Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Old Mercury Under A Hyperborean Sun - Commentary On Several Free Novellas From Leigh Brackett For The Old Mars Campaign Setting

I've been looking over some of the OSR Goblinoid Games resources I have left (these are my table top gaming copies); my other ones were stolen by an ex friend of mine after he went off the deep end of sanity. Anyhow what do you do when you've got experienced & more then slightly jaded Dungeons & Dragons players who know all of the classic era TSR modules? They don't think Old Mars is challenging enough or Old Venus is weird enough? You send them where the planet separates the weak from the dead in spades; this place makes Hell look fun. I'm talking about Old Mercury. HP Lovecraft mentioned it;" H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936): Later, as the Earth's span closed, the transferred minds (of the Great Race of Yith) would again migrate through time and space — to another stopping place in the bodies of the bulbous vegetable entities of Mercury." But it was really another member of the Lovecraft circle who really added in the creep factor with his Immortals of Mercury. Clark Aston Smith's Immortals of Mercury is a classic and an old favorite of mine.  These Engineer type immortals are in my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Hyperborean survivors who have fled to Mercury and themselves off from contact with outsiders.  They've got living bio engineered suits worth a cool 70,000 to 80,000 gold pieces in the right markets
. Good luck trying to leave because Mercury is bombarded by cosmic storms and its tidally locked.

Once again its Leigh Brackett who gives this planet a Conan style treatment & its a proving ground for some of the most colorful as well as dangerous characters.
"In Leigh Brackett's short stories (especially "The Demons of Darkside" (1941), "A World Is Born" (1941), "Cube from Space" (1942), and "Shannach – the Last" (1952)), a tidally locked Mercury features a 'Twilight Belt' exposed to dangerous variations in heat and cold and havoc-wreaking solar storms. Some of Brackett's most colorful characters, like Jaffa Storm ("Shadow Over Mars") and Eric John Stark, were Mercury-born."

So what does this have to with Thundarr The Barbarian? Well a bit of everything, Mercury is a world where only the strong, fit, & resourceful are going to survive and thrive. Its also a lost world in many of the stories. And its a refuge for the Ancients according to many Gamma World & Mutant Future dungeon masters I've talked with.
Mercury is a world with all of its own internal alien ecology & logic able to test the mettle of any PC who goes there. There are several stories that are within the public domain . One of the best is Shannach - The Last which has a very Lovecraftian feel behind its science fantasy facade.
"An Earthman on Mercury stumbles into a long lost colony in a hidden air-filled valley, ruled by harsh Sunstone wielding hawk controlling lords - and, of course, an alien overlord behind them"

Shannach - The Last

So what does this have to do with Hyperborea? Well not only do we have the Mercurian Hyperboreans & the weird Lovecraftian ecology but there is also what the Great Race might have left behind on Mercury? In my campaigns in addition to the gateways & dimensional works there several minor space dungeons.

In The Amazing Stories July 1941 issue we're treated to No Man's Land In Space which gives us space pirates, inter system war and something more sinister. I'm including it because of the overtones of the Lovecraftian elements & the almost historic Australian like nature of Leigh Brackett's Mercury which the habitable asteroid shares.

The Amazing Stories
July 1941 issue Here

To really get a good solid feel for the isolated nature and dangerous elements of the tidally locked 'Old Mercury' that Brackett creates we have to go to A World Is Born. Here a lot of the penal colony frontier nature of Mercury is revealed and its not a pretty sight. 
You Can Download A World Is Born Right Here

 Mercury is not a world to be taken lightly & can easily take out an entire party of experienced adventurers easily between its monsters, hazards, and the ruins in its night side this is a world not to be underestimated. Good luck exploring the vaults of Old Mercury

This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes only.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Free Adventure OSR Adventure Resource - The Burial Mound of Esur the Red For Your Old School Campaigns

So way back in 2009 Dyson Logos did a nice little red herring style dungeon with a bit of a burial mound dungeon themed map which is perfect for an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Keltic burial point.

"In order to defeat a great evil that haunts the land, or to fend off invading armies, or a similar task of heroes, the characters have to find the Ring of Esur the Red."

All of the ingredients are there for a good solid little evening's adventure crawl, nice dungeon crawl, plenty of DIY Dungeons & Dragons style customization for the dungeon master and its easily placed within your hex crawl or point crawl style Sword & Sorcery setting.

The whole premise of this adventure, including all the specific details, fit perfectly with the established background of the adventure location.

Because of how its set up & its keyed for Labyrinth Lord its an easy fit into Hyperborea especially within the Keltic homelands. This dungeon delve location can be used to fill in some lost king from before the Green Death. A king whose existence was obliterated all reference in the oral tradition making this location something only whispered about in certain forgotten tomes. One of the things that makes this one page adventure so deadly are the traps & tricks of the dungeon itself.

This is one of those dungeons that's easy to port over to your favorite retroclone and still have a return with players. PC's are in a lot of trouble if they don't think their way out of this dungeon, its not all force & violence. There's a good deal of thought that has to be exercised in certain areas.
Dyson Logos did a really nice job with this dungeon, its easy to use, quick to place, and nicely set up for an evening's entertainment.

