Sunday, December 10, 2017

OSR Commentary - Using Classic Dungeons & Dragons Adventures With Weird Fantasy Gaming Systems

This blog got a mention on G+ thanks to +Brett Slocum  & in this case the topic was one that I've had a bit of experience with. How do you weird up a classic adventure module in the vein of Lamentations of the Flame Princess? The actual question comes from Dismaster FraNe;
'Let's say you have some classic modules (Caverns of Thracia, Keep on the Borderlands etc.)

How do you weird them up in a LotFP style?

I am running a classic fantasy dungeoncrawling (Tomb of the Serpent Kings) but the idea is to expand the campaign outside and in other places and dungeons along with the official LotFP ones.

My idea was to have a multidimensional universe with different places like Weird Early Modern Europe (the main LotFP setting) along with A Red And Pleasant Land, Vornheim, maybe Carcosa, and "fantasyland" (classic D&D fantasy, where the players now are).
I'd like to spice up fantasyland in a LotFP way though.'

Lamentations of the Flame Princess by James Raggi IV  is a very solidly designed gaming system & offers some unique challenges when running PC's through its gaunt of weird adventure mixed with actual real world history. The setting is a dark & very twisted pulped out Europe during the ages leading up to the age of   'Pike & Shot'
So where does this put a classic module like 'Keep on The Borderlands?' It puts the keep  right at center stage where the warfare of Keep of the Borderlands is a part of the wars of  raging across a war wary Europe.
'Player characters begin by arriving at the eponymous keep, and can base themselves there before investigating the series of caverns in the nearby hills teeming with monsters' Since this module was written & designed by G.Gygax himself  it seems that it might be out of place in in LoFP campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth if the module is set along the Black Forrest of Germany. The area has a rich history of mythology including fairy activity dating back thousands of years.
Warfare stirs up the ancient powers of fairyland & then its all bets off as the humanoid's activity blends into the background of the violence of the events of 'Better Then Any Man.' Why I'm talking about the events of Better Then Any Man? Because everything in that adventure takes place in Karlstadt as the center of Better Than Any Man & the home of the adventurers.
Make sure before running that adventure as a prelude to B2 that you visit this blog for some solid advice & resources for 'Better Then Any Man.'

The PC's are going to find out that something rather nasty is going on as they encounter an orc or groups of humanoids attacking a small village near the events of BTAM. This leads them into an encounter with the forces of the keep & the possible desperate situation of B2's fort's inhabitants. Remember the fort is a part of a backwater community. The PC's have just experienced the twisted reality of 'Better Then Any Man'. This is going to lead them into the Caves of Chaos which is not a part of our world but a part of fairyland. The humanoids are not what they appear but the damned souls of Rome's finest. In the 200 years between the reforms of Augustus and the rise of Septimius Severus the Roman army fought to expand the Empire and saw action in the dark forests of Germany. The Caves of Chaos claimed their souls & the generators of the place keep reincarnating them back as the slave troops of the supernatural forces of the caves. These poor bastards exist to slaughter, murder, and war. The PC's are going to need to end the madness & move on.
This adventure path leads directly into;
"The end of the road. A lonely fort stands on the banks of a mighty river. It is here the hardy bands of adventurers gather to plan their conquests of The Hill, the hulking mass that looms over this tiny settlement.
The Hill is filled with monsters, they say, and an evil witch makes her home there. Still, no visitor to The Hill has ever returned to prove the rumors true or false. The thrill of discovery is too great to pass up, and only the river stands in the way. The adventurers' boat is waiting!'B5 Horror on the Hill by Douglas Nile from 1983 at first doesn't seem to fit into the Lamentations of the Flame Princess aesthetic.  This is where there are two things to remember like B2 Horror on the Hill has a PC base of operations in this case Guido's fort & the events of this module are going to be taking place within an adventure location with connections to fairy. 
The infinite tower location from Better Then Any Man might well be connected with events of Horror on the Hill & its easy enough to replace Guido's Fort with the Keep from B2.

The goblins & hobgoblins are going to have to be much more dangerous & metal for Lamentations implying that perhaps the dungeon location is one that switches back & forth between the real world & reality. This is perhaps because the alien reality of fairy has in the past taken various places back to the unrealities of fairyland. Time runs different, babies are kidnapped & possibly eaten, the connections to the damned & dead are very real. All of the weird bits of the fairy legends are true & very dangerous. This is also going to mean that the realities of adventuring are going to have unforeseen consequences for the PC's. Treasures & relics taken might be cursed or turn to leaves. Lives of PC's wasted at the drop of a hat for the false promise of riches & perhaps the various Elves & Dwarves of LoFP long for fairy but are denied memories of it.
A vital clue or two might lead PC's into a time warp & gateway from B5 into England of 1620 & the events of No Salvation For Witches by Rafael Chandler . Why? Because the stop gap gives the PC's a chance to experience the horrors of the meddling of man kind with the 'forces of beyond'. It also gives the dungeon master a chance to connect the random demons of No Salvation for Witches with events of B5 Night's Dark Terror. Note that this adventure path is going to chew through a lot of PC's. This is alright because this is LoFP.

Because B10 Night's Dark Terror is a wilderness based adventure with lots of B/X campaign setting weirdness in it. According to the Drivethrurpg entry; ""Night's Dark Terror" marks the start of the second wave of Known World creativity, following the period from 1981-1986 when it was primarily the vision of Zeb Cook. It was also the third great touchstone for the setting, following its introduction in the D&D Expert Set and its unification in X10: "Red Arrow, Black Shield".  The adventure details many of the wildlands of the Grand Duchy of Karamekios and also introduces new peoples such as the ancient Hutaakans and the Iron Ring slavers. It extensively describes several major locations, such as the city of Threshold. A magic tapestry of the lands that appears within the adventure really helps to define B10 as the gazetteer for this part of the Known World. " This is fine because it marks B10 as being a perfect vehicle for an early Russian or Romanian historical adventure. This means it can be married up quite nicely with a secondary campaign setting that the players are not going to expect in the form of Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land or Zak S and James Edward Raggi IV  Death Frost Doom  In fact because of the wilderness crawl aspect of B10 both adventures can seamlessly fit into the whole cloth of the campaign & adventure path with none the wiser. Don't over explain the mysteries & weirdness the players will do all of the heavy lifting for you.

