Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lovecraftian Gods,Gorillas, & Classic Monsters In The Underworld - OSR Monster Commentary

So I've been looking looking to classic mythological sources again for some classic OSR action. For most folks this would the latest releases but for me I tend to fade back into the earlier adventure & resource  influences of the OSR. I've been looking into a few the earlier releases from several pioneer publishers including Goblinoid Games & Brave Halfling Publishing for some of my Lovecraftian itches.
I started doing a bit of reading through of Realms of Crawling Chaos tonight for dealing with some of ecology of Underborea of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.

My version of Underborea is a wasteland of damned souls,the ever decaying remains of dead Lovecraftian  gods, & plethora of weird monster races straight out Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith. But right away I started to notice something that I wasn't expecting the sheer number of underworld Lovecraftian ape monsters in Realms of Crawling Chaos. You've got the Devil Ape, the Cave Beast, The White Ape & half White Ape PC races, & the Subhuman PC races not to mention the Voormis & several other animalistic Great Old Ones.
All of these are ripe to add to my 'Old Earth' setting after the events of the Ragnarök most of the major gods have passed away! The gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki are all dead but not gone suffering away below in Underborea held within a timeless decaying death where the act out the events of the war. They eternally decay but are still in an undead state. Yes there is more then a passing resemblance to concepts by Jack Kirby. Down below the surface of the world are the ruins of hundreds of ancient cities & temples.
This gets into one of my favorite modules that seems to have time passed it by I'm talking about People of the Pit by Alphonso Warden. Alphonso Warden weaves a pitch perfect module that draws from A.Merritt's pulp novella The People of the Pit without ripping it off.

"Several millennia back, the peoples of the mighty Kingdom of Merritt entered into all-out war with their long-time nemesis, the People of the Pit, a nefarious race of slug-like creatures hailing from a vast subterranean city lying on their northern border. Though the battle was hard fought, with both sides initially incurring heavy losses, the Merrittians in due course gained the upper hand, almost wholly exterminating their foe. Even the very god of the People of Pit was banished to the lower planes by a cabal of Merrittian magic-users and clerics, or so they thought. Recently, the evil within the city of the People of the Pit has surged yet again, and it is up to you to see that it doesn't spill out into the surrounding lands."  The original story draws heavily on a Northern location perhaps Alaska which is one of the locations for the invasion points for my Old Earth setting. The Paper Knife blog has a really good overview of the original A.Merritt story. 

Needless to say that the module is a classic of the OSR and evokes the sort of weirdness that one expects from the OSR. There's lots of potential in People of the Pit to mine and even to a certain extent to expand upon for old school campaign use. Another Lovecraft adventure by
Alphonso Warden through Mythmere Games  is The Namless City which is perfectly suited to be adapted for an AS&SH second edition campaign. Originally for Swords & Wizardry The Namless City also has another version closer to many of the OSR retroclone systems. "The module is available for both Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules and Freestyle (Core) Rules. If you're going to use it with another old-school system, it's obviously going to be compatible, but use the Complete/Freestyle version for this: the hit dice and other information will be closer to other systems than WhiteBox."


" In the world there are ancient, degenerated remnants still living, survivals from unimaginable antiquity. What happens when the adventurers stumble across one of these deadly places? There must be treasure untold for those willing to brave the long-forgotten perils of ... The Nameless City. "Both of these modules are perfect for evoking entrances to a Lovecraftian underworld realm that hooks up with the dangers & adventure locations of Underborea.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that many of the degenerative races of both AS&SH, Realms of Crawling Chaos, & these modules reminds me of many of the proto humanoid races of the first edition Fiend Folio. The Grimlock, and many other humanoid races of the Fiend Folio have the perfect left over servant or weaponized racial feel that would serve serpent men or other ancient Lovecraftian races. Yes I'm thinking of the Great Race of Yith or The Elder Things.


I could definitely see these guys guarding an ancient Elder Thing underground garden preserve waiting generations for trespassers to try & take some of the biological wonders of their ancient masters.

I think there are a lot of overlooked OSR gems on the market that need to have a second look taken at them to get their full potential realized in a campaign setting such as Hyperborea or your own old school setting.

Damnation & The Final Confrontation In Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits By Gary Gygax & David C. Sutherland III

"How different things seem now from when you undertook the crushing of a few rebellious hill giants! What seemed a simple adventure has turned into a major expedition. Much time has passed since you discovered the conspiracy that led you to the frost giants, fire giants, and eventually to the long-forgotten Drow. Through your encounter with the dark elves, you have found the true source of the evil -- the demon queen Lolth!"

