Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Dangers & Weirdness Of The Celtic Otherworld For Old School Campaigns

" IT THE ENCHANTMENT OF TARA 33 shield firmly with his left. Then through thedarkness came a shaft of flame, blown from theenchanters mouth, and Fionn raised his shieldto catch it. But the shield changed to a four-folded impenetrable mantle—woven from theblue of air, the green of earth, the crimson offire, and the purple of ocean—which caughtthe magicians fire-blast and scattered it on o every side in showers of sparks which did noevil. Again and again Aillen mac Midnablew his venomous shafts, and each time themantle diverted them and rendered them harm-less. At last Aillen knew that some one, whopossessed a greater magic than his, was defend-ing Tara that night, and full of baffled fury heturned and fled. When Fionn saw that the enchanter wasput to flight, he descended from the high bankof the rath and pursued him. Many miles hewent, and when he splashed through therippling waters of the Boyne he was close on the heels of the magician. At length Fionncalled out : O Aillen mac Midna,"

Artwork From
Heroes of the Dawn 1914 

I've been rereading a lot of Clark Ashton Smith, Irish mythology, & Celtic literature over the weekend & thinking about doing a sea crawl for my players. There's often a fine line between mythology & the gonzo weirdness of old school original Dungeons & Dragons. In Celtic mythology the Otherworld is often associated with the realm of the gods & the land of the souls of the dead. There is a clear distinction within Arthurian legend as well of the Otherworld.
"The Otherworld is usually called Annwn in Welsh mythology and Avalon in Arthurian legend. In Irish mythology it has several names, including Tír na nÓg, Mag Mell and Emain Ablach. In Irish myth there is also Tech Duinn, where the souls of the dead gather."

For my purposes of 'The Otheworld' is another aspect of the realm of Fairyland that reflects the weirdness & the dangerous occult chaos of the other dimensional realm of the Elves. It washes against our own reality taking bits & pieces of the real world where & when it wants to. The portals & doorways are most often found in dungeons, the ruins of burial mounds, & other places of adventure because the realm feeds on the hopes, dreams, & fears of those that tread these places of danger. The fact is that the occult chaos energies of these places bleed into our world causing madness & mutation where they will.
"The Otherworld is usually elusive, but various mythical heroes visit it either through chance or after being invited by one of its residents. They often reach it by entering ancient burial mounds or caves, or by going under water or across the western sea.[1] Sometimes, the Otherworld is said to exist alongside our own and intrudes into this one; signaled by phenomena such as magic mist, sudden changes in the weather, or the appearance of divine beings or unusual animals."

The strong connections with the realms of the dead make adventuring in these places especially dangerous. Undead or worse can be encountered when sailing in these waters as adventurers journey close to the edge of the planes of the dead. There has always been a strong Arthurian aspect to these types of Celtic legends;
"Graeco-Roman geographers[who?] tell us about Celtic belief in islands consecrated to gods and heroes. Among them were Anglesey (Môn), off the north coast of Wales, which was the sacred island of the druids of Britain; the Scilly islands, where archaeological remains of proto-historical temples have been found; and some of the Hebrides, which were, in the Gaelic tradition, home of ghosts and demons: on one of them, Skye, the Irish hero Cúchulainn was taught by the warrior woman Scathach.
Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesarea described the Otherworld of the ancient Gauls. He said it was thought that the land of the dead lay west of Great Britain. The Continental Celtic myths told that once the souls of the dead had left their bodies, they travelled to the northwestern coast of Gaul and took a boat towards Britain. When they crossed the Channel, the souls went to the homes of the fishermen, and knocked desperately at their doors. The fishermen then went out of their houses and led the souls to their destination in ghostly ships.
There are still remains of those beliefs in the Breton and Galician traditions. In Brittany, the name Bag an Noz is used to denote those ships who carry the dead to their goal: Anatole Le Braz describes in his book La légende de la mort chez les Bretons armoricains the existence of souls' processions which make their way toward coastal places like Laoual, to start their last travel from there."