Hopefully by now in the campaign some of the adventurers are going to retire to Karlstadt or have taken over the keep & their ready to retire. Another generation of adventurers can take up the mantle at the point. So what might happen? Well new adventurer PC's means new opportunities & here I'd use England Upturn’d by Barry Blatt  as an adventure set during the English Civil War with an entirely new cast. Things are going to be very desperate & the various factions of this adventure means opportunity to run perhaps the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh trilogy right into the background with a far more Lovecraftian flare.

This secondary adventure path gives the dungeon master the opportunity to introduce Carcosa & Isle of the Unknown to the unsuspecting players. By dropping clues from England Up Turn'd some faction might want to mount expeditions to the fabled 'treasure islands'. By dropping  in X1 Isle of Dread but placing  the adventure on Carcosa  gives the DM the opportunity to watch the sheer panic.


This sort of an arch gives the DM plenty of opportunity to use Geoffrey McKinney's Isle of the Unknown. 
There are several things to keep in mind when threading in & out of this sort of a weird fantasy campaign. All of the LoFP products are not simply adventures but whole cloth source book which often have a real world history component.  This dark history version of Europe is the default setting for LoFP princess and lends a great deal of gravitas to the various Lamentations adventures. Dungeon masters should not ever feel constrained to not modify or edit either the classic era TSR adventures nor the various Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures as the whims of the players & the campaign dictate.
In fact part of my own inspiration for tonight's commentary & adventure path was inspired not by the usual Robert Howard's Solomon Kane but

Dark Agnes de Chastillon who might be thought of as the spiritual ancestor to the Flame Princess;
"Dark Agnes de Chastillon (also known as Agnes de Chastillon, Dark Agnes, Agnes de la Fere and The Sword Woman) is a fictional character created by Robert E. Howard and the protagonist of three stories set in 16th Century France, which were not printed until a long time after the author's death.
The character of Agnes was beaten by her father and almost forced into an arranged marriage. She avoids this by killing the bridegroom and running away. She meets Etienne Villiers, who at first attempts to sell her to a brothel, and Guiscard de Clisson, a mercenary captain who trains her as a swordswoman. When de Clisson is killed, Agnes heads for Italy with Villiers.
Like the later character Red Sonja, who was based on another Howard character, Red Sonya of Rogatino, Agnes has red hair and a short temper. But while Red Sonja's skill in the handling of swords is a divine gift, Agnes's skill is a mixture of innate talent and training.
The character may be partially based on Novalyne Price.[1] Fictional prototypes include Jirel of Joiry, created by C. L. Moore. Moore was enthusiastic about the first of Howard's stories:[2]
My blessings! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed “Sword-Woman”. It seemed such a pity to leave her just at the threshold of higher adventures. Your favorite trick of slamming the door on a burst of bugles! And leaving one to wonder what happened next and wanting so badly to know. Aren’t there any more stories about Agnes?"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

1d6 Random Lemurian Death Angels & Ghosts Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

There are places in the wastelands that seem abandoned by time,suspended in another age, & left alone by all. No animals live in these places, the air is still & stale, it seems as if these places are forgotten by all. Most adventurers see these places as perfect picking grounds for relics, treasure, & loot. But locals &  veteran adventurers know better.
These are abodes of Death & her minions, entropy has long since left these places behind, time has slipped its mortal coil here, & now they are the lairs of forces of horror & the end of chaos.

artwork from Welcome images here

Those entering these places will smell the stale air which has the smell of vanilla & an under current smell of the faded scent of freshly cut roses. After 30 rounds or so time will seem 'off'' & colors of objects, buildings, & even small items will seem to fade.
After fifteen rounds the grey & lifeless corpses of the former inhabitants will manifest & these announce the arrival of a ghost or angel of Death. These manifestations will politely ask if the PC's have come to die & take advantage of her services? If the PC's have taken any items or treasures from these places the dungeon master  consider them cursed for they are heirlooms of Old Earth. If nothing is taken & the ghost or angel of Death is not attacked & treated politely with the utmost respect she may answer a few questions & grant a boon prophecy for the party.  She may invite a member of the adventurer's party to play a game of chance such as cards or chess for a member of the party's life or for a great treasure in her possess. Those who win such contests have no fear of the curse of Death. Those who are foolish enough to attack a minion or ghost of Death attack these entities as if they were lichs because some of these things are. Those necromancers who seek the path of lichdom sometimes trod a modified path with its origins in 'The Lemurian Death Tenants' a group of scrolls that allow one to serve the negative material plane's powers & Death herself. To obtain these one must find an abode location & petition one of these entities for them. Upon completion of study they will fade back into the clutches of these entities.

Welcome image from here

Many of these abode locations sit outside of time & space crossing into several places & eras at once. These entities enjoy picking and choosing their visitors for they sometimes lure adventurers into their abodes to parlay with a mission or side quest for certain objects or other esoteric targets. They do not see themselves as 'evil' but rather fulfilling an enviable public service. They cause the end of eras & cycles of time to move on. Death is a small mercy to mankind & near humanoid kind.
Once per year they may take on the guise of mortal flesh for one solid year & a day. Some manifestations have parented bloodlines & families across the dimensions. Often times these are some of the most accomplished necromancer & clerical families whose traditions are steeped deeply in the lore of death & undeath.