You Can Download The

Burial Mound of Esur the Red Here

Hyperborean Bait & Switch With Expediation to The Barrier Peaks (sort of ) & The Free OSR Resource Adventure From Faster Monkey Games 'Realm Of The Technomancer'

So what do you do if your dungeon mastering for a bunch of experienced D&D players who have seen all of the classic modules.But they expect you as the DM to pull out S3 Expedition to The Barrier Peaks to introduce that old school science fantasy sweetness into your campaign? This is especially true if your using pulp magazine weird fiction for your Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea hybrid game.

In fact I wouldn't use S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks just yet.  I'd save that adventure until the PC's  were in the levels of six or seventh  in AS&SH. The PC's are called in by the Duchy of Geoff to investigate a series of weird disappearances, so their going to be expecting S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Instead I'd go for Realm of The Technomancer a double bill rpg adventure that has that sweet dark fantasy aspect mixed with the post apocalyptic wasteland vibe. It combines them very well and it short, sweet, and plants the post apocalyptic seeds into the players minds. This isn't a bait & switch adventure, its a dimensional crossover with some pretty epic results.
"Something new has invaded an important underground complex... Will you be wizards and warriors gearing up to save the gnomes from strange humanoids, or mighty freaks of post-apocalyptic nature hired to drive out the alien troops of the mysterious Technomancer? REALM OF THE TECHNOMANCER offers dangers, rewards, new gear, and new monsters for post-apoc games like Mutant Future™ and old-school fantasy like Labyrinth Lord™ alike. Plus, the TECHNOMANCY appendix gives simple, vivid rules for what happens when technology and magic try to mix, and the results are often not pretty..."
The Realm of the Technomancer is free and has some great encounters in it, a nicely balanced adventure that adds a bit of that wasteland wildness with a bit of that old fashioned pulpy goodness.

But how do you bait & switch these two adventures, the answer is very simple;"The Grand Duchy of Geoff has recently been plagued by a rash of unusually weird and terrible disappearance  of an unknown sort." So this set's up the Grand Duchy of Geoff as the perfect spot for the down space craft in S3 much later on in the PC's adventuring careers.

The key to getting this to work is situate the Grand Duchy of Geoff as some out of the way shabby, backwater province of Hyperborea near some of the mountains without making it too important to the rest of  the royal life of the Hyperborean capital cities.  Realm of the Technomancer does three things and does them really well. It allows the DM to connect the world of Underborea to a Thundarr style Earth. It offers a dangerous threat of an unknown humanoid race (one of my all time favorites) & it makes the underworld very weird, very unpredictable, & all in one neat package of an adventure.

Jeff Sparks does a great job with this adventure and it can be used with a wide variety of retroclone & classic old Dungeons & Dragons systems. Even though its meant for Labyrinth Lord, Realm of the Technomancer can be used with lots of old school and modern clones. Did I happen to mention its free? The down side is that its not in print at the moment folks.

Realm of the Technomancer
Is Available Right Over Here

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Commentary On Cult Classic Movies, Gamma World 1st Edition Legion of Gold, & The Android Conspiracy

I've been thinking about & mediating on Gamma World first edition's Legion of Gold, why? Because last night I settled down with a favorite Curt Russell film with my dad, Soldier from 1998. The film was a commercial flop but its been fodder for gaming for my group for years.When I got back to Connecticut & worked in a Block Buster for awhile, Soldier was on the rotation for a Saturday night rental.

The basic plot is classic 90's action movie sci fi fodder here's the break down according to wiki;

"In 1996, as part of a new military training program, a group of orphaned infants are selected at birth and raised as highly disciplined soldiers with no understanding of anything but military routine. They are trained to be ruthless obedient killers, and all those considered to be physically or mentally unworthy are executed. The survivors are turned into impassive dedicated fighting machines with no exposure to or understanding of the outside world.

In 2035, at the age of 39, Sgt. Todd 3465 is a hardened veteran and the best soldier of the original 1996 infants, but his unit is challenged for replacement by a superior unit. Colonel Mekum, leader of the original project, introduces a new group of genetically engineered soldiers, designed with superior physical attributes and a complete lack of emotion, except complete aggression.
Captain Church, the commander of Todd's unit, insists on testing the new soldiers' abilities against his proven older ones. A new soldier, Caine 607, easily defeats three of the original soldiers, but Todd gouges out Caine's eye before he seemingly dies when he falls from a great height; the body of a dead soldier actually cushioned his fall, and he is simply stunned and knocked unconscious. Mekum orders their bodies disposed of like garbage, declaring them obsolete, while the remaining older soldiers are demoted to menial unarmed support roles.
Dumped on Arcadia 234, a waste disposal planet."
Seems like a straight up balls to the walls action film doesn't it? Not so quick, Todd & co. are just the sort of faction one might see in classic Gamma World in Dragon magazine. In fact, the film is deeply connected with Blade Runner;"Soldier was written by David Peoples, who co-wrote the script for Blade Runner. Peoples considers Soldier to be a "spin-off sidequel"-spiritual successor to Blade Runner, seeing both films as existing in a shared fictional universe.[4] The film obliquely refers to various elements of stories written by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which Blade Runner is based), or film adaptations thereof. A Spinner from Blade Runner can be seen in the wreckage on a junk planet in the film" 

Is Arcadia 234 actually Earth? In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Earth is one huge junk pile of stuff & mankind has moved off the planet. The androids lack empathy & almost but not quite seem sympathetic within the novel.  Within Gamma World first & second edition the androids are a major faction of villains implied in the game's timelines.  So are the androids actually behind keeping Gamm erm 'Old Earth' in a continuing technological dark age?