In original Dungeons & Dragons islands of Celtic 'Otheworld' have always offered adventure opportunities for my own home campaigns going back to the Eighties when the first Gods, Demigods, & Heroes by 

Rob Kuntz, &  James M. Ward came out. Since time works very differently in the Otherworld it enables a DM to encounter warriors & other travelers from 1d200 years ago or even future alternative timelines. More on that later. D&D Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), by Rob Kuntz & James Ward, is the fourth of four supplements for the OD&D game. It was published in July 1976.

Here the PC adventurers, knights, etc. are treading on the realms of the gods, fairies, & Elves & they are often at the mercy of the whims of powers of both good & evil in equal measures. There are treasures from ancient times & very alien artifacts from the wars of the gods at the dawn of time.There are various islands & lost countries that have been swallowed up by the realm of Fairy & the Otherworld. 

Here is the cross point with the OSR retrocclone titles especially Dark Albion & the Lion & Dragon retroclone rpg systems.The Elves of legend were the conquerors of the old world & had challenged the gods themselves & had subplanted the old gods for a time. But events overtook them and the world moved on. There old territories such as Avalon & Tech Duinn (the "House of Donn" or "House of the Dark One")

enabled the Elves to hold onto their dreams of retaking Europe well into the War of the Roses & beyond.

"The Coming of the Sons of Miled", illustration by J. C. Leyendecker in
T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911

The Otherworld was also seen as a source of authority. In the tale Baile in Scáil ("the phantom's ecstatic vision"), Conn of the Hundred Battles visits an Otherworld hall, where the god Lugh legitimizes his kingship and that of his successors.[1]
In Irish myth there is another otherworldly realm called Tech Duinn (the "House of Donn" or "House of the Dark One").[6] It was believed that the souls of the dead travelled to Tech Duinn; perhaps to remain there forever, or perhaps before reaching their final destination in the Otherworld,[7] or before being reincarnated.[6] Donn is portrayed as a god of the dead and ancestor of the Gaels. Tech Duinn is commonly identified with Bull Rock, an islet off the west coast of Ireland which resembles a portal tomb.[8] In Ireland there was a belief that the souls of the dead departed westwards over the sea with the setting sun.[9] West-ward also being the location of the phantom island, anglicized as, Hy-Brasil."
These phantom islands & countries of the Otherworld are places that have been wrestled from the existence of reality. These lands when washed in the Chaos of Fairy often suffer from the pain of the Wasteland of Arthurian legend.
In the Arthurian Grail material, the Wasteland's condition is usually tied to the impotence of its leader. Often the infirmity is preceded by some form of the Dolorous Stroke, in which the king is injured tragically for his sins but kept alive by the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King has been wounded in a misfortune that is not revealed in the incomplete text, and his land suffers with him. He can be healed only if the hero Perceval asks the appropriate question about whom the Grail serves, but warned against talking too much, Perceval remains silent. In the First Continuation of Chrétien's work, the anonymous author recounts how Gawain partially heals the land, but is not destined to complete the restoration. Over the course of time romances place less emphasis on the Wasteland and more on the king's wound. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle the link between the devastated land and the wounded king is not absolute, and in the Post-Vulgate Cycle much more emphasis is placed on King Pellehan's injury by Sir Balin than on the devastation this causes to his kingdom."

