Survival 1,  Combat 3, Melee 1 . Gigantism. Armor, Regeneration, Atomic Breath  (range 100 meters damage 5d), Radiation sickness (See Cepheus Atom for Rules) 

Goa'uld sent in death wings but those were made short work of! And we had to end the game early as our players have work tonight! Planet Kaiju is on the edges of the Subsector Sourcebook: Sequoyah area & well within range of military forces! 

The New Foetodon Updated Adapted From King Kong (2005) For Cepheus Atom & Those Old School 2d6 Science Fantasy Role Playing Campaigns

 Foetodon is a species of large predatory crocodilian from one of the Skull Island land masses seen during the 1930's Venture expediation. These large  predators have carved out a niche on both Skull Island & the Hollow Earth as premeire scavengers. They range from 10 to 15 feet long & are capable of taking off a man's arm quite easily. 

The Foetodon species of large predatory crocodilians have been found on other Earth type worlds as well. Speculation among scientists & other top men is the fact that aliens adapted the species as a top tier scavenger for a wide variety of enviroments. The Foetodon species internal biology has been adapted to feed on a wide spectrum of biological offal & waste. The incredible gut fauna & stomach acids have incredible industurial applicationsThe Foetodon is adapted for both predatory & scavenger roles. 
What makes the   Foetodon species so dangerous is the fact that these monsters use pack tactics to run down prey in jungle & other planetary  enviroments. 
Using a combination of it's snaggled toothed jaws, highly virulant bacteria, & a cocktail of 
anticoagulant venoms the  Foetodon will run down prey. Take a bite & then let it's bite do the rest. Unless treated with modern medicine or super science medical treatments. The bite & massive tissue damage will result in the prey subcombing to it's injuries. Large packs of Foetodon have been known to take down even Skull Crawlers when times are tough. Foetodon are known to feed on Rock Critters within the Hollow Earth & the Big Ass Reptile species are rivals  to massive packs of Foetodon. Many know the Foetodon by thier fearsome roar which causes fear in creatures smaller then human size. Foetodon packs have been used by Mythos species as living security systems for eons. This includes the Serpent Men, Mi Go, & the Desert Dwellers. 

The Foetodon 

# appearing 2d6

5/10, Move 12m, Armor 6, Claw (melee 1d damage) Bite (melee 2D damage), , Survival 1,  Combat 3, Melee 1 . Regeneration ,Venom Bite 2 Damage see rules in Cepheus Atom, Some Foetodon specimens have been lab grown with the Regeneration mutation ( see Cepheus Atom for details), Pack tactics the creature seemingly is able to call 2d6 of it's breathen to it with a subtle roar or other signal. These pack breathen will appear within 3 rounds within a 2 meter area of the signaller. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

OSR Thoughts On Clark Ashton Smith's 'The Dark Eidolon' & The Devil King Thasaidon 'ruler of the Seven Hells' & 'Lord of All Turpitudes'

 The Dark Eidolon  (1935) by Clark Ashton Smith is the Zothique story that for me helps to define the last continent on Earth;"On Zothique, the last continent on Earth, the sun no longer shone with the whiteness of its prime, but was dim and tarnished as if with a vapor of blood. New stars without number had declared themselves in the heavens, and the shadows of the infinite had fallen closer. And out of the shadows, the older gods had returned to man: the gods forgotten since Hyperborea, since Mu and Poseidonis, bearing other names but the same attributes. And the elder demons had also returned, battening on the fumes of evil sacrifice, and fostering again the primordial sorceries." Clark Ashton Smith's writing here is top notch breathing life into the world of Zothique in this tale of youthful black sorcery revenge. Thasaidon, lord of seven hells is the overiding damnation force within  The Dark Eidolon . 

Title page of "The Dark Eidolon" as it appeared in Weird Tales, January 1935. Illustration by Clark Ashton Smith.