Larry Elmore II Gamma World

The cybernetic entities of  Gary Gygax's Legion of Gold are the main villains & motivators for many of the adventure's plot elements. Its an interesting old school Gamma World romp and a classic.

"There is much to worry about in the mutated world of the future, but Baron Jemmas, Warder of Horn, has more on his mind than most. In recent weeks several of the outlying towns of his Barony have been wiped out by a band of mysterious golden marauders.

These creatures struck from nowhere and vanished without a trace when their deeds were done. The Warder has decided that they must be stopped before the entire Barony of Horn falls beneath their onslaught, and so he is offering a great reward to anyone who can defeat the Legion of Gold."
Thanks to Wayne's Books for the Gamma World reference.

But could the android conspiracy also be behind the events of Thundarr The Barbarian's world as well? Let's see some of the evidence. According to Mind Menace Mindok episode a full conversion cybernetic body was built in less then twenty four hours by a group of Nasa super scientists; this leads to the conclusion that cybernetics was very common two thousand years ago before the world was cast into ruins. John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Cult Movies & Classic TV notes;"
In terms of 1970s allusions, the giant robot that Mindok utilizes to capture the scientists n this episode also has a more-than-passing resemblance to the police robots of George Lucas’s work of art, THX-1138 (1971)." That's a fantastic comment that stirs a dungeon master's imagination.

What were these cybernetic entities doing opening gate ways into space time? Summoning 'the Old Ones', opening a dimensional route for conquest, looking for alternative dimensional energy sources or all of the above. I'd say all of the above. They've turned the Earth into one vast junk world perfect for dungeon crawling & exploring  the ruins. Thunddar's world always reminded me of A. E. van Vogt 's  Empire of the Atom & The Wizard of Linn.Where a royal mutant child is given the education of a cleric of the Gods of The Atom. Here the technology borders right on magic & these novels are way ahead of their time. The Earth as junk yard dungeon planet sounds like a place that just might be a step away from the Boreas winds. More as this develops.

This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any 
of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a 
private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed 
in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any 
of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the
 thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions 
are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner 
productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Purpling The Isle of Dread Under A Hyperborean Sky - Franken Campaigning With The Isle Of Dread & The Island of Purple Haunted Putrescence

The Set Up For The Campaign
Under A Hyperborea Sky
 The weather here over the last couple of weeks has been terrible, Winter came back with a vengeance & the local hobby shop hasn't seen the local Dungeons & Dragons players in over a month. My plans for a game on the fifteenth of this past month have been put on the back burner. Or have they? Well I've been talking over plans this evening with some friends & getting caught up with possibly using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers on Hyperborea. But I want to introduce the players to Hyperborea with a B/X adventure with a twist, so I went back to Isle of Dread for the set up with Venger Satanis Lovecraftian twist.
"The characters somehow find a fragment from a ship's log, describing a mysterious island on which many treasures can be found, & set out to explore it."  I want to add a few more island adventure locations drawn from The Trinity of Awesome +1  's  adventure Slaves of Tsathoggua
"There's something in that cave... the cave all those villagers are afraid of.  What's inside?  Will the adventurers be able to leave once they enter?  What does this have to do with Tsathoggua?" Then from there branch into the Isle of Dread in the Hyperborean seas which will connect up with the Island of Purple Haunted Putrescence with all of its mind/reality bending gonzo weirdness. 

"There is an island in the seas surrounding Hyperborea perpetually wreathed in purple fog where the locals talk about ancient damned gods who still reign. 'Off of the tip of Hyperborea there is a legendary island chain where boats vanish, fishermen have seen weird lights, & hellish things have washed up on the shores of Hyperborea. The corpses of things that the villagers don't talk about. The fires burn with strange flames that  rise from the corpses even as the screams from no where die away'

Here the The Baleful Sorcerers of Tsathag'kha have reign over an ancient village where a treasure is rumored to be guarded by incredibly deadly monsters. So why use The Islands of Purple Haunted Putresence, its not only a great hex crawl, it’s also a great little campaign source book. That's one of the ways of introducing the players to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea by throwing them into the deep end of the seas. This is a huge hex crawl that takes place on a set of islands lost to the dimensional winds that's haunted by a malevolent ever present Lovecraftian purple cloud god & the haunted black sand beaches of this book are perfect for an island hopping  mini campaign.

Can I get the PC's to 'Old Mars' or 'Old Venus'? Well by using the myriad of   alien races,crashed space craft, high weirdness, random mutation, and much more. This is done with the sort of stylish humor and old school weirdness that we've come to expect from Venger over the years! Now given the twenty two character classes in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Player's Guide this is going to be right up the Hyperborean alley of the players.