"Finn heard far off the first notes of the fairy harp" -
The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances
of Ancient Ireland, by T. W. Rolleston, et al, Illustrated by Stephen Reid

This same condition & ideal of Arthurian the Wasteland is something that we see in Clark Ashton Smith's  Empire of Necromancers 1933;
"So, after a short interval, Mmatmuor and Sodosma were driven forth by the anger of the inhabitants, and were compelled to flee toward Cincor, a desert of the south, which was peopled only by the bones and mummies of a race that the pestilence had slain in former time.
The land into which they went lay drear and leprous and ashen below the huge, ember-colored sun. Its crumbling rocks and deathly solitudes of sand would have struck terror to the hearts of common men; and, since they had been thrust out in that barren place without food or sustenance, the plight of the sorcerers might well have seemed a desperate one. But, smiling secretly, with the air of conquerors who tread the approaches of a long-coveted realm, Sodosma and Mmatmuor walked steadily on into Cincor
Unbroken before them, through fields devoid of trees and grass, and across the channels of dried-up rivers, there ran the great highway by which travelers had gone formerly betweea Cincor and Tinarath. Here they met no living thing; but soon they came to the skeletons of a horse and its rider, lying full in the road, and wearing still the sumptuous harness and raiment which they had worn in the flesh. And Mmatmuor aad Sodosma paused before the piteous bones, on which no shred of corruption remained; and they smiled evilly at each other.
'The steed shall be yours,' said Mmatmuor, 'since you are a little the elder of us two, and are thus entitled to precedence; and the rider shall serve us both and be the first to acknowledge fealty to us in Cincor.'"

The wasteland is timeless & borders the realms of the Underworld lending an air of the dangerous & horridly weird to any brushes with the 'Otherworld'. There are always hints & tells of Chaos lying at the borders between life, death, & the realms of the gods. Adventurers are never in control when they make the crossover into these realms.

 Frères Limbourg - Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry - mois de mai

The 'Oherworld' is a perfect reflection of the conquests & weirdness of the Fairy interaction with humanity throughout history. There is a deep connection  the race of Ghouls from HP Lovecraft's writings have with Elves of mythology. Ghouls are a deep reflection seen as the  messengers of death especially in Pickman's Model where the connections of ghouls & witch cults are clear.

Because HPL's ghouls connections between dream & the otherworld they were the remains of an occult race  created at the dawn of time during the days of Babylon & perhaps even older. Ghouls perhaps bargain for the most ancient of souls to sorcerers of the blackest stripe. Wizards are another link in the chain of the 'Otherworld' in the blackest parts of  history & perhaps the future fate of Europe but this is a blog entry for another time.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Blood, Passion, & Horrors of The Legend of El Cid For Your Old School Campaign

A fallen hero, strange alliances, magic swords,mercenary warlords, violent triple crosses, & the fate of nations in the balance! The latest Hollywood thriller with a budget of millions?!  No one of the legends of the real world legends steeped in the blood shed of history.

Jura de Santa Gadea

Peeling back the pages of bloodshed & ancient history last night I came across my campaign notes on El Cid. The history, mythology, & legends of the Cid were something that grew up with. For me he's the arch type of the AD&D paladin without the baggage. Over the years I've heard El Cid's history compared to King Arthur's legends & mythology. A kingdom gained & lost along the trails of time. This is one national hero I've used time & again in my adventures & games. But who really was El Cid?

This simple blog entry can't go into the multi demensional history of the warfare & times that spawned the El Cid. He came from a time when the sword arm & warhorse were the tanks of their time. The heads of enemies decorated pikes outside of nation city state's walls. Wiki has a compact  breakdown but there are literally entire histories of the Cid as thick as a New York phone book;

"Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 1099) was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. The Moors called him El Cid, which meant the Lord (probably from the original Arabic al-Sayyid, السیِّد), and the Christians, El Campeador, which stood for Outstanding Warrior or The one who stands out in the battlefield. He was born in Vivar, a town near the city of Burgos. After his death, he became Castile's celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de Mio Cid.[1]
Born a member of the minor nobility, El Cid was brought up at the court of King Ferdinand the Great and served Ferdinand's son, Sancho II of León and Castile. He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho's ascension in 1065. Rodrigo went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of León and García II of Galicia, as well as in the Muslim kingdoms in Al-Andalus. He became renowned for his military prowess in these campaigns, which helped expand Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims and Sancho's brothers' kingdoms. When conspirators murdered Sancho in 1072, Rodrigo found himself in a difficult situation. Since Sancho was childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, the same whom El Cid had helped remove from power. Although Rodrigo continued to serve the Castilian sovereign, he lost his ranking in the new court which treated him at arm's length and suspiciously. Finally, in 1081, he was ordered into exile.[2]
El Cid found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he defended from their traditional enemies, Aragon and Barcelona. While in exile, he regained his reputation as a strategist and formidable military leader. He repeatedly turned out victorious in battle against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, an expeditionary army of North African Almoravids inflicted a severe defeat to Castile, compelling Alfonso to overcome the resentments he harbored against El Cid. The terms for the return to the Christian service must have been attractive enough since Rodrigo soon found himself fighting for his former Lord. Over the next several years, however, El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. When the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of al-Qadir, El Cid responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094, and El Cid established an independent principality on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. He ruled over a pluralistic society with the popular support of Christians and Muslims alike.[3]
El Cid's final years were spent fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted upon them their first major defeat in 1094, on the plains of Caurte, outside Valencia, and continued resisting them until his death. Although Rodrigo remained undefeated in Valencia, his only son, and heir, Diego Rodríguez died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid's death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she was eventually forced to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102."
In old school adventure terms there's a ton of potential adventure hooks from taken treasures to the ruins of dungeon locations. El Cid's wrath knew bounds for he made warfare across the pages of history. There have been rumors of the treasure of King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon centuries. The cup of the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir was lost in the uprising of the Almoravids &  is still out in the Spanish countryside. There are literally tons of mini dungeons & other adventure ruins scattered in the wake of the Cid & the armies of his adversaries.

In  Lion & Dragon terms El Cid might be from a very long tradition of knights & warlords who were the resistance to the Elves of old. The demons from the Underworld & Hell have a long tradition in the Spanish countryside. There have been numerous legends & a rich tradition of Christian & Pre Christian heresies in the area enabling a DM to create mixed parties of adventurers to deal with monsters of Chaos & other horrors.
Over the years I've used a number of time lost warriors & knights from the court of El Cid in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.

The +3 two handed sword Tizona, of El Cid has been passed into a national museum where its intelligent essence still sleeps.
"A weapon traditionally identified as El Cid's sword, Tizona, used to be displayed in the Army Museum (Museo del Ejército) in Toledo. In 1999, a small sample of the blade underwent metallurgical analysis which confirmed that the blade was made in Moorish Córdoba in the eleventh century and contained amounts of Damascus steel.[13]
In 2007, the Autonomous Community of Castile and León bought the sword for 1.6 million Euros, and it is currently on display at the Museum of Burgos."
El Cid's other sword Colada is still lost or according to legend has been passed down the bloodline of Martín Antolínez one of the Cid's knights. This +2 sword of sharpness has a thirst for the blood of demons & dark wizards. There have been instances of these swords being used against monsters that could be straight out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.

 There several instances when various knights of El Cid according to legend fought a cult that seems to have been very similar to the cultists of A. Merritt's Dwellers in the Mirage.

The knights under the command of the Cid were violent, vicious warriors from a time when thrones made from the skulls of one's enemies were still the norm. The fact is that this was a time with plenty of room for both mythology & legend to mix into the paradoxes of history. The perfect frame work to add in your own party of adventurers or to take from the legends a bevy of opportunities for campaign elements or NPC's.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

OSR PC Workshop Or Pulling in OSR Sources To Help Create PC's in Your Old School Campaigns

 Today was a character workshop with one of my players, he had some ideas for a half Elven PC. But I had some ideas already in play in my current OSR campaign. Here's where events for the PC's took a bit of a different twist in development.