Thasaidon, lord of seven hells
Wherein the single Serpent dwells,
With volumes drawn from pit to pit
Through fire and darkness infinite —
Thasaidon, sun of nether skies,
Thine ancient evil never dies,
For aye thy somber fulgors flame
On sunken worlds that have no name,
Man's heart enthrones thee, still supreme,
Though the false sorcerers blaspheme.
— The Song of Xeethra

 Narthos becomes a willing pupil of a dark  wizard & while this crystalizes his resolve in his revenge it also puts him on a dark path that will destroy an entire city. And here's where the PC's might come in. Say that the party find themselves within the ruins of the city of Xylac. Are there treasures & relics left behind after the affair of Narthos, &  Prince Zotulla. Then there's the matter of Thasaidon who may well be looking for other willing followers within Xylac's walls. So there's opportunities here for beginning dark wizards at first level to gain favor with the Lord of the Seven Hells. 
And on a second, or is it third, or fourth reading of  
The Dark Eidolon on my part?And it's the horror & scale of this Sword & Sorcery classic that get's me as a reader.  I happen to agree with  E. F. Bleiler's accessement & review of  The Dark Eidolon; 'Reviewing Out of Space and Time in the 1983 book The Guide to Supernatural FictionE. F. Bleiler remarked "The Dark Eidolon" and "The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" are "the best stories."[1] In the 1988 book Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock said "the apex of incarnadined horror is achieved with 'The Dark Eidolon', the tale of a childhood injury avenged on a scale which would tax the visual resources of a major studio."' 
And within a Zothique game campaign 
the ruins of the city of Xylac are going to be prime loot & monster magnet for the dark forces of the future Earth. And I can explain my thinking here. There has been so much dark energies & forces that the the ruins of the city of Xylac are themselves are accursed. This goes back to the lord of the seven hells himself. Thasaidon is a devil king  of business & black magick. He's in the business of the souls of mankind especially magicians & on Zothique business is very good. At least until  the affair of Narthos, &  Prince Zotulla.
And Narthos has taxed & vexed 
Thasaidon's patiences to the point that the devil king has cursed the very ruins of the city. 
And this goes back to an article that I wrote back on October 2 on "
Gods of Hell & Murder - Thoughts on the Ecology Of The Devil King Thasaidon 'ruler of the Seven Hells' & 'Lord of All Turpitudes' Updated" here. 

Deep within the ruins of the city of Xylac are two madmen who act out their dark sorcerious affair night after night. The riches of a city are still there for the taking or are they?! The Lord of All Turpitudes has attracted many of his devils & devil spawn to his side. And these horrors are going to be encountered by a party of adventurers the moment they try to pillage the dungeons & ruins of Xylac. 

Skeletons, the damned souls, undead horrors, and worse haunt the of the dungeons & ruins of Xylac. Xylac is the home of irony where the soul & center of the city swims with the nightmares & dreams of the former city. And this will come through loud & clear to the players. 

Particle Beam Weapons & The Creation of A New 2d6 Corporate Entity

 So besides a late night MSU session last night we talked about a number of options for our 2d6 games. And once again my mind started thinking about Greg Porter's 3G3 system.  And the main reason is the fact this system has stats & development rules for one of my favorite space based weapon systems, particle beam weapons. 

Growing up in the Reagan era Star Wars weapons systems time. Particle beam weapons were talked about by our various Science Fiction wargame hounds. These were the veterans & engineers who would be playing Traveller & breaking down the themes & ideas of the game. One that popped up frequently was the idea of killer particle beam weapon sats & cannons. And these are not the usual weapons that one sees in Traveller or Cepheus Engine. 
And given the morals of the particle beam technologies it's easy to see why. When have morals ever stopped Science Fictional rpg's!? Given the nature of 3G3 & the second 3G3 systems it's easy to see where & why these weapons would come into play in Cepheus Engine rpg style game campaigns. 

Now with the recent release of Superpowered! From 

Stellagama Publishing

 & the current climate of my player's mind set. The idea of a Bond style super villain using particle beam weapons & sat's entered my mind's imagination. 