So the first thing to do is to contact the players & do a quick 'character work shop' work up some PC's, throw together a fast 'your all marooned on an island when you find the ship captain's log' routine. Then see where we head into the next phase of this. This isn't the first time I've done this setup for a game of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Beast Jewels Under A Cracked Hypreborean Moon Commentary On The Free Novella Leigh Brackett's The Beast Jewel of Mars For The 'Old Mars' Campaign Setting

Jack Kirby Thundarr artwork

The temperatures plunged into the teens last night here in Connecticut & after shutting down social media once again I dived back into a bit of Leigh Brackett & C.L. Moore especially the Martian stories. Leigh Brackett's The Beast Jewel of Mars is a classic & it appeared in Planet Stories, Winter 1948. I happen to have a treasured copy of this issue. The entire story centers around
the secret of Shanga which basically is a crystal that devolves whomever baths in its rays for 1d20 hours & does make their saving throw vs wands or devices. Victims will travel down an alternative evolutionary path of d30 thousand years for every twelve hours exposed.
The experience seems to be very addictive some who are exposed must make another save vs wands or device again or want to repeat the experience.

One thing I noticed right away is the parallels between these crystals & certain pulp setting elements from classic post apocalyptic Seventies & Eighties science fantasy classics both Thundarr The Barbarian & The Logan's Run television show not to mention some of Clark Aston Smith's cycles. This Shanga is the sort of stuff that we'd see run between colonies by Northwest Smith you know those same colonies that
were implied by other writers including Leigh Brackett, her husband Henry Kuttner, & Clark Aston Smith.

Planet Stories, Winter 1948 is now in the public domain and you can download the whole thing with some great pulpy artwork

"The wise men of Caer Dhu were not so wise. They found the secret of Shanga, and they escaped their wars and their troubles by fleeing backward along the path of evolution."  Another thing is the level of Martian on Martian tribal violence & harm that the Martians do to one another there is tribal codes and such but they'll sell out one another in a heart beat.

Now I mentioned Thundarr The Barbarian & The Logan's Run television show because

the secret of Shanga is just the sort of thing to keep the populations of degenerate tribesmen in line and productive along with a healthy dose of the 'death flowers'. It well could be that the Caroc lizard men are the product of an Earthly variation of Shanga.

This is just the sort of retro technology that would be available to some deep wasteland colony in the Logan's Run tv show, in fact a variation of the whole sale manipulation of the human mind is something we see in the episode 'Half Life' in which Jessica is split into two beings one of a good temperament & one evil.

This is also the sort of 'perfect' population control that would be used by wizards & even wasteland Forbidden Zone underdweller colonies in Apes Victorious & Mutant Future. We could also see the same methods of population control in Adventurer, Conqueror, King as an additional add on device for population selection for guards, guard beasts, and other desirable monsters. In Mutant Future this well could be the origin point for some of the prehistoric tribes & beasts. But where did this technology originate on 'Old Mars'? We know that there many examples of lost technologies in the Martian underworld but in Clark Ashton Smith’s tale “Ubbo-Sathla.” we see a different sort of transfer of mind. This is linked into the Elder Things from HP Lovecraft's at the Mountains of Madness & the Yithians from Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time.

This basically means that one's consciousness might with the help of a wizard or other super scientist travel through parallel  worlds & gates ala both the Eighties film Altered States or HP Lovecraft's Through The Gates of the Silver Key. 
Where did these techniques originate? Who knows but one thing is that Lovecraft circle writers picked up on one another literary devices & often had Mythos races cherry picking forbidden technologies, magics, & relics from one another. So these mind altering crystals would be found on Hyperborea of AS&SH fame quite easily. There might be magics & super science there to reverse the effects of Shanga. This stuff clearly fits right into a sword & sorcery background
But the threat of the crystals is far more insidious then simply forbidden super science.In Old Mars Shanga addiction, trafficking, smuggling, etc. is one of the lowest crimes being fought. Why? Because it might lead to the extinction of the human & near human races including & especially the Martians. This is something that
I've used in Star Ships & Spacemen second edition games.


When it comes to the Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg system 
then the real damage can be seen as the addiction spreads through the underworld of thieves guilds, wizard's colleges, and the like. This stuff might be used in this game system as hidden tool of conquest with the right applications. 

A friend postulated that there are other crystalline gate systems deep in the wastelands of 'Old Mars' that can lead to other alternative Martian settings. Could these crystaline gateways be a variation the jewels strange radiation? This looks like the case for a Warriors of the Red Planet scientist.

Deep within the wastelands of 'Old Mars' time & physics can get very weird & dangerous. Here there are ancient things that bleed into our time as the Boreas winds blow strangely across the wrought red sands. Adventurers must tread carefully or they might become lost in time & as well as the spaces around the ruins that blanket the dead sea bottoms.

