Sunday, April 23, 2017

Commentary UK5 Eye of the Serpent By Graeme Morris For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

"Gazing down form the pinnacle of Hardway Mountain, who would not be drawn by the far-off glint of the Serpent's Eye? The descent will be hard, the mountains know neither mercy nor compassion. Many are the lessons to be learned, but fate has left you little choice - are you equal to the challenge?"

UK5: "Eye of the Serpent" (1984), by Graeme Morris, is the fifth UK line of adventures in the module series. This is a one on one style adventure aimed at putting one on one play & centers itself around the skills of rangers, druids, or monks giving a stake in the development of their  classes by dealing with the perils & hazards of Hardway Mountain. The module presents different paths to the dangers of the mountain allowing a dungeon master to vary the hazards making play unique to each player.

The 'one on one' format was something that the U.K. branch of TSR took from the parent company & updated this module's format as well as style of play. This is from the Drivethrurpg entry;"
The idea of a one-on-one dungeon, with one GM and one player, dates back at least to "Quest for the Fazzlewood" (1978), a tournament run at Wintercon VII (1978). TSR revised and updated that adventure as O1: "The Gem and the Staff" in 1983. In 1984, TSR UK tried their hand at the format, publishing first UK5: "Eye of the Serpent" (1984), then O2: "Blade of Vengeance" (1984). TSR would later revisit the idea of one-on-one adventures in their eight-book "HHQ" series (1992-1995)."
"Eye of the Serpent" is actually a somewhat unusual one-on-one adventure, for a few different reasons. First, it includes three more party members who are run as NPCs - which means that the adventure can be run for multiple players if desired. Second, it can be run for either for either druids, rangers, or monks (thanks to a very clever wilderness system), whereas all the other one-on-one adventures require a single specific class."

The unique arrangement of the NPC allows this module's contents to be run for a larger party of PC's allowing this one on one to be used for group play as well as as a unique wilderness adventure. Because of its clever wilderness system this makes an interesting adventure to run as a back to back with new players of old school Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. While it has its detractors this adventure has the players getting quickly investigated in their low level PC's quickly & puts them squire in the action in my opinion as they get quickly tied into the adventure

Adventure has that the PC's (lvl 1-3) are captured by Rocs & deposited in their nest high in the mountain tops. It's up to the brave heroes escape down the mountain &  investigate the strange 'eye of the serpent' that can be see from the mountain top.
There is just enough plot to the adventure to hold the players interest as play continues with the PC's have to deal with hazards of the mountain & its environs. This is because of the flow chart style of the adventure paths in 'Eye of the Serpent'. It keeps the plot moving & gives a unique feel to the adventure whist having the PC's encounter the elements of U.K.5 which are specifically geared toward the druid, ranger, & monk classes. Because of the uniquely generic nature of U.K. 5 this is an adventure that can easily be placed within the confines of an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game.

The action here is going to most likely take place within the Norse or Keltic realms of Hyperborea on one of the border lands with the oceans of Hyperborea nearby. The rocs of the piece are going to be feeding upon cattle, ocean going sea serpents or other behemoths. This places the action in on of the more accessible mountains allowing the DM just enough elbow room  to place the action of Eye of the Serpent as needed. The rocs and some of the adventure elements can be tailored to place this adventure squarely within the sword & sorcery camp.By allowing DM's to add this adventure into the realm of Hyperborea this adventure can supplement a low level adventure specifically for the nature oriented classes of AS&SH. 

Even though UK5 Eye of the Serpent is a lower tier adventure there's enough here to expand the adventure into a full jump off point for a campaign by expanding the number of PC's. This creates an instant bonding experience & allows the DM & players to throw together a very unorthodox mix of player character types. Rocs are not picking as to their prey but getting that prey to work together is a challenge especially against the events of UK5 Eye of the Serpent.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

1d6 Random Weird Wasteland Spirits Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

They are all that remains of the lost spirits that inhabit the wastes, the souls of the damned of Atlantis and Lemuria.They are encountered without rhyme or reason when some ancient relic is carried by the Boreas winds to the shores of ancient lands. When encountered in the wastelands they can very dangerous as they carry with them the curse of the damned and dying.