So three things happened last night, one I was able to order the Lion & Dragon hardcover because the current code for Lulu publishing  is LULU20 which gives 20% off of all print books. The second thing that happened is that I started to talk with a friend about Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits By David C. Sutherland III, & Gary Gygax.

I have very mixed feeling about this module so much so that it gave me pause to put up a blog entry last night. Q1 hit the shelves in 1980 & our group didn't get to play it until about '87 after we had completed a number of higher level Wagner inspired Norse opera adventures. Our group of players in '87  slogged our way through Q1 losing about six of our beloved PC's on the way. It was glorious! This is a level ten through fourteen PC adventure with all of the bells & death that go with it.
For me personally it also marks one of the turning points in classic era TSR writing & design according to the Drivethrurpg entry for Q1 the real story behind the scenes comes out;"

It turns out that Gygax was putting on a good face, and that Q1 was in fact produced against his express wishes, apparently at the insistence of Gygax's partner, Brian Blume. It would be the first outward sign of a division in the company that would lead to its takeover by Brian and his brother Kevin in 1982, and Gygax's subsequent exile to California (where he'd get the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on the air).
If you look closer at Q1, you can see the cracks - i.e., that it's not actually the sequel Gygax intended. A careful reading of the G- and D-series modules suggests that the villain of the piece was the Eilservs drow clan, who worshiped the Elder Elemental God. If anything, Lolth should have been an erstwhile ally for the player characters in a final adventure against the EEG, rather than a final foe.
Gygax said that the villain got changed after Sutherland discovered the "demonweb" pattern in a hand towel and talked Blume into making Lolth the Big Bad."

The whole module is problematic from a Medieval stand point & there's a whole bunch of back story stuff that has to be changed right off the mark. The fact is that the placement of Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits would have to take place in the Underworld. I'm talking about the classic pseudo  Greek Underworld of classic literature which borders on the lands of fairyland & the Christian Hell. This adventure is going to border on the Lamentations of the Flame Princess style where the PC's are thrown to the wolves erm spiders.

Erol Otus, Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits

The forces of the Elves are getting squeezed at the Gods get involved with the arrival of the Black Death on Europe's door step. The war's time line moves along with every battle & massive event of the Hundred Years war right in time to the PC's hex crawling along.
"In 1348, the Black Death, which had just arrived in Paris, began to ravage Europe.[32] In 1355, after the plague had passed and England was able to recover financially,[citation needed] King Edward's son and namesake, the Prince of Wales, later known as the Black Prince, led a Chevauchée from Gascony into France, during which he pillaged Avignonet and Castelnaudary, sacked Carcassonne, and plundered Narbonne. The next year during another Chevauchée he ravaged Auvergne, Limousin, and Berry but failed to take Bourges. He offered terms of peace to King John II of France (known as John the Good), who had outflanked him near Poitiers, but refused to surrender himself as the price of their acceptance. This led to the Battle of Poitiers (19 September 1356) where his army routed the French.[33] During the battle, the Gascon noble Jean de Grailly, captal de Buch led a mounted unit that was concealed in a forest. The French advance was contained, at which point de Grailly led a flanking movement with his horsemen cutting off the French retreat and succeeding in capturing King John and many of his nobles.[34][35] With John held hostage, his son the Dauphin (later to become Charles V) assumed the powers of the king as regent." France is being ravaged as the Deep Ones take full advantage by releasing the Black Death as a WMD only to have it ravage the entire human population that their trying to enslave. The PC's are stuck in the Underworld trying to get back topside trying deal with the BS of the Underworld whist dodging the Elves & demonic forces! The portals to Fairyland are the goddess of death turning the wheel to gain more of her hold as the coming plague ravages Europe.

Battle of Crécy, 1346

Meanwhile alliances of witch cults, humanoid chaos mutants, and much worse allows deadly epidemics, famines, and bandit free-companies of mercenaries reduced the population of Europe to a much more manageable size. This all interweaves through  Lolth's webs, where the PC's are confronted by Lolth's minions, slaves, guards and captives but these are her agents spreading her evil throughout Europe. By the time we get to Battle of Agincourt Europe is becoming exhausted.
We've got the
Death of Clarence (1421) & The English Success right in the middle of the Hundred Years war as Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits wraps up. That's it right?!? Nope although it seems as if the Death Goddess of Elves is down & out the Elves forces have only taken it on the chin. Sure she's down but the Frog Princes have cemented their hold on France for the moment.