A simple monster summoning or necrotic summons spell will call one of these entities up but they are not bound by many of the strictures of necromancy. They hate being taken from their charges, abodes, and holy duties. Many necromancers may pilgrimages to the spirits of Death's abodes which are far safer means to approach them.  Much of our knowledge of these spirits and their habits comes from a lost Lemurian order of death priests & necromancers.

1d6 Random Lemurian Death Angels
& Ghosts Encounter Table

  1. A six armed minion of Death who was a priestess of a goddess of sex & love. Her village was cut down by plague when she encountered her first angel. Now she has made the pilgrimage into the sacred lichdom after the death of her old goddess. She guards the remains of a large city & its own holy treasures. She often has adventurers find artworks and artists who are needed in the afterlife & underworld. 
  2. Ar'ru The Sacred Skeleton Srur - This weird triple armed warrior of Death was a druid until his grove was cut down by inquisitors three thousand years ago. Now he collects the heads of those who summon death spirits from their sacred duty. He hates those who defile innocents and children with a vengeance. 
  3. Silas Com - This ghost of Death was a necromancer who crossed over when he took the blow for his master a necromancer of an almost god like level. Now he watches over an ancient city of necromancers at the end of time. He often employs adventurers to save works of art from the end of a country or civilization. 
  4. Trus Ran - Master chess player & former necromancer whose skill at playing reality is now matched by his skill at taking down demon cults who spread the will of Orcus. The demon lord  disrupts the balance of things in many dimensions. Adventurers are employed to help in his sacred duties. 
  5. Raore Queors - The sacred general ghost of Death employs adventurers to bring him those warriors & wizards of incredible skill to add to his armies. He fights in the Grand Games of Death often against Odin & other gods of War. His skill guards the planes of death & the underworld against the incursion of dangerous demonic forces. 
  6. The Last One - A ghost of a small alien who works in the employ of Death against the most dangerous of planar forces especially those who destroy the houses of Death which hold the most dangerous wizards & criminals of the gods. She often employs adventurers to bring back the most dangerous escapees from the Underworld prisons.

    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.

    (He could but thwart it with creative mace. . . .)
    And now it rose about the heavenly Base,
    Mordant at pillars rotten through and through
    Of Matter's last, most firm abiding-place.

    Bastion and minaret began to nod,
    Till all the pile, unmindful of His rod,
    Dissolved in thunder, and the void Abyss
    Caught like a quicksand at the feet of God !
    The Abyss Triumphant  (1912)
    by Clark Ashton Smith

Blood Soaked Murder In The Marketplace - Olathoë' Session Report Five

So while we watch the snow come down here in Connecticut I played catch up by phone with my players & had a bit of a teleconference & quick play with my 'Old Earth' campaign. Old Earth is a setting where Hyperborea has been removed from Earth, the clock is ticking for the return of the Great Old Ones, & the lesser Lovecraftian Earth races have had a series of protracted wars with humanity. We use a combination of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg system.

The PC's have just made it into the 'Western Wasteland  Outpost' market place & there started hearing rumors of war. The populace is fearing invasion by mutant & raider armies at any moment. The PC's are circulating among the populace & they spotted a very familiar face among the market goers. A renegade assassin from the city of  Olathoë in the employ of a very familiar anti paladin. As soon as he was spotted he bolted into a crowd of market goers & the PC's gave chase.

Now the players are more then a bit paranoid about a cell of assassins operating out of the 'Western Wasteland  Outpost'. What or who are these assassins & what is there connection to the
'Alpha  Gnophkehs'.

The assassins melted but the players saw a couple more pieces of insect style graffiti that they had left behind. A group of bards & storytellers were the last thing the PC's found just as an arrow came flying from a nearby bolt hole.

Things are moving along nicely in the game campaign setting,  system wise  Adventurer, Conqueror, King adds a nice touch of gravitas to the whole affair. Pretty soon I'm thinking of running Domains At War for the invasion for the coming invasion & Lovecraftian warfare.

Meanwhile I've been quietly watching over at Rpg Pundit' s blog while he has recently announced the release of  the Lion & Dragon rpg. This title is an OSR medieval authentic system up coming this coming week.  This is going to be right up my alley folks!

One of the things that I'm finding is that the good quality OSR systems offer a wide variety of options for both the dungeon masters & players alike. This makes play both exciting & varied enough to keep play going for years.

Next game will the player's PC's get taken out by the assassins? What is there connection to
Raz Thru? What about the upper strata political corruption that the players are speculating about & who hired the assassins in the first place? Find out next game!

1d8 Random Wasteland Warriors & Adventurers Encounter Table For Old School Games

Wastelands are breeding grounds for the weird, strange, & just plain dangerous. Places of violence that attract the kind of men & women that high adventure calls. These warriors of the wastelands are a rare breed attracted to the wildness & wanton ruination that accompanies much of the landscape. These are men & women adventurers of unique aspect who wander the wastelands in search of adventure & the next score.

There is a 30% chance that these wanderers of the wastes were employed as mercenaries in one of the many local brush fire wars. These conflicts eat warriors & their fighting prowess up with rapid fire wars conflicts. The spoils of war have run out and these veterans have turned to the life of adventuring. There is a 20% chance of a wizard or warlock being among such rabble. Many local tribes look down on and will chase away such adventurers. They see these rabble for the scum they are as potential sources of possible violence & people whose profession are the ways of warfare.

There is a 40% that when encountering these various warriors that they may be opening to acting as hirelings for the party. They often have very 'colorful' backgrounds & histories with a 15 % chance of encountering an NPC adventurer with a murderous blood vengeance upon a wasteland adventurer. Wasteland warriors & wanderers always seem to attract violence & dramatically weird events with their very presence.

Wastelanders often have deep associations with local gangs of cut throats, bandits, murderers, and worse. These outlaws often use reputations of the wastelanders to foster their own reputations. There is a 20% chance of a wastelander having a relic or magic item. These are often used to bargained with if their lives are in danger or used when supernatural enemies show up. There is also a 10% chance that these adventurers will have type B treasure or better if they are 3rd level fighters or better.