The force of suns had waned beyond recall.
Chaos was re-established over all,
Where lifeless atoms through forgetful deeps
Fled unrelated, cold, immusical.

Above the tumult heaven alone endured;
Long since the bursting walls of hell had poured
Demon and damned to peace erstwhile denied,
Within the Abyss God's might had not immured.
The Abyss Triumphant

Clark Ashton Smith

These are spirits whose death was so violent that it has driven them beyond insanity & depravity. These are merely creatures of undeath and appetites of the most extreme kind. They are mere parodies of their former living selves. These insane spirits will count as ghosts from the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual or spectral wights. Often times they tied to areas where one or more minor artifacts are secreted.

1d6 Random Weird Wasteland
Spirits Encounter Table
  1. A former banker/money lender whose spirit is tied to the 1d1000 strong box that was his chain life. He is tied to the souls of three ghoulish guardians who torment him as violence of their destruction makes them repeat their lives in an endless loop of haunted horror. But these spirits hunger for the souls of the living. 
  2. A metal cylinder is actually the spirit battery for an ancient scientist who was taken when the acid of it burst bathing him in destruction. He endlessly forms and reforms from the event but attacks with dangerous claws once he senses the living. There are 1d200 silver pieces secreted in a section of flooring near his destruction that he was trying to get before things went sideways. 
  3. The spirits of three mad priests endlessly argue over the fate of their city and will whirl around their targets as they try to pin the soul of their prey between them. They can use 1d4 clerical spells that they had in life as they try to trap their prey. 
  4. A single gold coin holds the ghost of a former governor who was visiting this providence upon its destruction.He is now a wight of extremely nasty disposition appearing on every third full moon to murder the living. He loves to murder travelers and take their eyes. 
  5. Born at the cross roads of Hell, this ghost guards an interference to the underworld and takes those it can. It has forgotten its identity and has almost but not quite become a partially demonic thing of extreme violence. There are 1d200 gold pieces that it has taken from various victims as trophies over the eons. 
  6. This wizard's dark spirit serves three demons from Saturn and it has identity for 1d20 hours and is able to cast spells before this spirit is tormented by them and degenerates back into a simple wasteland ghost. It guards 1d4 minor relics.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Commentary On I2 Tomb of the Lizard King By Mark Acres For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

"The southlands of Eor are being despoiled. Merchants will no longer run their caravans on the main highway past the quiet village of Waycombe. The peasants are fleeing their lands, and all are demanding protection from the powerful Count of Eor. The goodly count has sent a troop of his trusted fighters to exterminate the brigands believed responsible for these outrages, but weeks have passed, and still there is no word from this force.
Now John Brunis, Count of Eor, has turned to you for aid. After taking counsel with the High Priest of Eor, he believes that a small party of cunning, bold adventurers may succeed where armed might has failed. You find yourselves faced with many mysteries!
Why has robbery suddenly erupted in the peaceful southlands? How could mere brigands be as powerful as the foes described to you by their numerous victims? Is this really mere robbery? Or is there some truth to the rumors, told only in hushed whispers, about the beginnings of a hideous plot being hatched by an ancient, vile, and evil foe of all mankind?"

After having a beer with a friend we started to dissect & get into the backbone of I2 Tomb of the Lizard King by Mark Acres. This is one of the 'I' series which stands for intermediate player characters; believe me I2 lives up to its for " large groups of characters of level 5-7, or smaller groups with higher levels." reputation which makes this a perfect module to run for convention set ups. While I've covered Tomb of the Reptile Men the focus here on my commentary is going to be a bit different.

There are modules that rely on getting the PC's right into the thick of things & Tomb of The Lizard King is one of those. Straight out of the gate the PC's are involved in a set piece encounter & delivered into the southlands of Eor . A friend of mine this evening gave me a heads up with an article called Modules and adventures in Mystara by Bouv which allows I2 to be placed within Mystara but also has a killer custom map of Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

But where is
Eor & the viallage of Waycombe in Hyperborea? Well that's an easy one because the pulpy action of I2 takes place within the fields of Vol. Eor is a decadent remnant near swamp gate. The lizard men are trying to muscle in on the human fodder because of the events of Port Greely. Humans are one of the resources for many of the inhuman races on Hyperborea. If the PC's have gone through N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God then the PC's should be ready to tackle I2 because they've raised up levels or their PC's are dead.