Fifteenth-century miniature depicting the Battle of Agincourt.

This is not going to be good for 'the Church' at all. They'll have to rally their own forces in the priests & clerics especially for France. The Deep Ones are not going to be expecting the appearance of Joan of Arc at the siege of Orléans sparked a revival of French spirit, and the tide began to turn against the English. Here the forces of the gods & God are going to take a hand to make sure Europe isn't lost.
One thing to  understand is the scale of Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits & the Hundred Years War. These are epic clashes and it sure seemed like the end of the civilized world at the time for Europe.
The black plague unleashed upon Europe was spread by humanity, so could there be other forces at work within the underworld almost about to unleash horrors from Tarartus itself?

PC's that survive their time in the Underworld are never going to be the same again. They're going to be rich but also within the purview of powers beyond their reason. The Church is going to have them dead within their sights & they're also going to be families of renowned within court. I don't see these folks being from the lower strata of society & also not being of lower social standing.
We're right in the middle of the events of the Hundred Years War & so other family members & party members are going to have to take the places of earlier adventurers. This is something that any Pendragon player is going to be familiar with. Some D&D DM's & players may have done something similar. This of course is all alternative history with real world elements mixed in. 

Anyone whose a fan of Clark Ashton Smith is going to see the resemblance of Lolth to CAS's Atlach-Nacha. I've seen more then a few folks switch out these deities in the past to get a more Smithian constant to Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits. The cults could be interchanged but there would have to be an uptick into using Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos to flesh out a bit more of the elves chaos witch cults in my humble opinion. Q1 Queen of the Demon Webpits isn't the end because we're right in the middle of the Hundred Years War.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Deeper In Blood & War D3 Vault of the Drow By Gary Gygax As War Campaign

"As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground."

So one of the things I've been doing is staying away from the near constant "commercial whine of the social media OSR" & once again the near fire hose releases of retroclone systems & adventures. This means keeping my head down & once in awhile reviewing product as my schedule allows. And I've been getting back into the classic modules that I so much love. Which gets me into D3 Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax which puts the PC's in the middle of some old school cross hairs in the world of the Elves. Yes, I said Elves and not Drow because I'm modifying out the module!? Why? Well, because I'm saving my pennies for a hard cover version of Lion & Dragon. 

I already know its going to be a great quality purchase & I've got ideas rolling around in my head for the latest campaign project. I've already talked with RpgPundit about it. He's already got an adventure for Lion & Dragon called RPGPundit Presents #14: The Secret Order of the Red Lady. This sounds great but I really want a classic adventure here and I'll get around to reviewing the adventure sometime in the coming week as my work schedule allows. If you've been following my latest modification of  D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax then you know what's coming.

This is going to be set up during the Hundred Years War, the events of Against the Giants have already happened. The world has been rocked by the Elven princess/ priestess Eclavdra whose been stirring the pot of war behind the scenes. The events of Against the Giants parallel the war in France & the sucession issues in England. Why!? Because the Elves have been interfering with the birth of male princes & the issues of Scotland. " The question of female succession to the French throne was raised after the death of Louis X in 1316. Louis X left only a daughter, and his posthumous son John I lived only a few days. Philip, Count of Poitiers, brother of Louis X, asserted that women were ineligible to succeed to the French throne. Through his political sagacity he won over his adversaries and succeeded to the French throne as Philip V. By the same law that he procured, his daughters were denied the succession, which passed to his younger brother, Charles IV, in 1322."

"Charles IV died in 1328, leaving a daughter and a pregnant wife. If the unborn child was male, he would become king; if not, Charles left the choice of his successor to the nobles. A girl ended up being born, therefore rendering the main male line of the House of Capet extinct.
By proximity of blood, the nearest male relative of Charles IV was his nephew Edward III of England. Edward was the son of Isabella, the sister of the dead Charles IV, but the question arose whether she should be able to transmit a right to inherit that she did not herself possess. The French nobility, moreover, balked at the prospect of being ruled by Isabelle and her lover Roger Mortimer, who were widely suspected of having murdered the previous English king, Edward II. The assemblies of the French barons and prelates and the University of Paris decided that males who derive their right to inheritance through their mother should be excluded. Thus the nearest heir through male ancestry was Charles IV's first cousin, Philip, Count of Valois, and it was decided that he should be crowned Philip VI. In 1340 the Avignon papacy confirmed that under Salic law males should not be able to inherit through their mothers.[8][9]
Eventually, Edward III reluctantly recognized Philip VI and paid him homage for his French fiefs. He made concessions in Guyenne, but reserved the right to reclaim territories arbitrarily confiscated. After that, he expected to be left undisturbed while he made war on Scotland."
The war on Scotland is a big deal because its one of the Elves ancient seats of power on Earth. When it comes to power so above as so below. The Elves in question here are the worshipers of a death god or goddess depending upon on which group of Elves we're talking about. So this gets into issues raised in Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos especially their version of Elves. So what do the Elves gain here? A morass of  war, blood shed, and the perfect opportunity to take back what they feel is theirs namely all of Europe. Bankrupt the humans through various cults, witch cells, violence, food riots, etc. And set everything up for their human agents to act on it.

Les Grandes Chroniques de France, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Reproduction in "Les Rois de France", Hachette.

This sets everything up that's happening in the Underworld as the PC's struggle to deal with the very alien world of the Elves. There are numerous settlements, opportunities, alliances etc. that the PC's are going to have to deal with. Every single monster encounter in D3 Vault of the Drow is aligned with the Drow (Elves) because these were the strong hold of the death god or goddess. Elven blooded PC's are a must here & its well worth remembering that D3 was a competition module. This is a hex crawl in every single sense of the word.

These are the last of the great Elven states with militaries, well organized societies, cults, etc. All waiting to inflict pain & huge amounts of suffering on the world of Europe above. The dark European world wouldn't know what hit it. Already we've seen the set up for a possible French invasion from the Frogmen in the form of 
the Kuo-Toa or Deep Ones. Everything here is aligned for the ongoing war between England & France. "Relations with Flanders were also tied to the English wool trade, since Flanders' principal cities relied heavily on textile production and England supplied much of the raw material they needed. Edward III had commanded that his chancellor sit on the woolsack in council as a symbol of the pre-eminence of the wool trade.[24] At the time there were about 110,000 sheep in Sussex alone.[25] The great medieval English monasteries produced large surpluses of wool that were sold to mainland Europe. Successive governments were able to make large amounts of money by taxing it.[24] France's sea power led to economic disruptions for England, shrinking the wool trade to Flanders and the wine trade from Gascony." Wizards & black powder are a must as the PC's navigate the alliances & triple crosses between the factions of this series.

Battle of Sluys from a manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles, Bruge, c.1470

So not only are the stakes going to be very high but the blood shed is going to monumental. PC's are going to die, retire, & generally have to deal with some very weird alliances as the module series progresses. Fairy mounds & other doorways to forgotten bits of  the countryside could get the PC's home or killed very easily as the witch cults of Europe do their best to cause all kinds of murder, mayhem & chaos. There's going to be witch hunts and trials in the middle of the events of  The Hundred Years War.

"Becfola and the Snarling Horde," by Arthur Rackham (Irish Fairy Tales, 1920)

The Church is going going to be a huge mover & shaker in this campaign with their interests at stake  as well as the crowns of Europe.The Church could see these events as an all out war with Satan's forces. They just might be right as Elves pull out the stops & triple crosses are the norm not the rule. The lower tier hit points for PC's are going to put player's teeth on edge but anyone can die anytime is something we've seen before in Dark Albion. The PC's are going to move into the movers & shakers circle of the Hundred Years War if they survive D3 Vault of the Drow.

Is there are far more sinister connection between King Arthur's ancient reign & the events of the Hundred Years war as old alliances come to call? There is a strong
connection between Queen Mab  & the Elven princess/ priestess Eclavdra  especially around Ireland & Scotland.
"the Irish folklore of the last High Queen of the Daoine Sidhe - and wife of the High King Finvarra - was named Una (or Oonagh, or Oona, or Uonaidh etc.). In the ballad tradition of Northern England and Lowland Scotland, she was called the Queen of Elphame "  The Elven forces at work within the Underworld of Europe stirring the pot of the war placing the PC's right in the cross hairs! The PC's are going to be very deep behind enemy lines when the module finally wraps up & better be on the Church's good side!
Svirfneblin (or deep gnomes) are another left over faction of a time long past when humanity worked side by side with these slaves of the Elves. Ancient alliances are not forgotten. But is the price of alliance to high for even the most strident party of adventurers? Will the party have a good relationship after D1-2?

Svirfneblin by Russ Nicholson from the first edition Fiend Folio.

Erelhei-Cinlu is a perfect ancient hold over from thousands of years ago when the Elves were at the height of their power. The place is wicked and perfectly suited to give even the most jaded gamer pause. The power of the place even to this day sends a shiver up the spine of many AD&D players. Simply changing some of the window dressing and adding a historical veneer is one of the challenges of adapting these classics to home campaigns and having a blast with them.

Monday Monster Matters - A Swords & Sorcery Monster Cocktail Commentary - Using Classic AD&D Monster Resources In Old School Campaigns

Just putting together some random classic monster thoughts on a Monday. So let's dive in.

So I've been fighting this Flu for the past three weeks & we're now onto week three. Over the weekend I've been concentrating on my 'Old Earth' campaign setting which is my regular Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition game that takes place in  the land of Lomar. My game world is a mess of a place where Hyperborea exited Earth leaving the place in tatters. An invasion from below by the empire of the necromancer tyrants of K'n-yan & the Hyperboreans left most of the world's military in shreds. These two empires ruled for years and in the setting its mostly black powder weapons in or near the human city states. Hyperborea floats in the night sky out near Saturn yet can be seen in the night sky of Earth. My players are in the middle of events out in the Western Wastelands a region of what used to be Alaska and bits of Russia. I know that I'm upsetting more then a few Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith purists out there.

So l like to look around for material for my own home setting & one of the things I stumbled across was a tumbler talking about using first edition AD&D resources from the Monster Manual, The Fiend Folio, & The Monster Manual II. Right up my OSR alley right?! Not exactly because they're talking about adapting it to Fifth edition. Look if you play fifth edition then more power too you but for me there are only so many hours in the day. I've got no desire or time to learn yet another incarnation of the systems that I love when I do traditional & retroclone systems. My take away here is to take another hard look at The Monster Manual, The Fiend Folio, & The Monster Manual II for some non traditional foes for my Swords & Sorcery setting.  Sure AS&SH second edition uses a lot of traditional old school monsters but customization is one of the keys of the OSR to me.

First up on my list for the Western Wastelands is going to be "The Peryton" which is one of my favorite creatures from the Monster Manual. The AD&D version was taken from " Jorge Luis Borges in his Book of Imaginary Beings, using a supposedly long-lost medieval manuscript as a source."
Yes I totally stole this from the Wiki entry but here's the interesting bit "According to Borges, Perytons lived in Atlantis until an earthquake destroyed the civilization and the creatures escaped by flight. A Peryton casts the shadow of a man until it kills one during its lifetime, at which time it starts to cast its own shadow. A Sibyl once prophesied that the Perytons would lead to the downfall of Rome."

So these things are out in the wastelands seeking the souls of Hyperboreans, going off to the Dreamlands to breed, and generally making themselves into an apex predator of  mankind.

1987 D&D Adventure Pack and notice the crumbling castle in the background perfectly pitched for AS&SH exploration.

The bad ass coffer corpse is another monster that is totally going in to the Western Wastelands as the remains of humans. For that matter all of the undead from the first edition Fiend Folio are pitch perfect for this.

Soldiers that went up against the forces of 
K'n-yan might have died by the millions but that doesn't mean their necessarily gone entirely. A few of those brave souls battled back from beyond the "Underworld" and came back as Bodak. These things are the bane of necromancers everywhere. Dealing with undead & damned souls is the business of witch doctors, necromancers, & priests everywhere. These things are abominations against many of the warrior ideals of tribes everywhere.

Death Dogs & frost foxes are left over Hyperborean monsters that were used extensively for hunting down slaves & humans for sport by the Hyperboreans. These monsters were beloved pets but are now wandering horrors feeding on adventurers & tribesmen alike.

Yeah so Old Earth is filled with lots of left overs, rejects, and horrors that have been hunting humanity for thousands of years. The fact is that the we've got tons of horrors out in the wastes making life tough for the various barbarian tribes & wizards. How you as the dungeon master use the monsters  is really going to determine the pitch of the campaign slant. The players are really going to be the ones to help define the world. The classic monsters are classic for a reason especially things like rot grubs that just scream magical toxic waste from Hell.

The classic rot grub is one that I've continually used as a byproduct of black magick ceremonies & sacrifices ala when Deep Ones or others have done some foul deeds breaking the dimensional barriers. These along with larva are always fun to throw in especially around doors leading to the Underworld or Undereborea. Adventure locations can make or break a campaign but its the monster's encounters that people will continue to talk about for years to come in my experience.
For now keep em rolling! A bit of Clark Ashton Smith's poetry to keep things moving on a Monday!

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

All artwork is copyrighted & trademarked to their respective holders this blog post is not an attempt to violate these but merely for educational & entertainment purposes. North Wind Adventures nor Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition's authors are any way responsible for the content or opinions of this blog. All opinions & ideas are copyrighted & trademarked to this author & are for educational and entertainment purposes only @darkcorner productions 2018.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

'Old Venus' Campaign Setting Redux & Upgrade For A Sunday

So I've been rereading a lot of classic pulp novels & semi Appendix N material, this includes a good dose of Edgar Rice Burroughs but not the usual Tarzan & Barsoom novels. I'm going for some of the really obscure stuff that over the years various "fans" & gamers have dismissed. I'm talking about one of ERB's last book series The Venus or Atmor novels. The Atmor series  isn't in the public domain in the United States but its readily available through any number of used book stores.
The first novel the Pirates of Venus contains most of the action taking place in giant trees very reminiscent of Endor from The Return of the Jedi film. I've often wondered if ERB's Pirates of Venus might have been part of the inspiration for villages of the Ewoks. The enemies are Venusian communists who are some of the more stupid & insipid enemies found in ERB's works Wiki has a pretty good break down of what I'm talking about;
"The novel contains elements of political satire aimed at communism. The novel's villains, the Thorists, start a revolution in the nation of Vepaja for their own good only, cheating the uneducated masses and killing or driving away those doctors and other highly educated that form the foundation of the society. Throughout the book the Thorists remain distant and unreal, and those few that the hero Carson Napier meets are often stupid or incompetent. The Kalkars, villains of Burroughs' other novel The Moon Maid, were also modeled on the Russian Communists.)"
So why are the ERB Venus novels important to an old school D&D or AD&D dungeon master? Because they give context to the 'Old Venus' setting. When you begin to look at the latter three novels in the Atmor series there's a deep & abiding dungeonsque ecology happening on the planet. We get this especially with Escape on Venus when the hero confronts a society of Deep One hybrids who embrace many of the conventions of Venusian life.

This boiling stew pot of ecological cycles of life & death are dependent upon the Great Old One of Clark Ashton Smith's The Immeasurable Horror & A Voyage to Sfanomoë. 
There are one or more plant themed Great Old Ones who preserve life on Venus & then go on to continue the cycles of life & death every couple of thousand years. This cycle falls right in line with the Henry Kuttner/ C.L. Moore Clash By Night & its sequel Fury.
All of this lines up quite nicely with C.L. Moore's North West Smith novels & Leigh Brackett's The Enchantress of Venus. Leigh Brackett's Venus is a world where man is the late comer & exploiter. There are lots of ancient ruins, countless dungeons, etc. because all of the mysteries of Venus have been explored or have they?

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition now offers many monsters & resources that make the 'Old Venus' setting far easier to flesh out.
So let me put this who affair into the context of my 'Old Earth' campaign setting. The two Venusian Great Old Ones were asleep at the very beginning of the Hyperborean wars. Soon however they exploded across the surface and the terraforming began. Ancient ruins not seen for 20000 years came to life with frightening vigor & the world became a seething hothouse of horror and weirdness. Today there are a few scattered barbarian colonist tribes trying to scratch out an existence. This is a prehistoric alien world of incredible danger and riches whose products can make or break a trade house with ease. I'm going to flesh this out as time permits but that these days is at a premium.
All of the stories & novels discussed in this blog post are being used for violation of the  trade marks & copy rights of their respective holders. None of the rpg game systems discussed are in anyway responsible for the content of this blog. This blog post is for educational & entertainment purposes only and the contents are the copyright of the author.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Blood, Power, & Violence Using D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax As War Campaign Foundation

"The final confrontation with the giant, King Snurre, and the entry of mighty adventurers into the cavers under his stronghold discovered that Dark Elves, the Drow, had instigated the giant alliance and its warfare upon mankind and its allied races."