1d8 Random Wasteland Warriors
& Adventurers Encounter Table

  1.  Truu Ro & his party of adventurers are actually a tribe of time lost survivors who have ended up in the wastelands. They have sold their services as mercenaries to other adventurers and have made a tidy profit killing outlaws and collecting bounties. 
  2. Brabarus Russ - Russ is a murderer of the highest caliber and works with several groups of adventurers as a professional assassin. She made her way here from her home world across the cosmos. She has acquired several contracts in recent years by simply observing local politics.
  3. Georgus The Bold - This warrior is the head of several large mercenary families that farm their services out to the local black market, assasination guilds, and has made his money from the adventure opportunities afforded her. 
  4.  Grut The Mighty is actually the head of a local tribe of warriors who often raid money lender caravans.The locals want to know if this barbarian is building an army of professionally trained merc troops. He often raids lone travelers. 
  5.  Truss - An android warrior from the far future that is actually a 5th level fighter with a terrible past who is now committing crimes in the wastelands to cover his actual assassinations of key players in the local government positions while taking the treasures and relics for his group. 
  6. Fel The Amazing  is actually a warlock of incredible power that has thrown his lot in with the wrong crowd. He has become a jaded almost demonic figure with the wasteland community with a passion for collecting valuable artworks. 
  7. Kalus The Cat - This strange almost cat like mutant humanoid might be a traveler from another world or another dimension. She has a band of misfit warriors 2nd level who take it upon themselves to rob and steal from the locals. 
  8. The Grinning Skull is a local home grown wasteland adventurer whose got his tendrils throughout the wasteland underworld. He has amassed a sizable fortune through racketeering & running deadly raids on travelers.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

1d6 Random Petty Barbarian Warlords NPC's Table For Your Old School Campaigns

There are always those who live on the fringes of the map, those who refuse to settle down into civilization's ways  lest they become soft & lose the razor edge of being a warrior, bandit, or worse. These men & women are laws unto themselves & Heaven help those who cross those under their protection. These leaders often have to be hard to protect those under their wing from the scourge of the wastelands & the dark forces of the supernatural.

There is a 60% chance of these minor warlords having access to a wizard, shaman, witch doctor, or seer of power. These warlords rely on the magick of a minor wizard or hedge sorcerer to warn them of danger to their tribe or forces. Often these barbarian rabble are made up of a motley crew of outsiders, strangers, outlaws, bandits, and escaped convicts. They often have deep ties to the local thieves guild or a sect of the assassins fraternities or lodges.

There is a 40% chance that for every five or so people there will be a family of 2nd level bandit fighters or brigands. These will have type B loot from raids earlier in the month. There is a 20% chance of them having some minor relic or artifact not even realizing what it is. Knights,cataphracts, & even the occasional paladin sometimes take up this life often because of the shifting political scenes of their countries. These armored warriors are often the leaders of groups of veteran fighters who take up the bandit or warlord  life style.

There is a 10% chance that any of these groups will have type C or better treasure from booty and loot that that will be guarded with a full force of 1st thru 3rd level fighters.

1d6 Random Petty Barbarian Warlords NPC's Table
  1. Ramar Signhi 4th level fighter   - The head of the local resistance movement heads up a desparate gang of cut throats who use some nearby help from the local wizard's guild now & again. He may call upon 1d20 1st level heavies. 
  2.  Raracria The Wise - A 6th level warlock of the blackest stripe of evil, he raids local towns and schools for kids to sell on the slave block. He is assisted by  five  3rd level fighters.He has under his command over thirty warriors and a wizard. 
  3. Stern The Destroyer - This odd human warrior control of the local's gangs as well as his personal borders on a religious fanaticism. There are over 70 members of his gang of cut throats and criminals at his command. 
  4. Zelta Xix - This Amazon warrior is the chief to over 60 gang and brigands under this Amazon's control.She seeks a particular demonic artifact and will kill to get it. 
  5.  Trura The Black Hearted - This evil vile villain is in the employ of a local demon and those whom his men slay have their souls transported to the fiend.This warlord has excellent NPC forces and can rally over a dozen  warriors into his employ. 
  6.  Trus The Barbarian - Trus is an ancient warrior of a mostly extinct tribe of beserkers & thieves who seek to conquer their ancient homeland whist relieving any travelers of valuables that they come across. He has at his command over 15 crack warriors of third level.

The Bloody Rites & Rituals Of The Flesh Rippers of Mu For Your Old School Campaigns

As the legacies of the old world die away, new horrors have come to replace them among them are a secretive Ebony Lodges Of Mu. The lodge is composed of thirty three brothers & sisters all survivors of Mu who were hidden in the interior of the Earth before 'The Fall of The Ancient Ones'. These survivors used arts of the blackest stripe to hide among the human societies of 'Old Earth' between the spaces of reality's skein. With the falling away of the old world the cult of the flesh rippers is flourishing once again at unprecedented numbers of cultists & monsters of the worst kind.

These thrice damned shamans & priests serve several dark demonic entities who have taught them dangerous black arts through the centuries. These cult cells flourish at the remotest corners of society fueled by murder & outrageous crimes. Those wishing to join in the Ebony Lodges Of Mu must make a blood sacrifice of a loved one or someone precious to the caster this is seen as commitment to the path of the lodge. The potential member is then spirited away via teleportation to a meeting with the senior members of the lodge where a further sacrifice of one point of permanent wisdom is made to the dark gods of the lodge. The lodge member is given five animal skins to choose from ala the monster section of the retroclone system of the dungeon master's choosing.
The member then chooses between these five skins & magically these skins become a false part of the member's black soul. From this moment on the member forever more belongs to the lodge & their soul is forfeit to the forbidden gods of the lodge. Once on each new moon the lodge member must ritually murder someone in the name of their lodge's forbidden deities. There is a 70% chance that by using the bloody magicks of  the Ebony Lodges Of Mu the member will develop homicidal tendencies & want to commit a murder every two weeks.