1d20 Random Deep Martian
Wasteland Encounters Table

  1.  A group of 1d8 Hyperborean monks & sorcerers on their way to some long forgotten dead bottom sea city to worship at a temple of one of the forgotten Martian gods who has recently awakened. They are carrying several golden and blue gold Martian weapons filled with 1d200 jeweled microdrones capable of ripping a man apart within 1d6 rounds doing 1d3 points of damage each. They wear the insect masks of their patron. They are friendly but guarded about their business. 
  2. A black gate sorcerer in the guise of a low lander pilgrim who is smuggling some delicate ancient texts he's found in the underworld. He's willing to talk but there are 1d4 white Martian android body guards with him. 
  3. 1d10 Green Martian warriors 2nd level on the backs of their throats looking for an easy mark or two. 
  4. A giant Martian sand lion on the hunt for its young. A dangerous and wily predator who hunts with telepathic powers. 
  5. 1d6 ancient Martian ghosts looking for souls to devour 
  6. 1d8 evil human bounty hunters looking for marks to bring to market for slaving. They have heavy stunners, hover bike's & sleep poison guns. 
  7. 1d6 Martian wights on the hunt for flesh and spirits!! 
  8. A single sand rat scouting for its 1d20 pack of giant sand rat brothers and sisters. 
  9. An ancient robotoid from a nearby dead city out exploring. 
  10. A flyer with 1d10 warriors on the hunt for slaves for the nearby auction! 
  11. 1d20 Mutant waste landers on move for anyone they can capture for their cooking pot! These used to be Red men whose tribes were subject to the secret of Shanga
  12. Giant drone craft on an attack pattern 1d8 of these insane things. 
  13. 1d8 ancient Amazon warrior women out for raiding on throats. 
  14. A delicate Ancient's sail barge from another age passes by. 
  15. 1d20 Green Martian warriors on a raid will you be caught?
  16. 2d6 Black Martian pilgrims on an alien holy pilgrimage deep into the desert. 
  17. 1d6 deep raiders on jet bikes out for prey armed with short bows, poisoned arrows & cavalry  blades they fight as second level fighters
  18. A black magician on a quest for an ancient artifact willing to pay five hundred gold pieces for your help
  19. An ancient temple has been uncovered by a recent sand storm 
  20. A fleet of flyers from a rogue Martian nation speeds over head and will kill anyone they can who witnesses their passing!
This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes only.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Adapting Leigh Brackett's The Big Jump & The Free Novella Outpost On Io To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting

Let's talk a bit about beyond 'Old Mars', out there are remains of Ceres, Planet Nine, Planet X, & Phaeton (or Phaëton, less often Phaethon) many of other former planetary bodies now all a part of the asteroid belt.  This is where many of the threads of Clark Aston Smith, Leigh Brackett, & C.L Moore come together. Humanity gets its FTL drive system & a bit more then it bargained for. Arch Comyn is the main protagonist who must find out what happened to his friend Ballantyne who returns as something mostly human from around Bernard's Star.

Wiki has a pretty good break down of the opening plot line;"

The novel begins with the entire Solar System waiting for the news of the first successful interstellar expedition to Barnard's Star, a mission named "The Big Jump". However, only one crewman, Ballantyne, returns, half-dead and with a body so changed he's barely human."

I covered the androids & cybernetic organisms of 'Old Space' yesterday, today I want focus on the efforts of getting into FTL travel with Leigh Brackett's 'The Big Jump' which appeared in the February 1953 issue of Space Stories. The artwork is by far my favorite for this one featuring all of the classic pulp elements including the Bug Eyed Monster, the space man hero, & the buxom blonde. But its not only evocative its also the echos of the dying breed of the pulp magazines. What's interesting is that many of these elements would later on come back with the advent in the Seventies with the release of Star Wars but they never really went away. These same elements came back around in Warren publishing horror comics & magazines.

"What awaits us out in space?

New star-drive engines promise to open up the galaxy to human-kind. But the first ship to use the engines disappears and a sole survivor returns…alone and dying of some strange type of radiation.

No one can figure out what has happened to the ship or the crew. Nor does anyone know what happens to a ship traveling using star-drive technology.

Does some unknown horror await us out there?

The only way to find out is to go out again. And Arch Comyn is determined to be the one to solve the mystery.
But is he, and the rest of mankind, ready for whatever awaits us beyond the Big Jump?"

Within 'The Big Jump', we finally get to meet  the Cochrane family, who have the in-system travel star ship monopoly. These folks are big players in the space ship building & FTL drive business. They're a major corporate faction in terms of every facet of space ship building & planetary government contracts. These are the faction that's going to be playing the long game within every single piece of the Old Mars & Old Venus space game. Nothing moves or is build without their say so. Their the ones who are going to be paying for, buying, & getting their hands on every scrap of data coming in throughout the system. This means that in Adventurer, Conqueror, King terms they're a solar system dynasty that makes Bill Gates look like a chump. They've got ties with the Terra government, the Mars coalitions, & knowledge about all of the alien races within the solar system & beyond. Why? Because they're basically Weyland Yutani for the Old Solar system. These folks are the ones that are going to be calling the shots & getting called on by the Terra government throughout the solar system and they've been doing it for centuries.  They're willing to pay 10000 to 50,000 gold pieces per relic depending on where, when, and how its found in the Old Solar system. Why? Because these folks have been reverse engineering the alien technologies of the Great Race of Yith,The original Martians, the Elder Things, & many others. These folks are perfect examples of the royal dynasty rules from Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg system in action.