 I had a long talk with one of my players about porting over the Cyrmic race from Dark Albion instead of the usual half Elf PC race. Cyrmic are the descendants of human slaves who worked for the Elves in ancient times in Europe in Dark Albion.  
I've already had different elements & hints bubbling up across the board when it comes to the identities of  Elven kings. There are indications in some ends of Arthurian literature & mythology that he might have been a Merovingian king & sorcerer. In my own games he sold his soul for immortality & gained godhood merging with the previous king of the fairies of which there are many. His connection to  connects him with the Norse of AS&SH second edition

The Reconciliation of Titania and Oberon by Joseph Noel Paton

"Oberon's status as king of the fairies comes from the character of Alberich (from Old High German alb- "elf" and -rîh-, "ruler", "king"), a sorcerer in the legendary history[which?] of the Merovingian dynasty. In the legend, he is the otherworldly "brother" of Merowech, whose name is the eponym of the Merovingians but whose actual existence is unproven. Alberich wins for his eldest son, Walbert, the hand of a princess of Constantinople.[citation needed] In the Nibelungenlied, a Burgundian poem written around the turn of the 13th century, Alberich guards the treasure of the Nibelungen, but is overcome by Siegfried." There is also a huge Arthurian & French connection with the character of  Oberon. 
"The name Oberon is first attested to in the early 13th century chanson de geste entitled Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux, wherein it refers to an elven man of the forest encountered by the eponymous hero. Huon, son of Seguin count of Bordeaux, passed through the forest inhabited by Oberon. He was warned by a hermit not to speak to Oberon, but his courtesy had him answer Oberon's greetings, and so gain his aid in his quest. Huon had killed Charlot, the Emperor's son, in self-defense, and so he must visit the court of the amir of Babylon and perform various feats to win a pardon. He succeeds only with Oberon's aid.
This elf is dwarfish in height, though very handsome. He explains that, at his christening, an offended fairy cursed him to dwarfish height (an example of the wicked fairy godmother folklore motif), but relented and gave him great beauty as compensation. Alberich features as a dwarf in the Nibelungen; the dwarfish height was thus explained.[2]
The real Seguin was Count of Bordeaux under Louis the Pious in 839, and died fighting against the Normans in 845. Charles l'Enfant, a son of Charles the Bald, died in 866 of wounds inflicted by a certain Aubouin in the circumstances of an ambush similar to the Charlot of the story. Thus, Oberon appears in a 13th-century French courtly fantasy that is based on a shred of 9th century fact. He is given some Celtic trappings, such as a magical cup (similar to the Holy Grail) that is ever full for the virtuous. "The magic cup supplied their evening meal; for such was its virtue that it afforded not only wine, but more solid fare when desired", according to Thomas Bulfinch. In this story, he is said to be the child of Morgan le Fay and Julius Caesar.
A manuscript of the romance in the city of Turin contains a prologue to the story of Huon de Bordeaux in the shape of a separate romance of Auberon and four sequels, and there are later French versions, as well."

So what your looking at is a royal NPC with deep connections across history whose been manipulating events across worlds for centuries. He's been putting his own bastard children into key points in human history & across worlds.

Illustration of Oberon enchanting Titania by W. Heath Robinson, 1914

Here's one of the the things that helps keeps  Dark Albion in OSR play; " 80% of the book is system neutral, so can be used with most role-playing games. " This means that a good percentage of the setting book is usable with other systems especially games such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.

Over the course of the last couple of years here & there I've indicated the presence of weird ruins & other dangerous adventure locations all belonging to the Elves of the ancient empires. We did a lot of cross comparing of the PC material in Dark Albion with existing OSR retroclone systems such as Swords & Wizardry & Labyrinth Lord to see what's going to fit our PC's needs. Bardic material in the setting was especially enlightening as to how to fit the PC class  into an existing campaign. For example we talked at length about how the PC might have had interaction with the Midderlands campaign setting.

