Thursday, January 19, 2017

From Hyperborea I Can See Oerth - Sword & Sorcery Greyhawk Being Run With The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System

I'm never content to rest on my laurels, & last night I was zipping around the internet gathering up information about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Once again I came across the review that Venger Satanis did for AS&SH on (I'm not a fan of at all. That's a personal preference.),but I came across this bit,"Likewise, there are some really cool magic items and weapons, a few that have escaped from the science-fantasy milieu. We all know about Spheres of Annihilation… how about Spheres of Blackness or Girdles of Golden Serpents? Yes, there could be more than what's included, but this is a decent amount.
While the Hyperborea Gazetteer isn’t huge, this volume is may be the best part about AS&SH, where the uninitiated learns of the bloated and dying scarlet sun which never rises very far in the sky. It’s an icy realm surrounded by a Stygian abyss where Night Gaunts fly, Saturn is faintly visible, there’s a small moon associated with blood sacrifices, and curtains of red, green, and purple illumination in the sky signal the arrival of ultra-telluric beings" 
I suddenly started to remember a project that the Beyond The Black Gate's writer did, he took the  1983 campaign Greyhawk box set & turned it into a down & dirty Conan style campaign. Now mind you this was way back 2010
Now here's the thing, I didn't have access to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea at the time, but now that I do this not only would work but it could be run as a sustained campaign setting using the materials & systems of AS&SH.

There are more then a few reasons why this would not only work but it could be used as a sustained game world over the long haul:
This means that suddenly Greyhawk's Temple of Elemental Evil could have a very sinister connection to the Ashen Worm of Hyperborea. The Rain of Colourless Fire might have a far more reaching cosmic effect then even previously thought. 

PC classes, sword & sorcery substance, campaign setting material such as population distribution, settlement populations (village, town, city); also, fortifications and population communications are discussed in the Greyhawk box set. Everything you need to run this is in the AS&SH box set and the Eighty three Greyhawk box. Everything to run this is right out of the AS&SH player's hand book from classes to starting equipment.

In Greyhawk many of the lands on the map are discussed. It is important to note that there are many towns, villages, stretches of land, rivers, islands, and so forth on the map that are left blank for the individual referee to develop. But there's going to a ton of substitution from the Referee's Guide for monsters, races etc. but having said that this idea could easily be done in spades.


So while I don't hold any claim on the idea of this style of Frankencampaign setting I think its one that I'm going to keep in my back pocket for the moment. This idea has merit and its something that I'm going to explore in the coming weeks. I think that this could work as a long term campaign!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Season of Black - B2 The Keep On The Borderland By Gary Gygax Using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - Upcoming Actual Play Event

"Far from the lands of civilization along an old trade route thousands of years old sits an ancient keep, forgotten & long neglected by the royal courts of Khormarium. None the less the small keep has been sent supplies for its garrison of troops who keep the trade routes safe long the borderlands until three weeks ago when the bandit raids started."

That's when the first rumors of half demon things murdering peasants started. Help was not further coming from Khromarium nor any of its allied towns or villages. There are other rumors whispered in the smoke filled tavern & the lotus blossom incense  filled shrine that the hell religion of Chaos is on the rise. The ancient hell religion not heard from since the time of the Green Death. But now the ancient planet is in the house above the dread valley; the lizard men are stirring & there are are fell signs everywhere.  We know their priests are everywhere."

artwork by jcpag2012

We are a desperate  outpost on the frontier of law amid the forces of chaos!  So in our hour of need we have need of men & women of violence & action! "

A desperate group of survivors out on a lone outpost far from the forces of the
Khromarium empire needs the help of adventurers, outlaws,cut throats, swordsmen & magicians of the blackest vein! Can you help? 
The keep sits on one of the most dangerous wilderness borderlands of Hyperborea  an ancient evil is rising from the ashes to take back what was once theirs!

Hi my name is Eric Fabiaschi & I'm a dungeon master with over forty years of experience. I'm looking for between five to seven players for a convention style old school adventure using the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system. Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax is a classic of Dungeons & Dragons. Its a fun and easy module to play, if your a novice or an experienced player here's your opportunity to get in on one of the classics of the old school table top role playing!

ASTONISHING SWORDSMEN & SORCERERS of HYPERBOREA is sword-and-sorcery role-playing about player characters who delve the mazes and labyrinths of vast dungeons filled with horrifying monsters, lethal traps, and bewildering puzzles. They explore savage frontiers, breach hostile borderlands, probe ancient ruins, and investigate cursed tombs!
Here's a small sample of the player characters you can play;an Amazon fighter, Atlantean magician, Esquimaux shaman, Hyperborean warlock, Ixian necromancer, Keltic barbarian, Kimmerian cataphract, Pictish thief, Viking berserker, or one of many other possibilities!
Sword & Sorcery table top role playing in the mode of R.E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft! 