But what the hell are they looking for? They're looking for the Outer Gods & god things like them,&  we see exactly how fragile humanity is in the face of journeys through hyperspace. Remember that bit in the film Forbidden Planet where they make the jump to Altair IV and the standing under the rays to adjust their bodies back to our reality? Yeah well we find out the reasons for that in The Big Jump. Anyone attempting such a jump in this era is going to have to save vs poison or have some very nasty effects to deal with. That is except Hyperboreans whose ancestors compensated for dimensional gates & hyper-spacial effects.

But what the hell are they after out there in the universe? We get a clue in the form of "Outpost on Io" where prisoners can die like men or have the planet kill them. An exotic alien isotope makes metals explode and we get a look at the 'Old Solar System' form of Jupiter's moon Io.
Pendleton's quiet voice was grave. "Mars is old and tired and torn with famine. Venus is young, but her courage is undisciplined. Her barbarians aren't suited to mechanized warfare. And Earth . . . ." He sighed. "Perhaps if we hadn't fought so much among ourselves . . . ."

Outpost On Io You Can Download For Free Here

But what does all of this have to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Warriors of the Red Planet? Plenty, the Lovecraftian races of AS&SH are still operating in Underborea & Hyperborea itself. They've been plundering & moving among the asteroids and various proto worlds of the Asteroid belt for centuries. 'Old Mars ' is a breeding ground for the types of outlaws, wizards, adventurers, and others who use their age old knowledge to move among the belt to secure many treasures, relics, & even bases there. Hyperborea is unique because its cosmology is both on the ground for Swords & Sorcery and the grand pseudo cosmic that we find in Sword & Planet literature. Hyperborea is out among Saturn & its inhabitants are unique in their knowledge of their night sky and what lurks among the dread stars. There might be other space island mini settings like Hyperborea out among the asteroids.

Master of the Asteroid by Clark Aston Smith is a great resource for some of the minor and more benevolent aliens that might lurk among the remains of the Old Solar system.
This story also gives some insights into CAS's Mars and more.

For getting into an old school sword & sorcery campaign with elements of space travel & space craft, I'd go back to one of my favorite science fantasy retroclone sets. Hulks & Horrors which is a 'pay what you want' retroclone mixed with a good dose of Bandits & Battlecruisers which is an OSR rpg kit for science fantasy.
Once again I'd be using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as the backbone system and the other science fantasy retroclone supplements.

Tomorrow we'll be returning to Mars & the inner worlds! Stay Tuned!

This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any 
of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a 
private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed 
in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any 
of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the
 thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions 
are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner 
productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes 

Super Scienctists, Sorcerers, & Synthetics - The Curious & Winding History Of The Android on 'Old Mars' & 'Old Venus'

Androids as we know them came about as early as Nineteen Twenty from Czech writer Karel Čapek's play R.U.R. which stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots);"The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), from synthetic organic matter. They are not exactly robots by the current definition of the term; they are living flesh and blood creatures rather than machinery and are closer to the modern idea of clones, they may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first but a robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race. Čapek later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society"
These are quite literally vat grown androids but R.U.R was hugely influential in Science Romance circles. And yes Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was the catyslist for all of the automatons to follow including R.U.R. but what does all of this have to do with 'Old Mars' & 'Old Venus'? As we shall see everything. In Clark Aston Smith's Zothique, Hyperborea, and Atlantis cycles respectively there is evidence of his wizards & sorcerers dipping their quills into the vat bred automaton issue. So much so that the Golems of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea are called automatons. In Warriors of The Red Planet that we get a PC race that are vat grown androids as a viable option for play.

But its once again Edgar Rice Burroughs who puts these flesh & blood creations in the lime light with his Einstein of Martian medicine Ras_Thavas. From organ transplants to full body conversion this gentlemen does it all in the mad scientist gig. He takes on Ulysses Paxton, as his apprentice because of his distrust of fellow Barsoomians.