Since the expanded setting's kickstarter ends in a few days, I figured now was a good time to get a bit of the green tainted Gloomunion laden action.
"The Midderlands setting gets bigger, expanding out into Havenland (the country that The Midderlands is set in) and its bordering lands, in a dark, twisted, and viridian version of the British Isles." This U.K. setting ticks all of the boxes of  OSR weirdness that I'm looking for and it appeals to the Dark Albion setting with abandon. So now its a matter of taking full advantage of the cracks in the Midderlands to marry it up with the back waters locations of Albion.

Given the strong & deep connections between Merlin from the Arthurian literature & mythology with Wales. There is no doubt in my mind that there is more then a bit of Elven blood mixed strongly with Merlin's demonic parentage that needs to be exploited far more then humanity suggests. Merlin is a very useful NPC that can help to explain more of the gaps in the Albion setting.

So now two PC's in my home game are from Dark Albion, it makes for a different & somewhat interesting wrinkle. I'll have to let folks know as this second leg of the campaign develops. There are lots of variations of system to go over yet even while the setting itself sets some of the tone. I will keep everyone abreast as to how things within the game continue to develop.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'Something Wrong', 'Something's Amiss' - A Twisted Arthurian OSR Campaign Commentary

Once again the underbelly of pop culture suggestions another avenue of adding in the gonzo into the backbone of a very different Lion & Dragon retroclone  campaign. I've been wracking my brains to add some of the OSR weirdness into the Lion & Dragon mix. Then I slipped in Army of Darkness into the blu ray. Army of Darkness is a horror  comedy classic from 1992 and its  turning twenty five & its pure Arthurian old school gonzo gold.

The film actually has elements of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court with Ash Williams  taking the place of a Yankee engineer from Connecticut named Hank Morgan. But for Lion & Dragon elements are far more pronounced with the action of the film taking place around 1300 A.D. on an alternative Earth. The Deadites are perfectly presented demonically possessed chaos undead who are spread by the Necronomicon Ex Mortis's influence. There are several other options available to the dungeon master.
In fact the actual ideas within 
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court 
could be used to port over some of the interesting elements of the book into a Lion & Dragon campaign or adventure.
  1. The PC's could be time displaced which gives the DM ample opportunity to add adventure elements as needed. 
  2. A demonic threat of chaos which might be not well known to the inhabitants of the land. This leads to the idea of the quest being a part of the adventure path itself lending a more mythological quality to the whole.
  3. The use of Morgana Le Fey as antagonist with Sir Mordred taking the central part of murderer of Arthur once again places the PC's front & center.
  4. Merlin is a dangerous element of the occult who sends Hank Morgan back to his own time via a suspended animation spell.
    On the whole it reminds me of Poul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions in the fact that the hero has no real power over his destiny. He is a pawn send off by the cosmic forces of universe to deal with the greater evil only to return him to his own time once the evil is vanquished. 
  5. The Arthurian  wasteland is in full effect because of the inadequacy of the local leaders & the possible influence of the real grail.
    "In the Arthurian Grail material, the Wasteland's condition is usually tied to the impotence of its leader. Often the infirmity is preceded by some form of the Dolorous Stroke, in which the king is injured tragically for his sins but kept alive by the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King has been ."

Both Army of Darkness & 
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court 
play fast & loose with their Arthurian elements whist adding in modern technology. But even with comedic elements these pieces of pop culture still allow the epic hero to have his due. This same formula could be applied to the PC's. But can we warp this formula a bit for Lion & Dragon. The central lynch pin that holds all of this together that has to go is the Necronomicon Ex Mortis & instead we get a false Grail. B2 The Keep of The Borderland By Gary Gygax contains a great basic adventure outline that could be used as  a template for a whole campaign segment in this vein. Imagine if the film Army of Darkness was the merest echo of a campaign centered around the Keep of the Borderland module. Necromancers similar to the ones found in Clark Ashton Smith's Empire of Necromancers have been messing around the ruins of several classic cities on the edges of the France & Spain empire borders in the 1300s. There are rumors that the 'Holy Grail' has been found.