The use of superpowered operatives within a Science Fictional or Science Fantasy setting is a powerful one for me as a DM. And the idea of particle beam weapons leveling the field is also appealing. 2d6 games by their very nature almost call for this sorta of simulation. The idea of an Elon Musk style corporate magnet with access to this style of technology is appealing as too the grey areas of the moral compass that one would have to walk. 
Maybe it's the influence of the Hostile rpg on my lizard brain imagination. But a corporate entity with the ability to manufacture, produce, and possibly launch their own patiented brand of particle beam weapons creates an interesting thumb nail sketch for a rather grey moralled corporate entity. C- Beam Technologies has a nice ring to it. And C- Beams exclusive access to thier patiented particle beam technologies creates opportunities for all kinds of havoc within our campaigns.  More to come! 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Liquid Anti Christ - The New Marvel Phile 'The Shadowline Saga' & The Tallman- Session Report 5

 Let's pick it up from last session here on the blog! The PC's along with thier team mates stepped back through what they thought was the dimensional forks onto the streets of New Ashford. And something was way off!  Within half an hour the heroes found themselves face to face with hordes of what appeared to be homeless. These things weren't however! The PC's nearly got their heads taken off by what appeared to be humans but weren't! 

Man'o Metal was attacked by the horde & his flames held them back.And then the horde started to get a bit too close for comfort. One of the homeless zombie things tried to spit green goo at one of the PC's. And things started to break down! The party took off in a South direction throwing a car in the way of the horde. 
The horde meanwhile tried & failed to drop a piano, a safe, and several cars on the party. And at various times the horde tried & failed to shoot green goo out of their mouths! 
Finally the party found the pylon gate to take them back to the real New Ashford!

One of the homeless zombie things came with them! The phantom rider had just about had it with these things & incinarated the zombie thing. Normally this would be a problem but in reality. The party had been dealing with the zombie things animated by the Liquid Satan juice from the '1987 Prince of Darkness' film. The write up for this horror can be found on Jack O' Lantern's blog here

Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk Part 14 -WGS1 Five Shall Be One By Carl Sargent OSR Commentary On The Lands of Greyhawk

 Let's pick right back up from yesterday on the blog here.  The forces of Law are trying to rouse themselves as blow after blow has been rained by Chaos in the Borderlands. And here's where we pick up on Carl Sargent's 'The Five Shall Be One'. According to the Greyhawk wiki entry; "Five Shall Be One is an adventure module for the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. The module bears the code WGS1 and was published by TSR, Inc. in 1991 for the second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules"

Now I realize that this is a second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module but it's the first of three Greyhawk modules in the WGS series; "The adventure was written by Carl Sargent with cover art by Jeff Starlind and interior art by Ken Frank. It was originally intended as the first of three modules in the "World of Greyhawk Swords" (WGS) trilogy. It therefore precedes the second "Swords" module, WGS2 - Howl from the North. The third module in the series (which would have been coded WGS3) was never produced. Instead, the material originally intended for WGS3 was reworked and incorporated into the board game Greyhawk Wars."

"The title of the module refers to the Five Blades of Corusk, ancient magical swords which, according to the legends of Greyhawk's Suloise barbarians, can be brought together to be made even more powerful."  These are the blades that can literally turn the tide of the war with Chaos if A. They don't destroy it first & B. if they don't destroy the PC's in the long run. And this is no idle boast! Why!? Beccause according to the Canonfire website; "Blades such as Blackrazorthe Pillars of Heaven and Druniazth the Claw of Tharizdun could fill sheets of vellum in the halls of loremasters." 
Yes, yes, these were the blades that kicked off the Greyhawk Wars. We're not talking about that. We're talking about the fact that these legends bring together  
Greyhawk's Suloise barbariansGreyhawk's Suloise barbarians are key to saving the Borderlands themselves. 

The myths & legends that surround,' blades such as Blackrazorthe Pillars of Heaven and Druniazth the Claw of Tharizdun' are the glue that will unite the Flanaess. More over it's this united front that will in theory destroy the backbone of Chaos. And here's where the PC's are going to be on point to help with this by gaining their own tribe of barbarians. 
And yes I'm playing very fast & loose with the chronolgy of Greyhawk. Bare with me there's a reason for this. Part of this is  Garel Enkdal, an underground city of orcs in the Griff Mountains of the northeastern Flanaess.Originally Garel Enkdal belonged to the Chaos worshipping Elves we been seeing within Secrets of the Nethercity. 