You can download & read The Master Mind of Mars here.  from Amazing Stories Annual v01n01 (1927) (d Vaughn), this one is one of my favorite versions. Ras Thavas later on reforms and then pops up in the Synthetic Men of Mars when John Carter needs his help after his wife is gravely injured.  
Its really here that we see the true scope of the android or hormad races on 'Old Mars'.
" Synthetic Men of Mars (1939), by which time he has transferred his base to the dead city of Morbus in the Toonolian Marshes. There he has been experimenting in growing monstrous synthetic human beings called hormads. The most intelligent of these turn on him and force him to grow an army of hormads with which to conquer Barsoom. They also force their captive to transplant their brains into the bodies of imprisoned normal Martians. Ras's chance to turn the tables comes when the earthman John Carter, Warlord of Mars and prince of Helium, seeks his surgical aid for his wife Dejah Thoris, injured in an accident. Imprisoned with Ras, Carter and his companion Vor Daj plot with him against the hormads. Vor Daj is given the body of a hormad to spy on their captors; meanwhile, Carter and Ras escape, returning with a great fleet of airships from Helium. Vor Daj is recovered and Morbus, which has been overrun by a huge mass of cancerously growing hormad flesh, is destroyed with incendiary bombs. Ras then restores Vor Daj to his original body.
One hormad, Ras's pupil Pew Mogel, is later revealed in "John Carter and the Giant of Mars" (1940) to have escaped from Morbus and established a new base in the dead city of Korvas, from which he continues to plot world conquest using the scientific skills he gleaned from his mentor. His scheme is defeated by John Carter."
So there's a good chance that if your playing an android on Mars their an escaped homad, no wonder they might be screwed up. They've been hunted at every turn, and nearly killed by their own creator. But all of this goes back to an earlier work of ERB's called The Monster Men. "Cornell University professor Arthur Maxon, who has been experimenting in the creation of artificial life, travels with his daughter Virginia to one of the remote Pamarung Islands in the East Indies to pursue his project." One of his creations gets a hold of Virginia & runs amuck but how exactly did professor Arthur Maxon get a hold of either Ras_Thavas research or Rossum’s Universal Robots's materials for his experiments? In an interesting side note American naval vessel arrives; it turns out to be seeking von Horn a minor character & a deserter, to arrest him. An American navel vessel to arrest one deserter? No, I don't think so. Despite the 'happy ending' of the Monster Men I think your looking at two homad style androids Virginia & the protagonist Townsend J. Harper, Jr. whom are both prototype androids created by the good doctor whist he was in the employ of the US Navy. Barsoom has been in communication with Earth for decades using the Barsoomian version of Gridley wave FTL devices. Its a very simple matter to connect the plot points between ERB's various creations.

Dust-jacket illustration of The Monster Men
J. Allen St. John

When we get into Leigh Brackett's Old Solar System then things get really interesting, I mentioned Ras_Thavas's brain transfers? Well in 1946 Brackett wrote; "Lorelei of the Red Mist, in which the protagonist is a thief called Hugh Starke. Brackett finished the first half before turning it over to Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on The Big Sleep." Hugh Starke has his brain transferred into the body of a warrior called Conan to be used as the cat's paw for a blue breasted sorceress. Yeah, that didn't work out the way she was expecting it. The interesting sword & sorcery bits are the giant Himalayan like mountains in the story, the super science aspects, & the hints of deeper android style technology laying just out of sight of the protagonist.  The novella is still very popular and remains one of the mainstays of Brackett's work. But there's a lot of OSR ground to cover here, for one thing the androids of WoRP are perfect additions as owners of lost kingdoms, guarders of hordes, & guardians of forbidden knowledge. This means that for Adventurer, Conqueror, King they're a nice addition to the roaster possible planetary NPC dangers & they make excellent opponents. 

But there's more here then simply guardians of forbidden secrets angle. Dealing with vat grown or even mechanical monster PC's are not the only player options. There are lots of angles that can be used. One of the other odd little corners of the cybernetic that came out in 1931 is the Jameson Satellite series about a human Professor Jameson whose body is cryopreserved & resurrected by the Zoromes  benevolent full conversion cybernetic aliens. So why mention this series? Because these entities are truly alien & yet fully capable of having all kinds of adventures across the cosmos. These are the type of alien being who would confront the horrors of the Mythos head on. These are not Mythos related stories but they are some old favorites of mine.
You can download the "The Jameson Satellite' here

But what about using androids and sythetics within OSR games is there a readily available PC class that can be used in other OSR games such as OSRIC or Advanced Labyrinth Lord? Well actually yes there is! PC6 - The OSR Android From  Jeremy Reaban
is perfect for adding an android PC class to your old school games, its designed with other retroclone D&D  versions: original edition, basic and expert edition, and the cyclopedia edition. Its pay what you want and its perfect for adding in a bit of that old ultra cybernetic to your old school games!
But where are the vat grown Andies originate? There are two very Lovecraftian possibilities, one is the Great Race of Yith whose hi jinks with time & space might have them building androids as time probes. The second Lovecrafian race is the Elder Things, think about it. If they can create shoggoths & other bio organic organisms this might be the origin point for all of the vat grown android technology we've discussed so far.
"Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes - viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells - rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile - slaves of suggestion, builders of cities - more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative! Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and carve such things?"
-H.P. Lovecraft, "At the Mountains of Madness"

So once again this begs the question, are there hidden caches of lost Lovecraftian technology just waiting for PC's in the high mountains of  Old Mars & Venus? I think so & now suddenly the Star Trek Episode, What Little Girls Are Made of makes a bit more sense. There are reasons for this; "Given that the episode in which they appeared was written by horror author Robert Bloch, a fan of horror author H. P. Lovecraft (and wrote frequently for the Cthulhu Mythos), the Old Ones here were based on the Old Ones of Lovecraft's writings. (The Star Trek Compendium, 4th ed., pp. 40-41) Bloch also wrote "Catspaw", which makes reference to another "Old Ones"."  So there could be a number of androids running around your Star Ships & Space Men Second edition games with some very Lovecraftian origin points.

But who are these 'Old Ones'? Well I think that the Great Race of Yith is a good contender for these folks.
Could androids be found in other venues such as Hyperborea or even Earth? The quick & easy answer is yes. Given the isolated communities, the lone adventurers, & wizard's passion for relic technology. Such a relic as an independent technician android would be invaluable. The Logan's Run television show's Rem was a good example of this sort of an NPC.