Unlike werewolves or beserkers these flesh rippers are able to choose between five animal shapes & within five to ten rounds assume these false animal forms. They gain all of the abilities of the chosen form & several more powers from their connection to the negative material plane. These automatically involved once the animal or a half man form is assumed; they include: claws at as a +2 weapon,
immunity to normal fires & cold, taking half damage from non magical weapons, a gaze attack which acts as a charm spell three times per day with a ten foot radius, & the ability to become  ethereal three times per day. The armor class & hit points are the same as the animal forms assumed.
There are several dark prices to pay for these powers:

  • The drawbacks of these abilities include only being able to assume an animal form for five hours a day. Should the flesh ripper continue within their assumed form for more then that there is a 60% chance of them fading from reality & their dark god's minions claiming their souls before their appointed time. 
  • The flesh ripper is a disciple  of dark magick & must be invited into a home, lodge, tent,etc. to claim a victim otherwise they are barred from entering by the laws of their own rites.
  • Any shaman, priest, cleric, of a powerful deity  may rebuke them from a house hold or location for a day & a night.
  • Should they be seen by ten or more people in broad daylight the chaotic nature of their magics may warp & twist them into showing their true forms in reality. The flesh ripper will need a wisdom roll to assume their animal forms again & gain their benefits again. 
  • There is a 40% chance of the flesh ripper fading from reality or being caught in the other dimensional tides of the Outer Blackness if they abuse their powers for 1d6 years or more. Those who become veteran members of the Ebony Lodges Of Mu must return to them for the inner lodge secrets.
Many tribes upon 'Old Earth' have instinctive hatred for these murderous shape shifters & have developed their own internal forces for dealing with them. Such a group will consist of a ranger, several experienced fighters, a wizard & or shaman, plus a knight or paladin if such are available. The Ebony Lodges Of Mu have their own alien agenda for their members & often send members on estoretic missions of mayhem & blood letting against certain targeted tribes or targets. Their reasons & agendas are as alien as the methods they use to recruit new members.

There is said to be great enmity between the Ebony Lodges Of Mu & certain tribes of Keltic warriors, Picts, & a very militant tribe of Amazons on Old Earth.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

1d8 Random Alien Treasures of The Underworld Table For Your Old School Campaign

When the empire of Atlantis sank beneath the waves the spirits of the citizens were ripped from reality & thrown into the Underworld. There are treasures & relics left behind by the spirits, ghosts, & specters of the ancient dead. Dungeons often have connections & entrances into the Underworld, these spirits leave these relics behind to form a connection to reality.

These relics are often very valuable to necromancers, dark wizards, & evil cultists. Many of these artifacts retain the negative planar signatures of the Underworld these relics often have an aura similar to many illusions of valuable treasures or relics. Anyone catching sight of these relics for 1d8 rounds the victims will have to save vs wands or they may develop an unhealthy obsession with these items.
Many kings or governments have inner court inquisitors who specialize in these types of objects because these objects can be used in rites of foreseeing the future or rituals for contacting the dead.

Some of these relics count as cursed items, they have incredible echoes & auras of Death about them. These items turn up again & again by circumstance or coincidence into the PC's possession. A remove curse spell will remove the cursed legacy of these items.

1d8 Random Alien Treasures of The Underworld Table
  1. A set silver pins from Atlantis worth 7,000 gold pieces used in the rites  summoning the minions of the gods. These items respond to wizards who have the genetic inheritance of Atlantis or of Deep One heritage. 
  2. Beautiful funerary silver service from Lemuria worth 10,000 gold pieces that belongs to a family high priests of Nyarlathotep.
  3.  Gold platonic solids belonging to the temple of Nodens, these objects are worth 70,000 gold pieces and were used in the summoning of Night Gaunts
  4. A series of  beautiful diamond necklace belonging to an order of  priestesses of  Shub Niggurath worth 70,000 gold pieces. These necklaces are used to contact the queens of the ghouls and speak with the dead. 
  5. Pearl covered skulls of primitive ape men worth about 50,000 gold pieces, these skulls are used to contact the goddess of the lake. 
  6. Gold covered skull jaw bone that are used in the summoning of  Mordiggian worth 60,000 gold pieces. These items can be used in mass  summoning of ghouls 1d20.
  7. Chalice made of wood covered in platinum used in the summoning of the dark young of  Shub Niggurath & the ancient wood elements not seen since the days of Mu. 
  8. A beautiful well made mirror by alien tendrils of the Dark Spawn. This mirror shows any nearby dimension doors and can be used in alien rites for summoning the Dark Spawn. It also can be used to speak with the Atlantean dead.Worth 70,000 gold pieces

Between us lies an ancient fear;
Before me, in thy troubled eyes,
A shadow flees as flees the nymph,
Tremulous with the faun's surprise.

Hard silence like a stifling hand
Withholds the word we fain would say;
Over us lies the dreamt caress
Transfixèd with a dear dismay.
The Barrier  (1923)
by Clark Ashton Smith

1d10 Random Alien & Lovecraftian Menaces From Within The Vampire's Corpse Table For Your Old School Campaigns

There are things that survive the killing of a major undead horror such as a vampire especially around Christmas time. The true nature of these horrors is revealed in this world & the alien negative material plane. Parasites, alien things, and worse that live within the bodies of the lords of the undead reveal themselves. PC's should be aware of task that they take on for themselves when one of these monsters is destroyed.