Waycombe is really one of the keys here bordering the Lug wastelands ancestral homelands of the lizard men & one of the last bastions of the serpent men before the Green Death wiped most of the evidence of the seat of their ancient empire on Hyperborea. The key here for running this is the sleight of hand set up of the module;"
Tomb of the Lizard King is a three-part adventure involving a wilderness trek, a battle against brigands, and a foray into the tomb of the Lizard King" This gives an incredibly dangerous guided tour of one of the underpinnings of the reptile cult on Hyperborea. I've used this to take the cult all the way to the old serpent men works on the Hyperborean steppes. This means that you get twice the dungeon crawling potential from one or two modules. I've said before that the lizard men on the whole are actually the forth tier down on the rung of inhuman slaves to the former serpent men kings on my version of Hyperborea. The villain at the heart of I2 Tomb of the Lizard King might not be wholly unique there might be others of his ilk and condition.

Because of the deep Greyhawk connection today that Tomb of the Lizard King has I've back tied in a star gate into the steppes of Hyperborea. Once again my version of Greyhawk is a sword & sorcery driven land not that drivel that passed off as the the western Flanaess of today. Because the county of Eor was 'officially' folded into Greyhawk, I used that knowledge to turn campaign matters & setting things on its ear by turning the realm of Eor into a decedent backwater with its own flavor & 'ahem' regional charm. A place where the reptile cult not only flourishes but continuous the way it has for centuries. Continuing what I said in my review of N1, The reptile cult should be a thinking man's enemy, they play for keeps & fit right into the Robert Howard/Clark Ashton Smith mold.

A faction of epic proportions that can challenge and lock horns with a fairly large group of players as I2 is designed to. Make no mistake Tomb of the Lizard King delivers but its only the beginning really for a dungeon master to take events to the next level. Even experienced players have told me that they dread this module with good reason. "Doug Cowie reviewed I2 favorably for Imagine magazine,[5] calling it a "one off exercise with various encounters occurring in widely differing settings" and praising the well-drawn maps.[5] Although he found the outline and "source of villainy" very similar to module N1, Cowie thought I2 was a better-presented adventure than N1 as it provides an "interesting setting, good NPCs, and some very dangerous underground encounters"" make note of those encounters because they can easily TPK a large party of experienced players with little effort. So be careful or not before running this classic for your players. I really wish that Mark Acres had done more AD&D modules of this quality, he was an incredible game designer and writer.  I2 Tomb of the Lizard King By Mark Acres remains a classic and mainstay of the old school hobby. Its accessible, easy to run, fun, and very dangerous everything I want from a sword & sorcery adventure.

Here are ten reasons why I2 Tomb of the Lizard King By Mark Acres

  1. Classic set up and easy adventure & campaign insertion into an old school set up. 
  2. A great module for large groups of players for an investigation style adventure with plenty of old school action and encounters. 
  3. Deadly and challenging encounters for mid level tier PC's
  4. Twist and turns for old school adventures & perfect set ups for sword & sorcery action. 
  5. Weird tales style monsters with room for expansion into further adventures with hooks built right into the adventure 
  6. A small sampler of Eighties AD&D first edition encounters and danger. 
  7. Corruption danger, and depravity in the countryside 
  8. A great weekend book end adventure for a mini campaign with you and ten of your friends. 
  9. Twisted and weird fun with lizard men 
  10. Plenty of treasure and danger to satifsy the old school gamers!  

Through The Green Door - The Islands of Purple Putresence - An Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Event

Roman senate door by antmoose

So last night I got together with Steve & his players for a bit of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyeprborea. This isn't my regular group of players so I was kinda with my back to the wall. Yeah well I did have couple of aces up my sleeve in the fact that I've been running a  weekly The Islands of Purple Putrescence game powered by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea first edition rpg engine rpg game. So out come my notes & we instantly begin with the PC's in the black magick market place from my regular game.
So Steve & his six players are in for a bad time when they ran into the skeleton man from Jupiter bounty hunter Tuff. Tuff has a love of control crystals & wields a radium pistol with deadly accuracy.Within moments they picked a fight with our bounty hunter & things started to go side ways. The party managed to make it out alive with a map that Tuff dropped & he went off to lick his wounds. But the map didn't belong to him as he was acting as an errant boy for an adventurer named Gideon. The map depicted an urban ruin in one of the lesser neighborhood belonging to the former Hyperborean 'house of Elr'. The party's cleric/scribe began to piece the history of this minor house of royals from before 'the Green Death.' The house of Elr were part of the 'life guild' & contributors to the growth of this end of the city. They were major importers/exporters of the healing arts & medical instruments so they had close associations with the deity 'El' which they took as a part of their name. They were a noble family that had blood ties going back all the way to Old Earth. Now someone named Gideon wants a 'treasure' deep within the ruins of the house.

Meanwhile all this sneaking around was too much for Grok the barbarian warlord & he marched right back over to Talis's house. He was interested in buying a control crystal for two Hyperborean artifacts. He pushed two of the wizard's bodyguards out of the way to deal directly with the wizard himself. Talis is a green skinned wizard surrounded by dozens of his animal women assassins, thieves, and operators. That didn't matter to our warlord & adventurer whose successful charisma role impressed the alien wizard with his bravo.

So the party of adventurers got the control crystal headed over to the house's 'ruins' but was a bit surprised when it turns out the house isn't quite as ruined as they thought. Meanwhile, Tuff has been listening from the shadows & follows the party. The party is confronted by a massive green door cut into a stone temple like mansion. The control crystal fits squarely in place & the massive door swings into darkness but the party hears the hum of machinery. That's never a good sign!

The adventurers were confronted with several strange Satanic robotic mechanisms of Old Hyperborea! They battled the hell beasts for what seemed like hours only to have their wizard & fighter snatched from within their midst and taken down, down several ramps into the bowels of the 'house of Elr'. Actually several lousy dice rolls did them in!
The party of adventurers hurried after their companions only to be distracted by the treasure house of Hyperborean relics around them!? After about ten minutes of examination they hurried down into the bowels of the house to find their companions drained of blood and put onto secret catacomb shelves.

The party's cleric/healer Ambrose of Hermes examined the strange way that the bodies were stored in the catacombs. He also saw the blood that the Hyperborean robotic mechanisms had taken from the bodies but that the bodies were still warm to the touch. There were signs of revivification that were possible but they were beyond his capabilities. His fellow adventurers were trapped in a living death like sleep. The rest of the adventurers were quite content to take some of the relics & leave! They'll be back another time to retrieve their fellow adventurers! They're just going to leave them to their fate at the moment!
So some of this I came up with from notes made from Venger Satanist's How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss book.

1d20 Pulp Encounters Within
The House of
'House of Elr'
  1. Giant skeleton wearing decaying armor of unknown design three of its ribs have been struck away and a +1 sword is stuck between his ribs. There are 300 silver piece of unknown design scattered on the floor. 
  2. There are several carved crystal chalices scattered across the floor each of the challices is worth about 100 gold pieces and there is dried green powder in the bottom of each of them. 
  3. A whirling dangerous Hyperborean flesh automaton confronts you and means you harm! It is angry, dangerous, and will murder anyone it gets a hold of. 
  4. A powerful double hit dice gray ooze comes up from a floor grate. 
  5. An animated giant suit of plate mail comes down a hallway the thing is covered with carbon scoring from numerous laser crossbow shots. It attacks on sight
  6. A small Hyperborean skeleton bears the marks of murder with a cheap dagger sticking out of its skull. 
  7. There are skeleton after skeletons walking around aimlessly here they don't attack but act confused and dazed. They're bones are covered in metal and worked through with strange broken mechanisms
  8. A gargoyle moves to attack you! 
  9. There are broken vases of strange chemicals and dusts all over the floor here they will animate within 1d6 rounds into an elemental whose very confused and angry! 
  10. A Hyperborean zombie stumbles down the hall dressed in a royal lady's gown! She seems very hungry! 
  11. 1d6 Hyperborean ghouls come out of a side room or hidden passage for lunch! You look very tasty indeed! 
  12. 1d100 silver pieces and broken coffer sits on the floor above is a green slime which grows from the ceiling 
  13. 1d20 broken alchemist's tools are on the floor & nearby are 1d20 gremlins who will be happy to eat you! 
  14. The zombie of some time lost adventurer stumbles and shuffles into view! He carries a strange weapon or tool of black metal but can't remember how to use it! Then bang a tremendous clap of thunder goes off! 
  15. Striges guard the entrance to the house shrine! There are 1d30 pieces of Hyperborean jewelry here. 
  16. 1d6 ghouls of Hyperborean descent are feasting on some fool in armor whose recently been here. He has 1d3 relics. 
  17. 1d3 skeleton warriors are playing dice with knuckle bone dice but will attack you for interrupting their game
  18. A massive zombie warrior stumbles to attack you! 
  19. Here a make shift shrine to Cthulhu has been set up and there are three gold bars as an offering do you dare disturb it! 
  20. A wild vampire who hasn't fed in centuries has gone insane and will attack the first person entering here! He guards ten thousand gold pieces worth of artifacts!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Commentary On N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