Playing an android can be one of the most rewarding but challenging things that a player can do. But there is far more to the synthetics of classic science fantasy then many players realize & that's your in dungeon masters! Happy Rpging! More to come!

This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any 
of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a 
private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed 
in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any 
of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the
 thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions 
are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner 
productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Adapting The Free Leigh Brackett's 'The Citadel Of Lost Ships' Novella To The 'Old Venus' Campaign Setting

Continuing down the long winding jungle road of 'Old Venus' is Leigh Brackett's 'The Citadel Of Lost Ships'  which is set squarely in the Colonial era of the Brackett solar system. This is a more settled era of 'Old Venus' or so it would seem.
"The Kraylens are a dying tribe, a scrap of old Venus, but Campbell is determined to help those that had helped him!

"Roy Campbell woke painfully. His body made a blind, instinctive lunge for the control panel, and it was only when his hands struck the smooth, hard mud of the wall that he realized he wasn't in his ship any longer, and that the Guard wasn't chasing him, their guns hammering death.

He leaned against the wall, the perspiration thick on his heavy chest, his eyes wide and remembering. He could feel again, as though the running fight were still happening, the bucking of his sleek ship beneath the calm control of his hands. He could remember the pencil rays lashing through the night, searching for him, seeking his life. He could recall the tiny prayer that lingered in his memory, as he fought so skillfully, so dangerously, to evade the relentless pursuer.

Then there was a hazy period, when a blasting cannon had twisted his ship like a wind-tossed leaf, and his head had smashed cruelly against the control panel. And then the slinking minutes when he had raced for safety—and then the sodden hours when sleep was the only thing in the Universe that he craved.

He sank back on the hide-frame cot with something between a laugh and a curse. He was sweating, and his wiry body twitched. He found a cigarette, lit it on the second try, and sat still, listening to his heartbeats slow down.

He began to wonder, then, what had wakened him.

It was night, the deep indigo night of Venus. Beyond the open hut door, Campbell could see the liha-trees swaying a little in the hot, slow breeze. It seemed as though the whole night swayed, like a dark blue veil.

For a long time he didn't hear anything but the far-off screaming of some swamp beast on the kill. Then, sharp and cruel against the blue silence, a drum began to beat.

It made Campbell's heart jerk. The sound wasn't loud, but it had a tight, hard quality of savagery, something as primal as the swamp and as alien, no matter how long a man lived with it.

The drumming stopped. The second, perhaps the third, ritual prelude. The first must have wakened him. Campbell stared with narrow dark eyes at the doorway.

He'd been with the Kraylens only two days this time, and he'd slept most of that. Now he realized that in spite of his exhaustion, he had sensed something wrong in the village."
Bracket's Venus is an artificial world built as a hot house laboratory eons ago by the Elder Things. All of the signs are there from mutant prehistoric life forms, to artificially adapted people, etc. I kept waiting for the shoggoths to show up at any minute. Roy Campbell is the type of folk hero the solar system needs & wants. These are the Venusians adapted to live in the swamps of Venus, a proud people with +2 to charisma, constitution, & able to breath underwater. They have many of the qualities of the peoples of Atlantis without the taint of the Deep Ones. But this is an era of their backs up against the wall of the Terra Venusian Coalition government who are going to force these peoples into pure extinction. These are the ancient enemies of the Nahai. 

The real star of this novella is Romany an artificial station in orbit around Venus, this is the venue of lost, desperate, and trodden upon by so called progress of Brackett's & C.L. Moore's solar system. This is also the perfect venue to use the Mentalist rules of Warriors of the Red Planet. Where is an older Northwest Smith making stops and running cargo? Romany is probably one of those venues. And is the villain here really the Terra Venusian Coalition government? Or are they the victim of far more sinister & deadly threats from beyond the solar system ridge? Here's the problem with melting pot venues like 'Old Venus' in the colonial era, its the perfect place for agents of far more powerful alien god things to move through. Romany on the other hand is the breeding ground for space pirates, adventurers, and outlaws. Desperate people do desperate things & thieves guilds are mobile.

What does this mean? Well, essentially the ideas and concepts discussed in Adventurer, Conqueror, King can be applied to other venues as well as stationary adventure & setting locations. We see this throughout the 'The Citadel of Lost Ships'. This is also something we see in the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg system.

But what the hell has the Terra Venusian Coalition government so scared? We'll get into that tomorrow. There's a very interesting take on social class & character venue throughout the Citadel of Lost Ships. This is something similar that we see with adventurers in Dark Albion where the social status allows both movement and restriction with certain social circles. This wasn't done by accident by Leigh Brackett. She was a genius when it came to presenting her character's within the confines and movements of their setting something we'd see a lot of in her later screen writing and television script work.
Romany is just the sort of a station made from old space craft that you'd see near Hyperborea and other lands beyond the Boreas Winds. The kind of weird dungeons that wizards dream of.
This location offers a possible idea for a latter day space dungeon for PC's.

The Citadel of Lost Ships is one of my all time favorites.

You can download and read The Citadel of Lost Ships Right Over Here

 post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any 
of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a 
private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed 
in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any 
of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the
 thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions 
are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner 
productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes