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. 

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