I was talking with my systems guy about Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & C1's blog entry yesterday. He was a bit put out because we're playing a lower level tier campaign at the moment involving Venger Satanis's Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence.
He was saying its not like there is a low level adventure that can really exploit the Hyperborean countryside? Well, actually there is but its not in the AS&SH line instead this is a classic AD&D adventure.
Terror by night! The village of Orlane is dying. Once a small and thriving community, Orlane has become a maze of locked doors and frightened faces. Strangers are shunned, trade has withered. Rumors flourish, growing wilder with each retelling. Terrified peasants flee their homes, abandoning their farms with no explanation. Others simply disappear. . .

No one seems to know the cause of the decay -- why are there no clues? Who skulks through the twisted shadows of the night? Who or what is behind the doom that has overtaken the village? It will take a brave and skillful band of adventurers to solve the dark riddle of Orlane!Heroes are not born their made in the pulpy fires of classic modules & this one has some really interesting twists & turns. First of all lets say that the events of N1 Against the Reptile Cult are not going to take place on the lizard coast but a bit further inland near Brigand's Bay.
The once thriving village of Orlane has an almost but not quite feeling about it akin to Innesmouth via Lovecraft with far more Robert Howard then HP Lovecraft. In the past I've gone with that sort of a feel when running this classic  & that's exactly how I'd run this classic now. Once again you've got the inhuman population exploiting the humans and that always works for motivating players.

user-friendly version of the Mainland Hyperborea map, usable by players and referees alike. You can download it now at the AS&SH  Resources Page.

Your going to need a fairly large group of players to run N1 with for AS&SH unless you as the dungeon master are willing to pare down some of the encounters, adventure elements, & other twists & turns that Douglas Niles deals out. I think it would be a shame to do so because there are so many good bits. There's also the potential for expansion for the reptile cult which I've done with N1 Against The Reptile cult when I inserted this classic adventure into Dark Albion.

Played right & this adventure can really wring out a large group of players as well as their PC's. The cult & its machinations can really run deeply through Hyperborea as a whole because of the troglodytes .
Yes these Basic D&D monsters are everywhere in D&D & yet no one seems to think that they could be far more useful as Lovecraftian horrors. I've used these guys time & again as the remains of Serpent men slaves. In fact the lizard men on the whole are actually the forth tier down on the rung of inhuman slaves to the former serpent men kings on  my version of Hyperborea. There are several key things to keep in mind here. One the adventure has be run with all of the adventure locations intact, two things turn very ugly very quickly when several key event's triggers are pulled and three this is in place a very lethal module especially in the latter half of Against the Reptile God. The town of Orlane and the adventure that surrounds it are really the stars of the adventure and because of its carefully written background its very much tied into Greyhawk's campaign setting. The DM is going to need to gut that connection or exploit it as I did with a star gate that runs over to Greyhawk. But my version of Greyhawk is a sword & sorcery driven land not that drivel that passed off as the the western Flanaess of today.

