Sunday, December 17, 2017

Modifying & Adapting The TSR UK4 'When a Star Falls' By Graeme Morris Adventure For Your OSR Campaigns

"The power of prophecy is given to few. Wise are they who guard this gift well, for those who thirst after such knowledge are not always men of principle.

Bastion of destiny, the Tower of the Heavens stands silhouetted against the star-studded night sky. From within his darkened observatory, perched like an eyrie on the highest turret, a figure in white charts the course of a shooting-star as it disappears behind the snow-capped peaks of the Tegefed mountains. The old man smiles grimly to himself; the event foretold has come to pass!

Power, glory, riches - it takes years to acquire them. The uncanny accuracy of their predictions has brought all these and more to the sages of the Tower of the Heavens. But what is hard to win is often easier to lose, and the future of the tower now hangs in the balance."

Graeme Morris' work continues on in U.K. TSR tradition with UK4: "When a Star Falls" (1984) & its an old favorite adventure. And this one I got a chance to play back in the 90's at the Orc's Nest in London. Bring about six players for this one because When A Star Fall has a bit of reputation with me. I've lost PC's in this adventure. This one features on thing that resonates with the TSR U.K. tradition they're heavy on plot, pacing, & extremely deadly on weird adventure devices in that put the PC front & center into the action.
I'm talking here about the memory web that introduces & roils PC's into the adventure's plot. This adventure has a well deserved gritty and interesting reputation even while it offers some unique adventure opportunities.
I love the artwork in 'When A Star Falls' it echoes that early Eighties experimentalism phase of early TSR U.K. product & has its roots deep in early White Dwarf magazine artwork too.
U.K. 4 'When A Star Falls' is a classic British mid PC tier romp with all of the deadliness that statement implies.
Machinations among the major NPC's makes this adventure have a very Celtic other world mythology & legendary  tapestry to it.The star isn't simply a quest but a journey of adventure woven around the writing of Graeme Morris. Its some of my favorite of his to date. Once again UK4 'When A Star Falls' features monsters from the Fiend Folio but used in ways & within its encounters that fall well within the purview of the adventure's plot.
UK4 is also decidedly gritty and at points very tense into how it communicates its adventure goals but yet it is neither pushy nor hurried in its execution. A real credit to the writing and design of this module.  The NPC's in this module are fully fleshed out & not at all completely nice & come across as complete jerks. The PC's have their work cut out for them.

UK4 freatures two of my all time favorite Monster Manual II & Fiend Folio monsters in the form of fully fleshed out Derro & 
svirfneblin NPC's, lairs, & completely dangerous encounters. Don't take these places lightly or your PC's corpse will be dangling from the lance of a Derro or worse.  Forget the 'Underdark' folks this is the Celtic or European underworld! This is the place where dungeons lead straight into the underworld & worse lurks just around the next stone column.
Several of the threads running through UK4 fit a dark fantasy Europe making When a Star Falls perfect for setting the action in either a deep part of the Keltic coast of Hyperborea or Dark Albion.

Could UK4 'When A Star Falls' be adapted to a modern retroclone style of campaign? Quite easily and with some style that falls well with some of the modern games. For Labyrinth Lord Advanced this module has all of the bells & whistles ready to go! But for Dark Albion well events of UK4 are going to place this adventure well within Wales or Scotland of Albion's setting with the stirring of the pot taking the forces of chaos straight into the heart of Albion's empire. The events of UK4 could be center stage to some of the Albion events with various royals courting the favors of the NPC's of 'the not Greyhawk' adventure setting. A heavy hand here could get the PC's killed or worse!  Fairyland is going to be wide open with the gates of the underworld raging! There could be war or worse unleashed on the upper world if the PC's don't tread carefully! But there are rich rewards for those who need extra supernatural muscle during the events of the Rose War!