So I need you to sign up for next Month on Thursday February 19th with C&S Gaming Empire in Torrington for The Keep On The Borderlands! All you need is your imagination, a pencil, lots of luck, and a thirst to crush skulls and grab the treasure!
This is going to be a Fifteen and above event, there will be a character workshop on the fifteenth of

Commentary On Greyhawk As Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg System Campaign DYI Tool Box & Old School Campaign Setting

So I got an email from Terry who had some questions about my favorite products & least favorite products from classic era TSR. But also wanted to know about a classic era  campaign setting with plenty of room for expansion. The set up here is going to depend a bit on upon the Wiki entry on Greyhawk for its background available here.  Then I'll get into its applications for OSR campaign use.

Thanks to an email from Terry tonight I get the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite TSR campaign world, Greyhawk & its impact on my gaming. No other single product put out by TSR has come close to equaling the hours of joy that this world has given me. I came into Greyhawk through the original Folio edition way back in Nineteen Eighty but it wasn't until three years later that I came into the Gygaxian campaign world fully. But I'm getting ahead of myself here because for years I heard about & played around Greyhawk itself according to Wiki;"
As Gygax and Arneson worked to develop and publish the rules for Dungeons & Dragons through TSR, Gygax continued to design and present the dungeons and environs of Castle Greyhawk to his circle of friends and family, using them as playtesters for new rules and concepts. As the players began to explore more of the world outside of the castle and city, Gygax developed other regions and cities for them. With play sessions occurring seven or more times a week,[25] Gygax didn't have the time or inclination to create the map for a whole new world; he simply drew his world over a map of North America, adding new cities and regions as his world slowly grew through ongoing adventures.[26] The city and castle of Greyhawk were placed near the real-world position of Chicago, his birthplace; various other places were clustered around it. For instance, the rival city of Dyvers he placed in the area of real-world Milwaukee.[27][28]
Gygax also continued to develop the dungeons underneath the castle. By the time he was finished, the complex labyrinth encompassed thirteen levels filled with devious traps, secret passageways, hungry monsters, and glittering treasure. Although details of these original Greyhawk dungeons have never been published in detail, Gygax gave some glimpses of them in an article he wrote for the European fanzine Europa in 1975:
Before the rules for D&D were published, "Old Greyhawk Castle" was 13 levels deep. The first level was a simple maze of rooms and corridors, for none of the "participants" had ever played such a game before. The second level had two unusual items, a Nixie pool and a fountain of snakes. The third featured a torture chamber and small cells and prison rooms. The fourth was a level of crypts and undead. The fifth was centered around a strange font of black fire and gargoyles. The sixth was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs... in inconvenient spots, naturally backed up by appropriate numbers of Wereboars. The seventh was centered around a circular labyrinth and a street of masses of ogres. The eighth through tenth levels were caves and caverns featuring Trolls, giant insects and a transporter nexus with an evil Wizard (with a number of tough associates) guarding it. The eleventh level was the home of the most powerful wizard in the castle: He had Balrogs as servants. The remainder of the level was populated by Martian White Apes, except the sub-passage system underneath the corridors which was full of poisonous critters with no treasure. Level twelve was filled with Dragons.
The bottom level, number thirteen, contained an inescapable slide which took the players clear through 'to China', from whence they had to return via "Outdoor Adventure". It was quite possible to journey downward by an insidious series of slanting passages which began on the second level, but the likelihood of following such a route unknowingly didn't become too great until the seventh or eighth level...
Side levels included a barracks with Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls continually warring with each other, a museum, a huge arena, an underground lake, a Giant's home, and a garden of fungi.[29]
Anyone who made it to the bottom level alive met Zagyg, the insane architect of the dungeons. (Zagyg is a reverse homophone of Gygax, and it was Gygax's inside joke that the person who had designed the dungeon—himself—must be insane.)[30] Only three players ever made it to the bottom level and met Zagyg, all of them during solo adventures: Rob Kuntz (playing Robilar), Gygax's son Ernie (playing Tenser), and Rob's brother Terry (playing Terik).[31] Their reward was to be instantly transported to the far side of the world,[32] where they each faced a long solo trek back to the city of Greyhawk. Terik and Tenser managed to catch up to Robilar along the way, and the three journeyed back to Greyhawk together.[33]
By this time, over twenty players crowded Gygax's basement almost every night,[34] and the effort needed to plan their adventures took up much of Gygax's spare time. He had been very impressed with Rob Kuntz's imaginative play as a player, and appointed Rob to be co-Dungeon Master of Greyhawk.[35][36] This freed up Gygax to work on other projects, and also gave him an opportunity to participate as a player,[37] creating characters like Yrag and Mordenkainen."
Already you can see the workings of Greyhawk itself as a world through the various tourament level modules that had come out from & around it:
"From 1976–1979, Gygax also shared some glimpses of his home campaign with other gamers when he set several TSR Dungeons & Dragons adventures in the world of Greyhawk:[77]
In addition, Lawrence Schick set his 1979 TSR adventure S2 White Plume Mountain in Greyhawk."
All of these classic adventures can be easily placed with your version of Greyhawk but over the years dungeon masters & fans have moved their locations around.

Greyhawk continued to be expanded upon, fleshed out, given more flesh on its campaign bones with gods, weather, population details, social bits, & details on weather all within the pages of Dragon magazine. The Eighties were a classic period in TSR. In Eighty three the Greyhawk boxed set hit the shelves &  it changed everything in many ways. It was bigger at one hundred & twenty eight pages. " According to game designer Jim Bambra, "The second edition was much larger than the first and addressed itself to making the World of Greyhawk setting a more detailed and vibrant place."" It is beyond  vibrant after cracking open my box set which I haven't done for a couple of years.

The box set contains everything that you as a DM are going to need to introduce a group of brand new players to the world of Greyhawk. The entries are flexible and well laid out with enough room for the DM to make them their own. The world breaths & the content are very well organized with enough room to customize the campaign setting into your own version which what was expected back then.

There are some great online resources such as the Greyhawk Online,site & The Greyhawk Grognard,blog and even a poster sized map of the world of Greyhawk.

So what's all of this have to do with the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg system? Well since ACK's is partially based upon the Labyrinth Lord retroclone which is It's B/X (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) D&D. The system  that can easily be expanded into an AD&D style clone with the  Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord. This makes it a snap to use with the classic Greyhawk boxed set
 Using this campaign setting with the Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg system works very well. Because Greyhawk has many of the bits & pieces within it that marry up to the types of expansions that the classic box set talks about such as:

  • PC's setting up their own kingdoms & carving out a piece of the world as their own. 
  • Game of Thrones style intrigue as the players have to contend with some very dangerous NPC's along their path to power. 
  • Many of the classic TSR era adventures are actually stepping stones on that path. And it also means that their going to have to deal with many of the really nasty evils of Grayhawk including the Temple of Elemental evil. 
  • PC's are going to be major players on Grayhawk's stage. They're not going to be able to be sitting on the side lines because of the level expansion & ladder clime inherit in the ACK's system.  
  • Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters book's system are ideally suited for Greyhawk. They enable the various dragons & monster rulers to actually have an expanded role in the setting. 
  • Domains of War adds in a system that works straight across the board for actually running wargame warfare that works & can change the world on an expanded level.  This becomes important later as the Temple of Elemental Evil's rise to power has to be stopped.  
Part of the idea of Grayhawk is for the PC's to be the big noise in the world setting and for their achievements to leave a boot print on the pages of history of your campaign setting. This is the sort of thing that players talk about for years to come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Commentary On S1 Tomb of Horrors 's Nega Dungeon As Campaign Build For Adventurer, Conqueror, King & Your Old School Campaigns

In the far reaches of the world, under a lost and lonely hill, lies the sinister Tomb of Horrors. This labyrinthine crypt is filled with terrible traps, strange and ferocious monsters, rich and magical treasures, and somewhere within rests the evil Demi-Lich.
Recently I've been thinking about the infamous Tomb of Horrors module, I'm fascinated by it in a number of ways. First a bit of background courtesy of Wiki;"Tomb of Horrors was written by Gary Gygax for official D&D tournament play at the 1975 Origins 1 convention.[3][5][6] Gygax developed the adventure from an idea by Alan Lucien, one of his original AD&D playtesters, "and I admit to chuckling evilly as I did so."[7] Gygax designed the Tomb of Horrors modules for two related purposes. First, Gygax explains, "There were several very expert players in my campaign, and this was meant as yet another challenge to their skill—and the persistence of their theretofore-invincible characters. Specifically, I had in mind foiling Rob Kuntz's PC, Robilar, and Ernie Gygax's PC, Tenser." Second, so that he was "ready for those fans [players] who boasted of having mighty PCs able to best any challenge offered by the AD&D game."
So right away this was one of the high level tournament style modules with the special 'S' designation. Once again this is a competition module that was used at the D&D Seventy Five Origins convention. I would have been just a touch young back then to attend. I was about five back then. I didn't get introduced to the infamous tomb until about Eighty One or so. There was one very important influence on how I perceived the S1 Tomb of Horrors Adventure. His name was Indiana Jones. Alright so the family dog's name was Indiana but we didn't get to know that till Last Crusade.

What would the Tomb of Horrors really mean in a campaign setting? I think personally it would be a legendary place a sort of tomb of legend such as the tomb of Alexander The Great or Genghis Khan's final resting place.  Think about it, the demi-lich Acererak has got to be one of his world's most infamous wizards & tyrants. He's not trying to simply keep his treasures & relics, he's trying to kill the adventurers dead with all kinds of tricks and traps. But why? Well because he's keeping himself amused & entertained throughout the centuries. The tomb is one more project ahead of him, he's got eternity ahead of him & possibly to him this is the greatest chess game of all time. He's got one of the greatest egos of all time so why not test your mettle against some of the greatest thieves, cut throats & murderers that society can produce?

The tomb isn't just some nega dungeon to draw PC's to their death; no this place is a giant sink of ego spanning evil that plays a giant game of chess with the campaign setting. I've written about Dwimmermount having earth shaking connections well think about this. You've got a giant animated chess board of a tomb that continues operations & a wizard whose probably at one point in his life conquered half of his world to build this thing. He's going to have entire blood lines running around with all kinds of 'Game of Thrones' style NPC's murdering each other, petty kingdoms ruled by family members, main court murders, affairs of power etc. Perhaps Acererak got tired of court life & ruler ship & simply retired to the tomb? Naw, I think he's ruling from the shadows through a number of proxies.  This is where Dark Albion could come in very handy to set up the types of intrigues & double dealing that the Tomb could inspire.

The thing to remember about Tomb of Horrors is not only the legend & mythology of the place but its fame. This is a competition module & its one that has a reputation that it deserves; the freaking thing is deadly. Could such a place be built in the real world and if so where? I think that China or Mongolia might be the places where this tomb would be built and maintained.
But why?

The dungeon of the demi-lich Acererak is being maintained so that the demi lich can eliminate his potential rivals with little issue to himself. I've been rereading Adventurer, Conqueror, King & Dark Albion this is just the type of tactic that an evil megalomaniac wizard would do. He'd be using his country's GDP to create just such an enterprise and then maintain it. Why? Well in ACK's terms this place would be a 'sink of evil' where magic is going to be easier to cast. He's got a steady supply of sacrifices to the gods that maintain his lichdom & he's got an eternity of bloody murder for entertainment. But to what end?

You've got to think outside the box here. This is a guy whose got eternity to play with so not only can he expand upon his tomb but he's got plenty of time to expand upon his bloodlines, family position, and even role out monsters to guard his domains. Using the ancient China analogy here  Acererak could play this cat & mouse game with his entire country using monsters, lairs, politics to pull his power together. This is something that Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Monsters & Lairs has a ton of rules and systems for just this sort of play.

Tomb of Horrors can be used to build an entire campaign around with the right view point & looking at the long term goals of the players & PC's. The challenge is to create an engaging & pulpy feel to this wonderfully classic nega dungeon. Right now is a great time to pick up any of the ACK's titles. The entire system is well done and offers tons of options, systems, and more for OSR style play!  This bundle is for a great cause & you get some really top draw quality products.



Monday, January 16, 2017

A Review Of Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6 Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rpg System & OSR fanzine From Clint Krause & Red Moon Medicine Show

This afternoon I was so glad to get a copy of Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6 from Clint Krause & Red Moon Medicine Show via email. Vacant Ritual Assembly is part OSR fanzine & part useful love letter to the Lamentations of the Flame rpg system. The reason that I was overjoyed is that its been a long while since we've seen quality of this level. VRA is a Weird Tales OSR style zine that plugs right into the actual Gothic aesthetic of LoFP. Clint Krause & company are not simply authors & designers they're actual on the ground players who are using all of  VRA's material at the table. This makes a big difference when it comes to the quality of the material.

A good example of the type of material that I'm speaking of is  The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem. 
This is a solid OSR style adventure with some really great weirdly dark adventure material that can be dropped who cloth into an LoFP style game or straight into a Gothic B/X Dungeons & Dragons game. If you haven't picked it up I suggest you check it out.

Now let's dive right into the disturbing & more then slightly off kilter world of Vacant Ritual Assembly issue # Six  filled to the brim with even more of the OSR madness that the Red Moon crew is known for.  First up is an effort by Klint Krause  with Grigoro’s Wonders Untold (pgs 4-7) is a traveling medicine show NPC deviants,freaks, mutants, lovable demons, fairies, & a huge variety of NPC's, magic items, & adventure opportunities galore. Each of these NPC's is fully developed with weird histories, background, & really nice details to be dropped right into your game campaigns. These folks are well done with lots of dripping ichoric background.
From Dunnholt It Rises (pg 8-15) is both an adventure waiting to happen & a campaign mini event.  Kathryn Jenkins  writes a thundering VRA horror themed adventure that lives up to many other Lamentations
island adventures with her own dark and abiding twists. This is an adventure that will have PC's needing to stop a campaign level event & the horrors that follow in its wake. This one could be used as a Call of Cthulhu Fourteenth Century period adventure as well.
The Gallows on Heretic Hill  (pgs 17-19) puts a brand new faction with a horrid twist right into the background of a campaign with several score weird bits that will have players guessing & pulling them deeper into the world of Heretic Hill.
A Light in the Black (pgs 20-21)  connects up with another aspect and faction of the Gallows on Heretic Hill with several twists of their own. These folks are very well done & have the feel of something that crawled out from the darker aspects of Ravenloft without the holding back that one would expect from that era of TSR adventures. Dark and twisted material without the usual thud & blunder efforts of some 'horror'.
Death Planted the Esther Tree   (pgs 23-37) is a dark,haunted house crawl  adventure by Kreg Mosier that ties into the Driftwood Verses material's darker and deeper down into the setting's weird bits. Well done but use with caution.
The Grimsly Hill Cherubs (pgs 38-  39) is a thumbnail  NPC profile/preview  for the upcoming book Undertow. Imagine if Norm Bates & Lord of The Flies had kids; well this would be those NPC kids.
The Lathnos Sugar Cane Crop  (pgs 40-43) is by Anxy P. & presents a horrific adventure encounter that is one part Brazilian mythological cane sugar weirdness & two parts Heart of Darkness blended in a blender set on eleven.
Emmy Allen: Of Wolves and Winter rpg fame  (pgs 44-51) is an interview with Emmy Allen, author of Wolf
Packs and Winter Snow that is not only decent but dives deeply into one of the OSR lights and the creative process behind not only the games but the deeper aspects of the game world. Emmy Allen's blog Dying Stylishly is well worth checking out.   It has lots of content for Of Wolves & Winter as well as deeper insights into not only the game itself but her choices as a writer/designer.

So is Issue Number six of Vacant Ritual Assembly worth getting? Well in my humble opinion absolutely, for the Gothic or OSR horror themed player or DM its well worth the price of admission. The material of VRA is an original take on Lamentations of the Flame Princess & it takes the game in a slightly different direction then most of the day to day Lamentations stuff I've seen. There's a far more dark fantasy & Weird Tales feel to  VRA then many of the other Lamentations efforts I've seen over the years.
In fact many of the adventures, encounters, etc. from this issue could be used with not only other OSR games such as Dark Albion or other retroclone systems. I can also see using it for other games such as Call of Cthulhu or even Dungeon Crawl Classic's Gothic adventure supplements. That being said I don't know if VRA could be used for a game such as White Wolf's Vampire Dark Ages or another WoD period product. I think that the tone, subtleties, & uniqueness of Vacant Ritual Assembly would be lost in the wash of game setting details  of World of Darkness. 
The thing about Vacant Ritual Assembly is rather unique tone, style,and content that is uniquely its own and belongs to its authors. I give issue number six five out of five for original content and sheer incredible OSR originality.Vacant Ritual Assembly Issue #6  should be available sometime tomorrow when its released to the general public! So grab a copy! 


The Surpising Ecology Of The Morlocks in My Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign

I've written extensively about my obsession with HG Well's The Time Machine's Eloi & The Morlocks over the years on this blog. But last night I shut down on social media & began to dig back into my extensive notes about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. What do the Time Machine & AS&SH  have to do with one another? Quite a bit actually, in my mind Hyperborea was a place that was once flourishing had its moments of incredible technology as the Hyperboreans inherited the forbidden ruins, legacies, & technologies of the Great Race of Yith & the Elder Things. They improved upon & refined these l in some respects. They had extensive colonies across the dimensions & planes making war with their former masters & overseers. By the time get to when the oceans drank Atlantis they were well into almost extinction. But these were not true Hyperboreans but hybrids who had settled down into the local respective societies.
"Meanwhile, the first of the Hyborian kingdoms has come onto existence, the rude and barbaric kingdom of Hyperborea, which had its beginnings in a crude fortress of boulders heaped to repel tribal attack. There are few more dramatic events in history than the rise of this fierce kingdom, whose people turned abruptly from nomadic life to rear dwellings of naked stone, surrounded by cyclopean walls." -- Robert E. Howard: "The Hyborian Age"
You get a sense of  legendary  about Hyperboreans or the mythical ones who lived "beyond the North Wind" This bit struck me from the Wiki entry;
"However, it is also possible that Hyperborea had no real physical location at all, for according to the classical Greek poet Pindar"
neither by ship nor on foot would you find
the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.
Pindar also described the otherworldly perfection of the Hyperboreans:
Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle they live"

Scientist philosopher kings who might have been messing with forbidden sciences far from the purview of the gods who began to fade into HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands as time went on.
I know that the Hyperboreans must worship Boreas as an important god in their former religion;"
Boreas (Βορέας, Boréas; also Βορρᾶς, Borrhás)[6] was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter. Although normally taken as the north wind, the Roman writers Aulus Gellius and Pliny the Elder both took Boreas as a north-east wind, equivalent to the Roman Aquilo.[7] Boreas is depicted as being very strong, with a violent temper to match. He was frequently shown as a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, holding a conch shell and wearing a billowing cloak.[1] Pausanias wrote that Boreas had snakes instead of feet, though in art he was usually depicted with winged human feet.
Boreas' two sons Calaïs and Zetes, known as Boreads, were in the crew of the Argo as Argonauts."
Wind god Boreas, Hadda, Afghanistan. Musee Guimet. Personal photograph 2005.

They began to fade from the pages of history & the realms of imagination or did the Hyperboreans actually fade because of a far more sinister reason. They had access to the Great Race's secrets & legacies because they were used by the Great Race as experimental fodder & slave labor. This has been implied from the pages of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Referee Guide. The Great Race  is of course is  ;"The Great Race of Yith  a fictional race of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Introduced in Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow Out of Time," the Great Race was a prehistoric civilization that populated much of the Earth until their demise in the late Cretaceous era. Their great power derived from their mastery of precognition via time travel."  Suppose that the Hyperboreans began to mess the time travel & other dimensional machinery of the Great Race. Suppose that they began to look to other branches of time & alternative worlds of reality beyond The North Wind.
[T]he Great Race ... waxed well-nigh omniscient, and turned to the task of setting up exchanges with the minds of other planets, and of exploring their pasts and futures. It sought likewise to fathom the past years and origin of that black, aeon-dead orb in far space whence its own mental heritage had come – for the mind of the Great Race was older than its bodily form. . . The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago.
— H. P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Out of Time"
The Great Race is mostly gone from Hyperborea except for perhaps a few hundred gate keepers & key master scientists who look after the machinery & works. It would be quite easy for the Hyperboreans to overwhelm their former masters & assume control of the machinery. They might have by this time assumed a height of incredible social & technological mastery over time & space; opened up colonies on various worlds and other dimensional locations until they came to Earth with a London of the early 22nd century. This is not our world instead its another world entirely. This is the world of  HG Well's "A Story of the Days To Come" & "When the Sleeper Wakes" "A world of early 22nd century is over 30 million people in population, with the lower classes living in subterranean dwellings, and the middle and upper classes living in skyscrapers and largely communal accommodations. Moving walkways interconnect the city, with fast air-travel and superhighways available between cities. The countryside is largely abandoned."

In other words a perfect location for a highly technologically magically advanced people to invade & cause all kinds of havoc by sewing confusion with a war between the East & West. . They released artificially created bio weapons upon this world with each side blaming the other for starting the apocalypse. Resulting in the perfect conditions for others to artificially create the Eloi & The Morlock species respectively.

So what happened to the Hyperboreans? They reaped what they sewed as they had not counted on the ripples across the space time continuum something the Great Race of Yith was well aware of. They never experimented with physical time travel to alternative time lines. Almost overnight the Hyperboreans were engulfed in madness & paradoxical spasms that caused a third of the population to go extinct. Dimensional ripples cut off other worldly colonies, interstellar settlements, and other dimensional locations without mercy. The hyper morlocks are aware of the part that the Hyperboreans played in their timeline's destruction. And there has been racial warfare between the two ever since. Underborea has seen extensive wars between the two races for centuries. 

Virgil Finley Time Machine artwork copyright & trade mark to their respective holders.
Used without permission

The Morlocks  made their way to Hyperborea from the still working time tunnels of the Hyperboreans bringing with them their Eloi cattle to settle in isolated parts of the world. From time to time their colonies are are found on isolated island or underworld locations. They receive extensive competition from a wide variety of the Underborean races but have managed to carve out their own niche on Hyperborea.

This blog post is for educational and entertainment purposes only, any of the game company's mentioned here are not responsible for any opinions expressed here. This post is not an attempt to violate the trademarks of the holders of the 1960's Time Machine movie. This is the ramblings of a fanatical fan of  the film, HG Wells, and old school games. All ideas are copyrighted and trade marked to the author.

Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is trade marked and copyrighted to North Wind Adventures.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Using X2 Castle Amber As High Level Campaign Jump Off Point For The Dark Albion Rpg Campaign Setting & The Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg System

Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?

It is ranked as the," 15th greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time by Dungeon magazine in 2004,[8] and was fondly remembered in Dragon Magazine the same year." I'm speaking today about X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay. Set in an adapted setting  of Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories, and set in the fictional medieval French province. Castle Amber is part high level adventure & part Weird Tales Magazine story come to life for the PC's. The classic adventure is a high level affair & takes place within the Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville). While having a beer tonight this adventure came up with comments such as 'so good' & 'very memorable' or 'a complete classic'. There was talk about adapting it to the Adventurer, Conqueror, King  Rpg System & Dark Albion. Could it be done?

After talking about it tonight I can honestly say that I think that it can be actually. "The player characters explore the haunted mansion of the Amber family, and encounter new monsters such as the brain collector.[2] The module is described as a medium to high-level scenario which takes place in a castle surrounded by a strange gray mist" according to Wiki. But then something jumped out at me right away its that strange gray mist that surrounds the castle. During the War of the Roses the various factions are going to be looking for any advantages that they can. This might even include taking risky expeditions to rumored haunted castles on the coast of France for rumored magic artifacts, treasure, and other materials to help with the War of the Roses all while avoiding the patrols of Frogmen cultists and French officials.

The castle is demanding entity in its own right & dwells partially in fairy land in fact the basic plot outline bares this out according to Wiki,
"During their night's rest on their way to Glantri, the player characters are unexpectedly drawn into a large castle surrounded by an impenetrable, deadly mist. This is the result of a curse the wizard-noble Stephen Amber (Etienne d'Amberville) put on his treacherous relatives for murdering him.
The only way to escape Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville) is to explore the castle, putting up with the demented and at times insane members of the d'Amberville family and the other, often hostile, denizens, and open a hidden portal to the wilderness of the world of Averoigne, where the party can find the means to reach the inter-dimensional tomb in which Stephen Amber rests, in order to break the curse and return home.
In this world, magic is frowned upon, and spellcasters may come to the attention of the Inquisition" The castle is basically its own bit of weird realm waiting for fools to stumble upon it. Its crazied family waits in the shadows between worlds completely unaware of the events of their own country let alone the Rose War across in England. How did this happen & what's the connection with the Frogmen who now rule France? Before the Frogmen could invade France certain power structures and important families had to be eliminated.

Tim Kirk's map of Averoigne based on stories by Clark Ashton Smith.