Make no mistake that the second the players find out the extent of the cult's infiltration of Orlane. Then its going to be an all or nothing situation. Dungeon masters need to be familiar with  the village and the cult's dungeon caves when all Hell breaks loose. In fact Doug Cowie reviewed the module in Imagine magazine noted that,"he was pleased with the fact that "the unknown adversaries do not tamely wait for the players to come and get them", but rather take the initiative if the players take too long in their investigation" And that's one of the key points when running N1 to take the PC's in hand & run the forces of the Reptile Cult as a thinking enemy. Don't dumb down these potential party enemies at all. Over the years I've run the cult as the inheritors of the Serpent Men's magical might & Lovecraftian tech on Hyperborea. The true serpent men see them as degenerate traitors.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, classic modules are classic for a reason and in this case its the whole package that works on many levels. Against the Cult of The Reptile God is a prime example of an old school module that delivers on many levels.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Commentary On C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan Adventure & Its Free Old School Resources

C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan has an aura of pulpy danger that seems to call to players like moths to an old school flame. Hidden treasure, danger, & some very weird old school flavor seem to add to trap laden old school play. But what if you want to place it within your favorite old school home game campaign setting? What about a more pulpy sword & sorcery angle?

Alright so let's quickly talk about the second part of this nebulous campaign idea that a friend of mine talked with me about over the Easter holiday. Steve has been poking around the the Vaults of Pandius website & came across another Paleologos article. This time it was the X9/C1 Savage Coast/Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan mash-up by Paleologos. 

So let's talk about what's at the heart of this little bit of Tamoachan magick, "However, given that module C1 is notable for its Mayan and Aztec/Toltec trappings, it would fit almost seamlessly into module X9 "The Savage Coast", which otherwise suffers from a rather lackluster finale." So this might mean that The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is simultaneously existing as both the the capitol of the Olman empire, which covered much of the continent south of Greyhawk & as a part of the Savage Coast in C1. There is a lot going on here where the "Central and South American flavour is masking far more that's bubbling below the surface of the adventure & the setting from Aztec &  Mayan cultures connects across a myriad of worlds. We already know that the Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith elements are in C1. But this connects the weird religion & culture of the the ancient Olman people of Greyhawk, based on the Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec peoples of Earth into a whole new light & turns them into a far greater menace for old school games. Could they have cults spreading like cancers across the planes?  This could help to explain the expansion as well as germination  of the Gibbering Mouther and other Shoggoth like monsters. That were brought with the Olman.

So what does this have to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea? Well a few things, first of all it might interconnect two or more AD&D or D&D B/X campaign worlds with Hyperborea. These connections might even be through the Olman who were originally colonists on one of the myriad versions of the Warden. There is a Easter Egg that I found in the Drivethrurpg entry on C1;"There's also a peculiar connection in C1 to a later Greyhawk adventure. Room 19 of "Shrine" contains a figurine of a spaceship called the "II-Nedraw." Since the ship that crashed in S3: "Expedition to Barrier Peaks" (1980) was based on the Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), this could suggest a connection between that spaceship and the Tamoachan ruins."  Could the Olman be simply colonists of the Hyperboreas who have come to be degenerate cultists spreading an Old One like religion across the planes & spreading a cancer like growth of dangerous plane sucking magick to various old school campaign settings?
Well they will be in my upcoming campaigns.

There are few things to remember about C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is a competition module for PC's five to seventh level. It was created for  the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tournament at the 1979 Origins International Game Expo (Origins '79). So players brought their best & brightest PC's to pit against the adventure location and the dungeon. Not only are the PC's in compitition mode against other parties but against the dungeon itself. The Olman designed the entire works as a sacrifice engine to the gods and it could be doing exactly that across all of those campaign worlds including Hyperborea. So where is the magical energy from those sacrifices going? Could the Olman be a far greater danger to the planes then anyone releases? I personally think so.

So my buddy Steve clued me to a few resources on the Vaults of Pandius website:
X9/C1 Savage Coast/Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan mash-up by Paleologos. 