So I'm thinking tonight about one of the all time classic modules Descent Into The Depths of the Earth by Gary Gygax. I'm thinking about how I would use D1-D2 as a template for a Dark Europe derived from Dark Albion but without the Albion part of setting. But the adventure would be set in a quasi mythical/ historical Europe none the less. Perhaps during the chaos of the Hundred Years War.
The  Against the Giants series events have already played out and humanity is at full stop war against itself as Europe is burning in the fires of conflict. Meanwhile behind the scenes a sinister force is pushing buttons of local conflicts. All across Europe the Elven princess/ priestess Eclavdra has been stirring up the fairy race's cults after she's come out of stasis. The war between human kind & the various giant races hasn't worked out in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, etc.  This is a high level campaign race with the PC's tackling head on the war & its problems behind the scenes. Because everything hinges on the Elves! 

I've been out most of today & I've been thinking about Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos especially their version of Elves. Elves are a low down terror straight out of European mythology. The baby stealing, murdering in the night,slavers of humanity, & those who consider humanity as nothing more then slaves. In other words these Elves are monsters and beasts of the highest order. They form cults, create havoc & chaos among humanity especially the various royal families of Europe. The Elven princess/ priestess Eclavdra 
has been setting up various cults within royal families making alliances & setting humans against each other's throats.  This 'underdark' isn't the one of Forgotten Realms fame but the far more alien & weird underworld of European myth & legend where the underworld literally touches the realms of the dead. Descent into the Depths of the Earth I've seen described as the outline of an adventure which means that you as the dungeon master are going to have to dip into the occult mythological traditions to flesh out the monsters, encounters, & put a very different spin on events.

Here the cults of the elves are going to take center stage because there isn't a single 'Dark Elf' to get in your way. Simply these are going to be the alien elves of legend whose legacy is reaching back through the mists of time to put a collar of slavery back around humanity's neck. There are no half elves here but there are Elven blooded descendants who know far more of the horrors of their former masters. Thinking about it perhaps Dark Albion might have far more baring on this sort of a campaign.

This is a very high level adventure module couple this module with the events of the Hundred Years war & you've got the makings of a very lethal campaign. There is going to be desperation writ large across the events of Europe. The PC's are going to be coming straight into the historical remains of the Elven civil war below the Earth & the war of humanity raging above. So instead of D1 being a primer for the Drow its now the primer for the various bits & pieces of Elven history left behind in the underworld including factions & encounters.

There's also the fact that French frog princes & kings have been for centuries trying to check the English power & expansion. But could there be far more to it as the frog princes know what's really behind the throne of England?!?
"The French kings had endeavored, over the centuries, to reduce these possessions, to the effect that, roughly, only Gascony was left to the English. The confiscation or threat of confiscating this duchy had been part of French policy to check the growth of English power, particularly whenever the English were at war with the Kingdom of Scotland, an ally of France." Scotland was once a seat of Elven power on Earth and one of the sites of humanity's rebellion against the Elves.

The Elven princess/ priestess Eclavdra is beyond dangerous in this adventure as adversary. She's on the run, at the height of her power, and is crazed prone to almost any action.  She is basically a party of adventurers worst nightmare. She's a survivor of the Elven civil war from the dawn of humanity & a renegade worshiper of the death god to boot.

The PC's in this campaign are beyond a low level annoyance they're merely a hindrance and she's got the power & numbers of Elves to back it up. She's treading on the ancient inheritances of the Elves.
Descent Into The Depths of the Earth assumes a large party of players. I've run this adventure as a convention set up;  a large party of 7-9 characters are really need. Otherwise smaller parties should enlist the help of local human adventurers if possible. Anyhow this is just the initial set up for a completely different take on D1-D2 Descent Into The Depths of the Earth. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

1d6 Random Saturday Morning Treasures Table For Your Old School Campaigns

So I got an email request for a random table for a Saturday morning cartoon treasure table for a  kids Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea  game adventure by a long time reader. These are going to be some treasures with a bit of treasures with an over stated series of magical effects & ideas.  The theme going in is going to a classic Harryhausen Sinbad style game with a pirate theme to it.

So I'm going to quickly put this together for a reader with the handle Harry Dent and his sons. The idea here is that these treasures have belonged to some of the weird inhuman creatures that seem to populate Saturday morning cartoons. This means that the effects are going to be weird & very quirky. There is a 60% of these treasures being guarded by pirates or 2nd level warriors obsessed with obtaining these items for their magical power & legendary prowess.