Long before the  Frogmen & their cultists took over France the the Amber family (d'Amberville in French) were an important & influential family. Rather then simply murder them, the frogmen were already stretched thin putting in place the means of taking over the country. So the Amber family have  been cursed & the entire family whisked away to a demi plane of Fairy. There the castle sits waiting frozen in time and space as events play out in the real world.

This ties in with the region's ancient past & its dire Lovecraftian secrets;"In ancient times, Averoigne was settled by the fictional Gallic tribe called the Averones. They established a number of settlements in the region, many of which were fortified when the Roman Empire absorbed the region. When Christianity spread through the Empire, many churches and monasteries were established among the ruins of Druidic temples. Greatest among these was a great cathedral constructed in Vyones, completed in 1138." I don't want to spoil this for players so go read Smith's stories here with a good reading list right here
So what does this have to do with the Rose War happening across the pond in England? A lot actually, remember that X2 Castle Amber is a high level adventure & getting the PC's involved is going to put them in the cross hairs of some VIP's of the court of England. In point of fact the very highest levels are going to be involved. First we need to look at the geograpaghy of the Averoigne region;"
Averoigne is located in the southern half of France. The northern half of the territory is dominated by the walled city of Vyones, site of an impressive cathedral. In the southern half is located the town of Ximes; the main road of Averoigne runs between Ximes and Vyones, straight through the thick, dark forest that blankets the province. A river called Isoile flows from the mountains in the northern part of the province to feed into a swamp in the south.
Other towns and villages located in Averoigne include: Moulins, Les Hiboux, La Frenâie, Touraine, Sainte Zenobie, and Périgon. In the forest can be found haunted ruins, such as the Château of Fausseflammes and the stronghold of Ylourgne. (It was from that abandoned abode of evil robber barons, that the horrific events of The Colossus of Ylourgne had their start.)"
This region has deep ties to Margaret of Anjou (French: Marguerite; 23 March 1430 – 25 August 1482) who was the wife of King Henry VI of England even before she was born. Her ties with the Frogmen & their cultists gave her access to some of the deepest secrets of the supernatural layout in France including the site of Castle Amber & its other dimensional location. The clock is ticking in the real world & she's going to want her forces to have the resources, artifacts, & magicks that are in the castle.

Here's why she was born in the Duchy of Lorraine into the House of Valois-Anjou, Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René of Anjou and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine."
"She was one of the principal figures in the series of dynastic civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses and at times personally led the Lancastrian faction. Owing to her husband's frequent bouts of insanity, Margaret ruled the kingdom in his place. It was she who called for a Great Council in May 1455 that excluded the Yorkist faction headed by Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, and thus provided the spark that ignited a civil conflict that lasted for over thirty years, decimated the old nobility of England, and caused the deaths of thousands of men, including her only son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471."
She was one of the principal spy mistresses of the War of the Roses & in my campaigns has deep ties to her inhuman frog men or deep one masters. They're getting ready to invade England & having another ace in the hole with Castle Amber might help trip the scales in their favor. So a party going into the castle might be facing down rival adventurers as well as the horrors of the castle itself.

So where does the Adventurer, Conqueror, King angle come in here? Well the Adventurer, Conqueror, King Companion has several systems that marry very nicely with Dark Albion and given the dark end of X2 Castle Amber might help to move things along because should anyone survive the events of the module well your PC's are going to be relocating Amber family members elsewhere perhaps into exile. The fact is that the weird fairy tale like aspects perfectly plug into the feel of an expanded ACK's campaign. The adjustment of the family Amber coming to terms with the real world & the weirdness that the curse has brought might see PC's being of the bloodlines of anyone within the Castle itself having a trace of its madness and magic within their veins. This marries up with several of the player characters presented in the Adventurer,Conqueror, King companion especially the witch, several of the Elven types, and Dwarven PC classes.
This could become a mini campaign unto itself. Cults of Chaos for Dark Albion might help to fill in several elements that could left dangling.  The following is a major spoiler alert!

"One of the encounters in the module is an homage to (or copy of) the climax of Edgar Allan Poe's short story Fall of the House of Usher,[citation needed] involving a brother who can hear his dead sister, named Madeline in both cases, crying out from the grave where she was buried alive. The overall module has "a decidedly Edgar Allan Poe feel to it."[6] Another encounter calls to mind the title character and gruesome climax of Poe's Hop-Frog.[citation needed]
Many of the creatures also had a "Lovecraftian" feel to them"

So let's say that the PC's are successful? Well as the Chinese saying goes may you live in interesting times because they're going to be in the cross hairs of not only the Crown, the Frogmen, and the powers of X2 but their going to be on the run.  I hear that Spain is lovely this time of year for vacations!
Castle Amber draws on and is a part of  Moldvay's Pulp Fantasy Trilogy, the other two being X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981) and B4: "The Lost City" (1982) with both Lovecraftian twists and odd connections. The whole thing has a weird dreamlike fairytale connection that I think fits both Dark Albion & the ACK's system. Baring in mind that Castle Amber is a high level and very dangerous D&D adventure it could make an interesting step up as a part of a next tier Dark Albion game campaign.
Adventurer, Conqueror, King has  deal cooking for a great  charity,"Through Monday, January 30 we present the Adventurer Conqueror King System Bundle featuring Autarch's sweeping FRPG"  so its a great time to get in on the action.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Moby Dick & Mighty Mightor 1967 Kids Cartoon As A Quick Random Setting Encounter For An Old School Post Apocalyptic Or Sword & Sorcery Campaign Jump Starter

Did Space Ghost have an ancestor in the stone age? Well to my five year old imagination he did! Back when Saturday mornings were cool and cable television was brand new many exotic cartoons would filter down those magic wires including this one!