Efficiunt Daemones, ut quae non sunt, sic tamen quasi sint, conspicienda hominibus exhibeant.
(Devils so work that things which are not appear to men as if they were real.)
HP Lovecraft
The Festival 1925

Sometimes vampires  journey  to the far edges of reality or worse. They often bring back invasive species of supernatural or preternatural infestations that can cause plagues that ravage local villages, or even the populations that they feed on. Adventurers may be called in to deal with such infestations because they have no connection to the local community. Vampires often have extensive treasures, relics, and more because of their undead 'immortality' & connection to the supernatural realms. Wizards who showed especially good service to their Lovecraftian gods are sometimes 'rewarded' with the condition of undeath & vampirism.

Parasites & weird lifeforms found in the corpses may not exceed 2 hit points and can be menaces in their own rights. Alien things that can cause infestations, plagues or worse. Cure light wounds or remove curse spells will outright destroy such horrors as well as holy water which will act as acid on the flesh of these monsters. These sorts of horrors will seek out a host as soon as possible to avoid the rays of the sun. They are mostly AC8 or 9 but have a move of 10" per round.

1d10 Random Alien & Lovecraftian

Menaces From Within A  Vampire's Corpse Table
  1. 1d10 Black slugs from beyond that will animate a corpse or living host as a Ju Ju zombie. They are completely alien & weird. 
  2. 1d6 alien macro life forms that spread 'The Red Death' as they infect hosts with this horrid plague. 
  3. 1d8 black bat like  life forms that enter in through the host's mouth and create animated plague wraiths. They spread a cancerous form of an alien disease. 
  4. 1d4 alien life forms the size of a small lap dog that bite, claw, and try to spread a horrid form or rabies or Ghoul plague. 
  5. 1d8 black goo like mini black puddings that will slowly change those they bite with form of wasting disease that turn the victims into B/X shadows within 1d6 hours 
  6. A strange colour life form exits the vampire's rib cage will seek to drain 1d6 victims of life force before spreading to another village or county within 1 mile. 
  7. 1d10 parts & pieces of the vampire come to undead life on their own and crawl off to bite & claw others with a form of least zombism creating 1d10 minor zombies or skeletons. 
  8. The skeleton of the vampire breaks free of the corpse & becomes a menace in its own right having a more twisted & destorted version of the damned soul of the vampire. It will seek to create 1d6 others of its kind. The skeleton is weirdly spongy & twisted in odd ways. 
  9. 1d8 alien organs burst from the corpse on weird angel like miniature wings & seek to create 1d6 ghouls of strange & hungering aspect. These organs can be used in dangerous necrotic magic. 
  10. The alien shadow essence that inhabited the vampire is now free to wreck mayhem & seeks to infect the countryside with its evil. It will seek to create 1d10 other shadows from the souls of nearby villagers or victims to consume & come back to quasi life.
Now as the twilight's doubtful interval
Closes with night's accomplished certainty,
A wizard wind goes crying eerily,
And on the wold misshapen shadows crawl,
Miming the trees, whose voices climb and fall,
Imploring, in Sabbatic ecstacy,
The sky where vapor-mounted phantoms flee
From the scythed moon impendent over all.

Twin veils of covering cloud and silence, thrown
Across the movement and the sound of things,
Make blank the night, till in the broken west
The moon's ensanguined blade awhile is shown....
The night grows whole again....The shadows rest,
Gathered beneath a greater shadow's wings.
The Eldritch Dark  (1912)
by Clark Ashton Smith

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Review & Commentary On B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment From Necrotic Gnome Productions For Your Old School Campaigns

So Gavin Norman is at it again with the second in the B/X Essentials series, this time he's tackling PC classes & equipment in 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'.
The pdf only clocks in at forty four pages but distills down the essence & spirit of B/X Dungeons & Dragons down to its components with style, grace, & some excellent artwork throughout. The layout is up to the standard that we saw in the first installment of the series, 'B/X Essentials: Core Rules. '

If you want to check out the rules for both titles there are no artwork versions of both
'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' &  
'B/X Essentials: Core Rules ' available. Everything here is boiled down into its full soul of the B/X rules whist retaining all of the good solid system that will please even the hardcore B/X Dungeons & Dragons addict such as myself. All of your favorite PC classes are here along with some nifty editing to round out & rarefy the system kinks. The whole is more then the sum of its parts allowing players to deal with the only the essentials of the Basic D&D system.

The layout is well done and everything seems very top draw with efforts on the author's part to keep the whole of its parts running in a smooth & sustained style for easy of play at the table. The author/designer has smoothed away some of the play ambiguities of earlier editions & clarified the whole for a quick & easy style of old school system. Mr.Norman let's the audience know where & when he's chosen his rulings with this book. The layout is well rounded enabling the reader to grasp the system easily and with a full flourish for old school play.
There is some solid artwork throughout the product but I really wish that one or two items featured in the artwork were available in the equipment but I have a feeling those will be in the monsters & treasures book. So what can be done with
'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'? Well a few things since there are clarifications, edits, etc. throughout the book old school system play is going to be quicker & easier at the table top.
Also the B/X Essential line is open game content enabling DM's to publish their own add ons for the system making this a true retroclone in every sense of the word. It also means that if someone doesn't have access to B/X Dungeons & Dragons these titles are going to be the next best thing.

This also means that all of the old favorites of old school play such as fighter, magic user, cleric, & thief are available for quick set up & play but with a campaign setting of the dungeon master's creation. The Essentials line is perfect for plug & play with other B/X style retroclone adventures that are already on the market. I can already hear the nay sayers on the fact that the OSR doesn't need another retroclone system & product line on the market. But this is a bit different with it being several cuts above the run of the mill material already on the OSR market. But is 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' necessary? In a word I think its a vital product to bring to the OSR market because its a true retroclone in both spirit & content.
The content here is top drawer quality in my opinion and this is one not to pass up. The production quality, editing, and solid presentation is very well done. I'd give this a five stars and there are already others who agree with my assessment.