"Mystaraizing" the Savage Tide: The Sea Wyvern's Wake

 which is a mash up that can be used to boast campaign in a totally weird direction. This mash up might be used with a Raiders! of The Lost Artifacts campaign but that's a whole other blog entry. But it can be used to pimp out Isle of Dread into this hot weird pulpy sweaty jungle sword & sorcery mess

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Free OSR Download For S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" For Your Old School Campaigns

So last night I was going through the Vaults of Pandius website for some research into one of my all time favorite modules S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth". Over the Easter holiday a fellow old school dungeon master clued me in on "Original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth - found in Karameikos? by Paleologos" 

The basis of the article is very interesting to me,
"The original version of module S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" was actually published for OD&D (see "The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth" ('76 Tournament Edition)) and as such, holds a tenuous connection with Mystara. In fact, the first page of the adventure states that "the caverns of Tsojconth are a nexus in probability, where several alternate worlds touch" and so a location on Mystara is quite plausible.
In searching The Piazza, I found a previous thread discussing Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth placement but this only concerned the AD&D version of the module, which added a substantial wilderness portion to the adventure. The earlier version was limited to a description of the lost caverns, only.

I've long been intrigued by an unlabeled cave symbol from the Cook/Marsh map of Karameikos. Could this be a suitable location for the lost caverns of Tsojconth?"
This basically takes one of the finest examples of AD&D sword & sorcery adventure & makes it into a bridge gap into several campaign settings at once. The author also has a sixteen page sourcebook that changes and mixes several classic TSR adventure modules into a unified whole.
This means that the evil of the terrifying Tharizdun as a setting-spanning elder evil of Lovecraftian proportions!

Let me try to explain very quickly why this is an incredibly wily feat of old school DMing. It takes the threat of  Tharizdun and expands it across the planes something that was implied but never delivered upon. Now that's changed. Her evil could spread across many planes of existence including Hyperborea and the module S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth"or at least this version of it could be used to bridge gap your PC's into a multitude of worlds if they survive. The question is will her evil spread? And will your PC's help it to or stop it dead in its tracks?

My thanks to Paleologos for this because S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" happens to be one of my favorite classic TSR era modules & the Fatal & Friends website has some scans from the  The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth ('76 Tournament Edition) for further history.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Some Commentary On The "Alpha Blue Rpg Campaign Manager" For Your Old School Sci Fi Campaigns

So Venger Satanis put together an  "Alpha Blue Campaign Manager"which basically let's you keep track of the sci fi elements of your Alpha Blue rpg sci fi references. This isn't that bad of a work sheet at all and in the words of the designer,"Specifically, I was imagining my sleazy sci-fi RPG Alpha Blue and how it's a mash-up of so many TV shows and movies.  It can be difficult to keep a wide variety of influences in your head while running a game.  Eventually, it becomes just one more thing to juggle.  However, instead of trying to keep another ball in the air, why not write it down?"
Actually this isn't a bad idea at all. It keeps things nice and organized whist in the midst of a game and its not just useful for Alpha Blue but Traveler or any other old school sci fi rpg.

So when it comes to campaign managers I've been using these for old school gaming ever since the Judge's Guild products & campaign notes way back in 77 or so. These were some of the first pieces of old school hard copy that we used to keep track of important campaign elements. These things can come in very handy for OD&D, Gamma World, Fasa Star Trek, Stars Without Number Style games, & of course Traveler.
It seems like its common sense to use this sort of arrangement but the number of dungeon masters who don't is pretty surprising. Yet in the middle of a game they get flustered when a player tries to point out an important NPC or two. All of this relates to adventure & campaign organization, on the whole sheets like this come in very handy. This can be true of science fiction or science fantasy games where you have tons of adventure elements in play during a campaign. Factions connections with NPC's and relations to who does what or knows whom is central to keeping events and things flowing smoothly.
So on my recommendation, I'd go and down load this little nifty piece of old school hard copy to keep your old school games flowing smoothly.
According to Venger, "The "Alpha Blue Campaign Manager" will also be included in the upcoming scenario High Stakes Q'uay Q'uar, but now's your chance to get it early."