1d6 Random Saturday Morning Treasures Table
  1.   1d100 glowing gems that have the ability to temporarily bestow super strength after exposure to the gem's weird power for 5 rounds. The effect lasts 1d20 hours per exposure and there is a 20% chance of random mutation from each exposure unless a save vs wands is made. The gems are worth 50,000 gold pieces to the right collector. 
  2. 1d8 potions of healing whose effects also include making the victim's face and demeanor the subject of the effects of a fear spell each time a potion is consumed. The owner's face takes on a hideous continence the potion heals the poor fool. The potions are also a part of the formula for the ancient Philosopher's Stone.
  3. A wand of 1d20 random magic spells of 1st and 2nd level whose spells fire off with comedic sound effects and strange fairy lights. The wand once belonged to a gnome magus of incredible power whose tribe was lost to slavers. Worth 70,000 gold to the magus's family.
  4.  A book of Druid knowledge that is capable of being used by anyone. This book can be used to heal the land around a ten mile radius & was created by the legendary sky bears for use by their fabled druid priests. Humans using the book can read any sky bear runes & glyph writing. They temporarily gain dark vision within a 10 foot radius while holding the book. Worth 60000 gold pieces to a sky bear collector of relics.
  5. A chest of pirate gold capable of changing the owner into a ghostly form. The owner has all of the minor abilities of a ghost and can interact with the newly departed. The gold can be traded with the undead for passage into the Underworld and for certain favors from the lords of the undead. At the bottom of the chest is a map to the skeleton knight's treasures in the underworld but they will require a boon from the owner. There are several thousand gold pieces of the dead.
  6.  The golden sword of Ur, this legendary sword once belonged to the pirates of Ur and allows the owner to find the mythical dungeon under the sea that belonged to the pirates. The fishmen of Ur now guard the place and only this +2 sword can act as a key to their legendary undersea abode.The sword is worth a cool 20,000 gold pieces.

Using Unusual Mini Campaign Settings For Your OId School Campaigns

Many of otherworldly nature & Weird Tales promises of adventure of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea often seem a bit pedestrian for the average experienced jaded old school Dungeons & Dragons players. But a gift of a paperback book from last night's game might help to make a mini campaign setting with a twist or two.

A Comet by Jules Verne 1964 Ace D 245

So during last night's game I was gifted a paperback of 'Off On A Comet' By Jules Verne which is an old favorite novel of mine ( the anti Semtic bits are totally unnecessary to the novel & are not my cup of tea at all). The idea of the novel got me thinking again of doing a mini campaign setting which is one part of the novel & one part Arthur C. Clark's Rendezvous With Rama thrown into a blender with Swords & Sorcery plus Clark Ashton Smith. 

The idea here is that there is a remnant of Atlantis & Hyperborea that has become a part of a comet various cultures have been swept up to become a part of this comet worldlet. This includes some very alien cultures from across the scattered multiverse mixed in with a variety of human ones. In fact I'm thinking of miniature human cities perhaps something akin to some of H.G. Wells more advanced humanoid ones from When The Sleeper wakes.

An illustration from Jules Verne's novel "Off on a Comet" (French: "Hector Servadac", 1877) drawn by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux.

At the moment this is an idea that I'm toying with but the long term weird forces of the comet may have picked up literally hundreds of ruins, temples, & dungeons over thousands of years of activity. This leads to temples from Greyhawk, towers from Blackmoor, & much more.

Great Comet of 1577

  This could also lead to using some of the more obscure old school monsters from either the Fiend Folio or Monster Manual. Could this comet be a part of the cause of the world ending events of both Blackmoor & Greyhawk? I think that these apocalyptic images would translate into both a mythical & legendary background where the supposed riches & lost treasures could well be a large temptation for adventurers. Getting off of the comet is another story however.
Astronomy: various apocalyptic scenes, including a comet, lightning, and French soldiers. Coloured lithograph, n.d. [c.1847?] Welcome images.

Could there be much more going on within the interior dungeons of the comet itself? Could there be deeper secrets within the alien interior of the comet. Several of the entries in the Greyhawk box set hint at various gods & powers taking very specific interests within the solar system of Greyhawk itself. So chances are that there could be far more going on than at first it seems.

Many of these interior comet dungeons could hint at some of the secrets of lesser known demons, gods, alien Lovecraftian entities that have been hinted about in various classic modules. Yes I'm thinking of the classic T1 Temple of Elemental Evil here. Here the comet's interior might be serving as a prison for one of the other  Chthonic gods or demons of the Elemental Evil horde.

This idea right at the moment is within its infancy & so these ideas are as much a sounding board as they are something to mine right now. This may change as I tighten & mess with some of them as I get closer to using them.

For now keep those dice rolling!