There is reason to believe that a dangerous demonic life forces has been let loose into the world & is taking over the corpses of  warriors & soldiers from recent battle fields. A coven of chaos worshiping necromancers has moved into the area & taken over 'the caves of chaos' resting place of the "grail". Here one of the many 'cauldrons of resurrection'  has been hidden centuries ago by Elven forces.  The PC's have been called from many different times to deal with this ancient hate of old. This cauldron summons 1d6 semi free willed undead from the depths of Hell each day under the 'command' of the necromancers. Once this number reaches a hundred or more the spell of the necromancers will be broken & a champion among the undead will rise. This cauldron was in fact one of the many artifacts of mass destruction of  the Elves back in the time before the pre Biblical flood.

Destroying the cauldron will restore the land & vanquish the evil infecting it. The power of  real 'Holy Grail' might in fact be responsible for bringing the party into conflict with the forces of Chaos.

This sort of a campaign even using time displaced PC's is going to be a bit of an investigative &  more then a little PC violence towards the foul forces of the 'damned'. Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos is going to be full focus for this sort of a mini campaign.  Even if the PC's manage to save the keep, wipe out the necromancers, close the portal Hell via the cauldron, & cleanse the land one of the bastards of chaos could escape enabling the damned to crawl back onto Earth. This might set things up for a full blown 'End Times' situation extending the campaign for more.

This blog entry is not an attempt to violate the copyright & trademark of the Army of Darkness films nor the character of Ash Williams. Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court is public domain. The makers of the Lion & Dragon rpg or Dark Albion are in no way responsible for the content or opinions of this blog. The contents and ideas are trade marked & copyrighted to the author & Dark Corner Productions.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Barsoomian Evaporated Ocean Nightmares With Thuvia, Maid of Mars By Edgar Rice Burroughs For Your Old School Campaigns

"A forbidden love, a base betrayal,  a tale of political intrigue, &  blood thirsty combat all set against the tides of Barsoomian warfare amid the dead sea bottoms and ruined city of Mars. "

An email request for more campaign information from dungeon master Chris, so once again I dug through my notes to talk about the fourth of the Barsoom novel series  Thuvia, Maid of Mars & how it relates to the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg. Thuvia Maid of Mars features the son of  John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and Dejah Thoris of Helium as the principal protagonist of the novel.

Art by James Allen St. John
from Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, McClurg, 1920.

This is a  'Carthoris' novel focusing on his romance with Thuvia, princess of Ptarth who is promised to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol. The real backdrop here is the diplomatic tension between Helium and Ptarth which are both prominent Barsoomian city state/empires because of Thuvia's engagement to Kulan Tith which only death can break but this death can't be caused by a new suitor. This situation goes out the window when Thuvia, princess of Ptarth is kidnapped! Here's where things get interesting as we get lots of details about the Barsoomian fliers when an auto pilot device and navigation system gets tampered with &  Carthoris finds himself in the unexplored & undiscovered south of Barsoom in the ruins of ancient city state of  Aanthor.
Here we are given our first taste of the Green hordes of Torquas whom are among the most dangerous of Green Martian war clans. Of course  Thuvia, princess of Ptarth & Carthoris of Heluim are reunited but can they stop all out war between two of the most powerful city states on Barsoom? Well you'll just have to go read it for yourself.

Art for Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, McClurg, 1920.

For a Warrior of the Red Planet dungeon master this one of the most essential books in the ERB canon. Why?! Because its one of the Barsoomian novels that contains many of the details on Barsoomian psychic abilities! These abilities transcend life & death itself in the form of the psychic abilities of the inhabitants of the lost city state of
Lothar. "Lother is home of an ancient fair-skinned human race gifted with the ability to create lifelike phantasms from pure thought. They habitually use large numbers of phantom bowmen paired with real and phantom banths (Barsoomian lions) to defend themselves from the hordes of Torquas."
Mind bullets artwork from the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg & used without permission.