Garel Enkdal has many of the same traits as the mini dungeons of Secrets & it's going to require a massive effort on the part of the PC's to clear it out later on! But the PC's are first going to need to complete WGS1 Five Shall Be One By Carl Sargent too start the process of uniting the barbarian tribes!  This is going to happen after the events of GDQ0 House of the Brothers.
 But what there's more to come! 

OSR Commentary On The Clerics of In the Book of Vergama (1934) By Clark Ashton Smith For Your OSR & Old School Campaigns

 When Sword & Sorcery gets mentioned it's often not Clark Ashton Smith's name that comes up. And at the local meeting of our OSR group the players & DM's have been after me for some months to run another Sword & Sorcery mini campaign. However, today I ran across In the Book of Vergama (1934) By Clark Ashton Smith a part of his Zothique cycle; "These paragraphs precede the beginning of the published version of "The Last Hieroglyph"; April 7, 1934}

'It was said of Vergama, in the lattermost ages, that he had existed immortally ever since the lifting of Zothique from the foundered ruins of continents that history had forgotten. Always, throughout the wide realms and empires of the continent, there had been rumors of Vergama, and various beliefs about his identity, his essence, his birth-place and dwelling-place. The sages disputed learnedly whether he was demon, god, sorcerer, phantom, or a being from worlds whose inhabitants were not akin to any of these. Likewise they debated whether he dwelt in mummy-peopled Cincor, or amid the stark fearful mountains of northern Xylac, or in Naat, isle of evil gramaries lying shrouded with the mist and foam of the sunset ocean, or in some other kingdom or sea-lost island.'

'No idols were wrought in the image of Vergama, no altars were dedicated to him: yet sometimes he was addressed in prayer by savage peoples, or was called upon with-dark runic formulae by the more venturous wizards. Some claimed that the prayers and the incantations were answered; but this, like all else that concerned Vergama, was a matter of much doubt. Curious and almost omnipotent powers were ascribed to him, and attributes of tremendous bale and benignity; but there was no virtual proof of their manifestation at any time. In a land of murky enchantments, of multiform mysteries, Vergama resided unknown, occult, and apart. It was believed that vast multitudes of people had entered his secret house through the centuries and millenniums; but none had returned there from to declare the actual nature of Vergama and the situation of his abode. Certain prophets, appearing in the ultimate years, avowed that he was coeval with life and death, and was the first and the last of the uncreated gods.'

'Even till the ending of time, weird legends gathered about Vergama; and there were divers tales of the destinies of them that passed into his shadowy mansion; and much was fabled concerning a volume called the Book of Hieroglyphics, which belonged to this inscrutable entity. Among such tales and fablings, there is the story of what happened to Nushain, the astrologer.'

What makes  'In the Book of Vergama (1934)' on the Eldritch Darkness unique is Clark Ashton Smith's take on divinity on Zothique. In Ward & Kuntz's Deities & Demigods gods are formed from the foundations of man's belief & divinity. A co dependant relationship but within Vergama's sphere is the idea that the divinity is a dream of reality.; ' Vergama resided unknown, occult, and apart. It was believed that vast multitudes of people had entered his secret house through the centuries and millenniums'.

This makes CAS's Vergama's existence  unique & his clerics could be found within ANY campaign setting. And this is perfect for a neutrally inclined players who want a cleric that has all the benefits & none of the issues. Vergama's clerics have many of the advantages AD&D & B/X  Dungeons & Dragons systems.

Vergama's sphere reaches across the multiverse as a very unobtrusasive minor god of Knowledge, Law, Neutrality, & the Occult. As long as his clerics show devotion & utterance to him. He leaves them alone impart knowledge through dreams & visions. Once in a lifetime his clerics must make a pilgrimage to Zothique. 
Are then 
the uncreated gods that which follows in the death of the gods of Law?! More on this coming up.