There's a lulu publishing version of the B/X Essentials core rules out now. 
If your a fan of Gavin Norman's Necrotic Gnome productions and creations then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of   'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'.
Solidly done, easy to use, and a pleasure to have at the table,
'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' is a five out of five product to dive into & solve that B/X Dungeons & Dragons itch in a low cost, clearly defined, edited, and solidly presented way!

You Can Grab

'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'
Right Here!

OSR Commentary - 'A Very Different Ecology For 'The Troll' In Dungeons & Dragons & Retroclone Games'

If there is one monster that I love to use as a cross point in my games its trolls from Dungeons & Dragons, this goes all the way back to original Dungeons & Dragons. For me 'the troll' as monster are the perfect cross point  between the Arthurian legends & Swords & Sorcery style games.

Maybe because I read Three Hearts & Three Lions at an early age along with many of the Arthurian romances plus  C.L. Lewis's Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. Couple this with a huge swath of Robert Howard's Conan, classic era Marvel comic books & other sundry Sword & Sorcery paperbacks. The one constant in many of these sources was the appearance of the troll.  The troll as a monster was well established in OD&D thanks to Paul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions.

"In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, trolls are depicted as eight-feet tall creatures, man-eating creatures which are almost impossible to kill, since their bodies immediately re-knit and repair any damage, however severe. Even beheading a troll is of no avail - he would simply pick up his head and place it back on his neck and within a moment be "as good as new". A troll's only vulnerabilty is to fire - the only way to kill one is to cut him to pieces and burn each and every one of them before they had a chance to re-knit."
That quote is from the Wiki entry on trolls in popular culture we get a pretty consistent view of them in popular culture from Three Billy Goats Gruff, right on through the comedy series Ugly Americans.
Trolls are ugly, very dangerous, & seem to be classified with giants from Scandinavian legend & mythology.
"A troll is a class of being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.
Later, in Scandinavian folklore, trolls became beings in their own right, where they live far from human habitation, are not Christianized, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Depending on the source, their appearance varies greatly; trolls may be ugly and slow-witted, or look and behave exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them."
So how does this relate to the popular monster of Dungeons & Dragons? I've noticed, there are tons of  species of troll based around various elements, geologies, & planar conditions; "In Dungeons & Dragons, the Trolls are depicted as tall skinny humanoids with long noses, rubbery skin, a regenerating ability, and a weakness to fire. Other types of Trolls include the Black Trolls, Blood Trolls, Cave Trolls, Crystalline Trolls, Desert Trolls, Fell Trolls, Fire Trolls, Forest Trolls, Giant Trolls (which is a crossbreed between a troll and a Hill Giant), Giant Two-Headed Trolls (which is a crossbreed between a troll and an Ettin), Gray Trolls, Ice Trolls, Mountain Trolls, Rock Trolls, Scrags, Slime Trolls, Spirit Trolls, Stone Trolls, Tree Trolls, War Trolls, and Wasteland Trolls. In addition, they keep the canine-like Trollhounds as pets in their tribes."
Trolls have three things going for them,the ability to adapt to any conditions they're put in, the ability to regenerate from any damage, and an almost artificial violence & ferocity toward others.

Many of the giants & trolls of Arthurian legend are far closer to the classic Giant Troll from the Fiend Folio Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. A giant troll is a cross between a troll and a hill giant, resulting in a troll over 10 feet tall. Once again we've got a species of monster whose close but not quite human living & mating with other monsters to produce another species. This can't be simply random chance, I'll postulate that perhaps the classic troll species  is a product of an ancient experiment going wrong. Sure I'm not the first to say this but there's a bit more to it. The mythological weakness to 'sunlight turning trolls to stone' & fire is troubling but we'll get to that.

Erol Otus from the AD&D Fiend Folio a classic piece of artwork.

I think that the answer for the origin point for the modern  troll species might actually be found in the original Three Hearts & Three Lions book by Paul Anderson.
"This world is divided between the forces of Chaos, inhabiting the "Middle World" (which includes Faerie), and the forces of Law based in the human world, which is in turn divided between the Holy Roman Empire and the Saracens."
This arrangement of the planes is definitely artificial as we see reading through the novel. But its important to note that Faerie plays a central role in the Paul Anderson novel in terms of both secondary characters & the antagonist's forces. The forces of Faerie are fickle at the best of times towards mankind & downright malevolent at the worst of times.

Looking into the legendary background of  classic mythological Faerie nature spirits & Elves  I came across tid bit on Wiki ;"Another belief is that the fairies were an intelligent species, distinct from humans and angels.[37] In alchemy in particular they were regarded as elementals, such as gnomes and sylphs, as described by Paracelsus.[38] This is uncommon in folklore, but accounts describing the fairies as "spirits of the air" have been found.[39] The belief in their angelic nature was common in Theosophist circles"

If we look deep into classic mythology primal Chaos was one of the first things to exist; "In Greek mythology, Chaos (Greek: Χάος, "Chasm")[1] was the first thing to exist: "at first Chaos came to be" (or was)[2] "but next" (possibly out of Chaos) came Gaia, Tartarus, and Eros (elsewhere the son of Aphrodite).[3] Unambiguously born "from Chaos" were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night)" its also a powerful force of occult energy. The troll species is always associated with giants, or humanoid kind along with humans. We even  find this connection  in J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series; "In The Lord of the Rings franchise, there were different types of trolls ranging from Stone Trolls (which turn to stone when exposed to sunlight), Two-Headed Trolls, Hill Trolls, Cave Trolls, Mountain Trolls, Snow Trolls, and the Olog-Hai (the type of Trolls that can withstand sunlight)."