So these are high level Mentalists with the ability to telepathically & psychically  project their own reality of Barsoom's past onto the present. The people of
Lothar are the  text book PC class mentalists bar none! The illusionary bowmen come to life and defend their ruined city. So is there enough room to squeeze into the events of Thuvia, Maid of Mars  a party of adventurers?!
Hell yes there is! A Barsoomian princess of the realm is missing! Thuvia, princess of Ptarth has been kidnapped and every royal & bottom feeder tribe of adventurers is going to be looking for her!  There are lots of opportunities to screw over parties of adventurers who get themselves lost on Barsoom!

There are several things about 
Thuvia, Maid of Mars   to remember :
  1.  We get lots of details about the background of Barsoom including city ruins, dungeons, and other underworld details that are glanced over in the novel. 
  2. The wickedness of  Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol is only touched on & there's plenty of other secrets that this Jeddak could have hidden in the underworld. 
  3. Treasures, artifacts, etc. from the city state of
    Lothar are just waiting to be plucked out by worth adventurers. 
  4. We have lots of opportunities for mercenary adventurers to take full advantage of the racial division of Barsoom and make a killing because there is a vast Barsoomian underworld  just waiting to be exploited, the dwindling resources are just waiting to be fleshed out;
    "A million years before the narrative commences, Mars was a lush world with oceans. As the oceans receded, and the atmosphere grew thin, the planet has devolved into a landscape of partial barbarism;[13] living on an aging planet, with dwindling resources, the inhabitants of Barsoom have become hardened and warlike, fighting one another to survive.[14] Barsoomians distribute scarce water supplies via a worldwide system of canals, controlled by quarreling city-states. The thinning Martian atmosphere is artificially replenished from an "atmosphere plant." "
    Many of the elements here hint at deeper dungeons below the novel's surface.
  5. The Lotharians are another faction that exploits the mental powers of the Barsoomian psychic powers. Another faction that takes this to extreme is the Kaldanes who appear in the Chessmen of Mars. I don't think that these two Barsoomian psychic geo political entities get along since they both represent opposite ends of the spectrum. This is something that adventurers can exploit. 
  6. The women in ERB' s tales are power players. They've got more on their minds then mere biological imperatives and it doesn't involve our heroes. This is no more evident then with Thuvia whose more then capable of picking up a dagger or sword to murder anyone who gets in her way. Remember this book was written in 1916! 
  7. The Green hordes of Torquas are every bit as dangerous and fully horrid as any you'd find on Barsoom. These bastards give orcs a run for their money as one of my all time favorite bastard raider races! They also make excellent antagonists to throw at PC's. 
  8. A who lot of little details can be picked out of this novel to start as campaign jump point! 
  9.  There are other city states around Lothar that are perfect canvas for DM's wanting to create their own Barsoomian adventure locations! They are glanced over and that' it in the novel. 
  10. Thuvia, Maid of Mars ' has the potential to create a whole cloth adventure campaign based around the Martian city states preparing for all out war.  
Personally I would grab a copy of Dark Albion to help flesh out some of the comings and goings of the royals within the court of Thuvia, Maid of Mars '. This is a personal opinion based around having to quickly and painlessly flesh out some of the NPC's in the past that quickly die and are bumped off yet there own importance to the adventure's events remains!

You can down load
Thuvia, Maid of Mars from here!

Thuvia, Maid of Mars   is still owned by the ERB estate with the  trade mark & copy right. This blog post is not an attempt to violate that trade mark or copy right.This  download  is for educational and entertainment purposes. The makers of Warriors of the Red Planet are not anyway responsible for the content of this blog. All commentary here is copyrighted & trademarked to Dark Corner productions @2018.