You can grab this incredibly useful piece of real world hard copy right over here

'Are You Not Entertained?' Commentary On An OSR Combination of DDA1 Arena of Thyatis & Chaosuim's Thieves World 1981 Box Set As Fodder For Old School Campaigns

I got a chance to play catch up over the holiday with some very interesting old school dungeon masters whom I usually catch a beer or two with. We were talking about low level adventures & introducing sword & sorcery PC's into a higher level old school campaign setting without slaughtering them. There were some interesting discussions but one of the more interesting options that came up was using Thieves World Roleplaying Game (Boxed Set)  & DDA1 Arena of Thyatis to introduce the PC's into the urban wilds of the edge of the Rankan Empire. "Thieves' World is a role-playing game published by Chaosium in 1981, based on the Thieves' World series of novels." So its right in that old school Eighties Sword & Sorcery campaign melting pot.

In the original module the plot goes something like this;"the PC's become involved with a Thyatian senator and end up fighting in the Coliseum of Thyatis"
So basically we switch out the Thyatian elements  & insert in Rankan NPC's &  campaign elements instead.Why do this? Because this is a low level adventure & enables the PC's to climb the ranks & come to hate the Greco Roman aspects of the old school campaign world. There are samples of the type of dungeon crawling that one might find in a sword & sorcery world.

Here the PC's have a completely difference focus on a vile villain  and in this case its the Thyatian (Rankan) senator & end up fighting in the Coliseum of Thyatis (The Rankan Empire). By the time they get to the second module in the Legions of Thyatis series they'll be at least 2nd or 3rd level if they survive. Which means the second adventure module  Legions of Thyatis gives them a whole level bridge gap to deal with. "Legions of Thyatis contains a scenario in which the players continue to oppose a corrupt Thatian senator. The players have to venture into a labyrinth of catacombs to prevent the senator from eliminating the wards that protect Thyatis City from the monsters in the subterranean realm beneath it." So this takes the party of adventurers & PC's up to forth level. This is just in time to smuggle them into Sanctuary and its dangerous environs. Thieves World was completely shared world that worked along a Gygaxian NPC ecology. This makes it perfect sword & sorcery fodder by taking the PC's from the lower tier into the ranks of adventurers without whole sale BS slaughter. This is a chance for the PC's to be in the central lime light. It can also become a transition point for AD&D 1st edition adventures later on.

So why use gladiatorial games as a way of introducing PC's into an urban old school campaign box set environment like Sanctuary? There are several reasons for this; the bonding process of the arena is one aspect because it teaches the players to rely on one another even though any of them might die at any time,the stakes of play are higher in a sense, & as PC's they have the juxtaposition of the arena audience with the campaign city itself.
So what does this have to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea? Well quite a bit. Its very easy to add the Thieves World campaign setting as simply another country in the world of Hyperborea. Because the Thieves World campaign setting is humancentric the elements are all there to plug in and get going for play. All of the equipment and elements are there to simply start a game campaign going with the toss of the dice.
So here are ten more reasons why this combination of old school adventure campaign elements would work:
  1. Old school pulp play at its Eighties & Nineties best with low level play to start the PC's on their journey up the PC ladder. 
  2. Thieves World isn't that well known today among new players and neither is the DDA1 Arena of Thyatis so there's the element of surprise. 
  3. B/X & AD&D first edition goodness means that these modules could be used with your favorite retroclones and their easy to adapt. 
  4. The Thyatian (Rankan) senator is a great SOB NPC & players love to hate the NPC. It doesn't matter which players I run this one through they loath this guy. 
  5. The technological levels of Sanctuary never break the Sword & Sorcery basis of these adventures. 
  6. Because of the Greco Roman background these adventures are easy to adapt to the far flung edges of empire ala Dark Albion or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. 
  7. The DM can pull from real world history of the Roman Empire for added sword & sorcery punch to move their campaigns along. 
  8. There are not nearly enough Gecro Roman old school adventures and no I don't count Dark Sun because of its science fantasy or dark fantasy aspects even though you can pull from those campaign sources. 
  9. Thieves World is a rich & vibrate campaign setting but this could also work with The City State of the Invincible Overlord
  10. There is a ton of adventure ideas and replay with this old school hybrid campaign