First let's upstart the old nostalgia juice here  for a classic Hanna Barbara Sixties era cartoon. This came out when Saturday mornings were fantastic. The artwork was superior to many later cartoons, the themes catchy and the plots were paper thin with voices to drive a parent up a wall at seven A.M. on a Saturday morning. But they've also got some great stuff for an old school dungeon master to plunder. 

Interesting there was way more Mightttorrr! then Moby Dick which suited my young impressionable brain (let's not get into the fact that the title sounds like a gay porno as my cousin would later interject each & every time this cartoon came on). Kids are weird anyhow especially back in the Seventies.
Anyhow according to wiki the set up for this was classic Hanna Barbara;"Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor is a science fiction animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions which ran on CBS from September 9, 1967 to September 6, 1969. Despite Moby's name coming first, he had only one short per half-hour episode, sandwiched between two with Mightor. The same structure was used the previous season for Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles."
The plot line was straight out of a Sixties comic book company plot house which was fine because there was lots of prehistoric action and dinosaurs along with tons of underwater weirdness.

"One day, while on a hunting trip, a teenage caveman named Tor, along with his winged pet dinosaur Tog, rescue an old man who, as a reward, gives Tor a magical club. When Tor raises his club to the sky, he transforms into the masked and muscular Mightor, a prehistoric superhero very much in the Space Ghost mold who possesses superhuman strength and the power of flight through his club, which can also fire energy blasts."
Mightor protects his village from evil-doers. Amongst the villagers are the chief, Pondo, and his daughter, the beautiful redhaired Sheera. Sheera has a younger brother named Little Rok, who loves pretending to be Mightor. The characters have several pets, including Little Rok's dodo bird, Ork, and Sheera's mammoth calf, Bollo.
Tor is voiced by Bobby Diamond, while Mightor is voiced by Paul Stewart.[1] Pondo, Tog, Ork, and Bollo are voiced by John Stephenson. Sheera is voiced by Patsy Garrett. Little Rok is voiced by Norma MacMillan." So it seems like your typical Saturday morning fare doesn't it? Well not quite. You see you've got an entire village protected by a 'champion' and a mystic item along with a bunch of jacked up cavemen who look like they came straight out of a kid's play set. Well back in the Eighties I took the entire village and characters changed the names and dumped them into Gamma World without any issues as an old school encounter for some kids. Mighty Mightor became a mutant who went around with an Ancient's artifact & was a part of a cryptic alliance of  super heroes. Thirty years later I took the same village & dumped it right into Carcosa & then for an Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea kid's game for a friend of mine I used it again.

The dinosaurs are straight up Carcosa mutants & almost all of them are Charles Knight dinosaur artwork redressed & given the Hanna Barbara treatment with a good dose of Alex Thoth whirl. The various foes of the village are all mutants & half Pict cavemen with animal empathy & domination mutations. Its really simple stuff that old schoolers eat up at the table with a spoon. These types of adventures click all kinds of buttons from dinosaurs to superheroes. They can be raided for Marvel Super Heroes for a different take and lost world era vibe or they can be used for a sword & sorcery style adventure.

When it comes to a game like Apes Victorious here's where things get really interesting. Take Mighty Mightor lock stock and dinosaurs then move his village to some isolated location in the Forbidden Zone & instant ape lost world with mutant dinosaurs & 'super heroes'. Easily back loaded into the back world of Mutant Future as well!

Flip this idea on its head and it could easily take place in the Dungeon Crawl Classic's fanzine Crawling Under A Broken Moon with zero modification. 
The kids from Moby Dick are creepy as all heck. What the hell were they eating and how the heck were they surviving under water for all that time? Well, for that answer we might need a combination of Mutant Future & Realms of Crawling Chaos from Goblinoid Games.  Simply put the kids are Ancients wizard with Deep One blood with their whale familiar. The apocalypse happened and their genes flipped on! These guys are completely insane & I've used em in Carcosa a couple of times as a sea hex encounter.

Once again old school  Saturday morning cartoons can provide a wealth of gaming material if you want to look past the corny elements to provide your table top with all kinds of inspiration. The Moby Dick cartoon had some fantastic factions to raid for classic Marvel Super Heroes adventures for an Atlantis game. These same foes came in really handy for a later Carcosa game. The whole thing  works well with games such as Mutant Future or Gamma World 1st & second edition where the technology of under water colonies is built right into the game setting itself.

"Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor " were of their time and for kids who grew up in the Seventies these were classic Hanna Barbara cartoons & sparked the imagination of generations of kids & Dungeon Masters!