Once again we've got that elemental adaption connection, the artificial species connection, & the presence of spirits creating new possibly human connected species powered by primal chaos; "The Olog-hai were a fierce race of Trolls. They only spoke Sauron's Black Speech, and it is possible they only existed because Sauron's evil will empowered them. They were bred by Sauron from an unknown stock, though it's suggested that they could be corruptions of some primitive human types." There are lots of varying opinions when it comes to the Olog-hai.
As a dungeon master I stay away from Tolkien because of these varying opinions & because gamers feel so strongly about the Middle Earth material.

Trolls make excellent Sword & Sorcery monsters especially when their origin crosses human, giant kind, & something else. We would need a race of highly advanced masters of the biological & engineering arts who had been here since Earth's origin & were capable of planar creations & demi planes (Faerie). Oh wait we already have all of those in HP Lovecraft's at the Mountains of Madness Elder Things.
 Toward the end of their reign on Earth when mankind was first emerging the Elder Things were looking for a replacement for the rebellious shoggoths. A breed of easily adaptable workers, army,etc. They began to experiment & some of their first creations could not exist in sunlight & were vulnerable to flame.
The latter half of the Elder Thing's empire was fading fast & it was already too late. 'The Shoggoth Rebellion' destroyed millions of years research. The first & secondary Ice Age Floods did the rest. There are qualities  that trolls have in common with shoggoths from regeneration to a pastiche for adaptability.

The laboratories in Troughburn, in Northumberland, England, were erased from existence originally Trolhop, Norse for "troll valley" is now only a dim racial memory of a place far to horrid to have existed. The troll species is regarded today as toxic waste spread across planes. How did this come to pass? We & other species found the nearly immortal proto trolls & wizards finished the work of the Elder Things. The Elder Things' city is identified with the Plateau of Leng  which has been the site for pilgrimages by necromancers, wizards, & occultists for centuries.  It has been speculated among certain circles of gamers over the years that the knowledge of the creation of trolls was spread by Nyarlathotep  through "The High Priest Not to Be Described. "
I have yet to run one game that does not feature trolls so players beware for they are a hidden menace!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

OSR Commentary - The Cosmic Blood Bath of Heroes & Demi gods In Old School Campaigns

When you start to dive below the surface of Holmes Dungeons & Dragons, you begin to hit the raw nerve of gaming. The ideas of adventuring are draw out, clearly defined, & go straight back to their pulp roots. Sure Paul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions always gets the press for introducing the concepts of the war between Chaos & Law into Dungeons & Dragons. But I think its an older pulp concept & conceit  then the the 1961 novel by Paul Anderson. 

Three Hearts & Three Lions is a panache of several elements, novels, & authors pulling from such divisive sources such as C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the start then drawing deeply from Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Robert Burns's Tam o' Shanter, and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Mark Twain's classic often echoes itself throughout the novel & its one of the reasons why I always don't understand the stupid idea of not using technology, science fantasy elements, & quasi science fiction ideas within old school gaming. But I digress these literary sources loop back on themselves when Three Hearts & Three Lions uses Northern European legends, including Ogier the Dane, the Matter of France, Arthurian romance, Oberon (Duke Alfric in the novel), Germanic mythology, and traditional magic.In Three Hearts & Three Lions, the main protagonist learns that he is in fact the incarnation of Northern European legend's Ogier the Dane a champion of Law.
"Ogier the Dane (French: Ogier le Danois, Ogier de Danemarche) is a legendary knight of Charlemagne who appears in many Old French chansons de geste, in particular, as the chief protagonist in La chevalerie Ogier (ca. 1220) which belongs to the Geste de Doon de Mayence ("cycle of the rebellious vassals")"
Here the idea of alignment is one of cosmic importance & alliance where the forces of evil & chaos are balanced on a knife's edge with the fate of not simply one world but two hanging in the threads of fate.
This is something we would see again in Michael Moorcock's Eternal Companion series of novels over & over again along with the idea of the sleeping kings.



In fact I've seen various sources who have put various incarnations of  Barbarossa, Kraljevic Marko, Holger Danske, King Arthur, and Charlemagne as aspects of the Eternal Champion. Many of the ideas of the AD&D first edition's paladin PC class come from the various mythological & literary elements of the King Arthur legend. Its not just breaking into dungeons, killing the monsters, & taking their stuff. This is heady adventure material with its roots in seeing chaos & evil for the cancer across the multiverse & dimensions for what it is. This goes back to Kuntz & Ward's 'Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes' from 1976 which had a nice line up of Arthurian material in it. There were plenty of opportunities for the PC's to step into the foot steps of the knights of Arthurian legend to carve out their own place within it.

Its not about the PC's following the foot steps of the heroes of old but being the new heroes of legend. They have the chance to defeat the giants, trolls, alien god things & dragons turning back the tide of the forces of nihilism & cosmicism. At least just like Conan for a little bit to be that candle in the darkness. There are cracks in history & mythology allowing PC's to fill the role of hero & heroine alike.

This was one of the reasons why often when I used Deities & Demi Gods, I used the Arthurian legends hand in hand with the Elric & Stormbringer material that book contained. Three hearts & Three Lions introduces one of the most dangerous cosmic menaces to ever grace the pages of an Advanced Dungeons &  Dragons 1st or B/X adventure 'the Troll'.
There are always other forces at work that the PC's are completely unaware of. These 'dark force's are more then happy to rip apart PC's limb from limb. They don't want the next King Arthur or Ogier the Dane.
They'd just as well be happy with your PC being a farmer in some backwater village.

This is the deep end of the pond where alignment controls the larger cosmic game and your 1st level PC' is just as important as the 20 level wizard. Get enough pawns its easily the match for an army. The next Arthur is starting right now at first level.

The back game being played through proxy heroes is one of moves, murder, blood shed, & wasted lives. There are always forces at play during adventures that the DM can take full advantage of. The PC's have to be reminded from time to time why the struggle is real & worth it. All of the treasure in the world can't buy the fear & fun that goes with the darker side of these struggles. As they say keep your enemies close and your blade handy.