For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition UK 4 represents a completely different delve into the dungeons & locations of Underborea. This adventure has to be set in the Keltic lands with a flair for the pseudo late Roman empire vibe that echoes through the gritty corridors of UK4. This adventure brings a lot to the table combining Celtic mythology, D&D UK grittiness, & a consistant Sword & Sorcery feel throughout. This is the adventure that sets the tone for a English style dungeon romp heavy on plot & thick with action. Again this is an adventure that needs to take place within its own setting within Hyperborea!  This setting is an isolated & old section of Hyperborea where the monsters of the Fiend Folio & The Monster Manual II are going to roam, romp, & have their way with the lands & the lands below. Don't expect this to be a pleasant visit either, this is a wet, wild, & woolly land where the hand of things older then man have truck with the local Pict shamans & things fall from the sky with destiny plastered all over em!

This brings me as a DM to Lamentations of the Flame Princess & the events of The English Civil War of England Upturn'd again! That's right UK 4 'When A Star Falls' events are going to be taking place in the isolated highlands of 1649 while the occult forces from outside older then man are quietly thumbing their collective noses at the young upstart race known as mankind! The plot offers one or more factions of England Upturn'd more then a simple opportunity but a whole tapestry of weirdness waiting to be exploited perhaps the impending invasion by the Derro of the upper world and more!

Tonight whist doing research for this segment of the blog article I came across this guy whose going to be an NPC Roundhead in my next Lamentations game! Great piece of artwork by John Pettie

In the end of all of this UK 4 When a Star Falls is a classic of the series and a great opportunity for both the DM to really challenge play with the  experienced, jaded , and snobbiest of players. UK4 is a classic adventure with all of the elements built into it so that a DM can have it ready to go for even a large group of players! There's a ton of bang for your buck that When a Star Falls offers.

Mysterious Mutant Murderers Of The Western Wastelands - Olathoë' Session Report Six

So the PC's shook off the assassin's attack from last game & decided to get serious about doing some work around the marketplace of the 'Outpost of  the Western' wastelands. They began doing some investigative work, &began combing the market place for any left behind relics & artifacts. The party began to find that not all of the sellers were what they appeared to be! The Outpost is a type I marketplace ala ACK's with which is part late Roman Empire era fort, tent city, marketplace, and clearing area for many of the goods making it into the lands of Lomar. One of the PC's came across a protective charms against the magick of the
'Alpha  Gnophkehs''s shamans in one of the junk stalls. A chipped & cracked charm marred by a heavy blow!

Then one of the PC's noticed quite a few pieces of space junk from the far away lands of the ruins of one of the major Hyperborean gateways & ancient temples. These pieces consisted of ancient warship plating & carbon scored up pieces that had seen a heat ray in the ancient past. Most of these relics were from the Great land bridge battle fields near the seas of Chaos near the North Sound.  There were also hits form
'Alpha  Gnophkehs' weaponry on these pieces! This pieces came from an area near the ruins of the temple of the chaos gods  Tryphon & Nodens on the otherside of the world.

Then one of the PC's stumbled upon a body of a junk merchant hidden under a tarp & tent equipment. The 'merchant' revealed itself to be a 'Rhan Faced' doppelganger from Western Wastelands! There were more of em! 'Rhan Faced Doppelgangers' are tentacled insect faced doppelganger mutants  who have given their souls over to certain Great Old Ones for the ability to become anyone! These monsters have a twisted form of serial immortality in which they must assume the forms of others every seven days or forfeit a temporary point of wisdom to their god. The process is a sapping of the mind of the creature to feed their god not only their souls but their individuality bit by bit for eternity. They only gain back their identity by murdering & consuming the souls of others. The Rhan Faced Doppelgangers are often seen in attendance within forbidden  cult's ceremonies where the giving of one's self to these monsters is seen as a great honor & sacrament!

 The Rhan Faced Doppelgangers have deep connections to certain heretical assassin's guilds of Lomar & operate within the pay of  'Alpha  Gnophkehs' for certain 'favored' slaves taken as part of the spoils of warfare. One of the doppelgangers dropped a charm during the fight of the Cuckold God of the Gnophkehs! 'The Cuckold God' is a mysterious spiritual entity  that acts as a go between for the proto human's shamans  of the Western wastelands & cannibal cults of the Gnophkehs. Why is it there?! And now what has brought this god thing into the fight?

The PC's also found scraps of parchment & ivory wrapped in Wooly Mammoth hide that had tattoos of weird glyphs  of an unknown writing similar to those they've seen during an incursion into a lair of the Voormis! This may mean a parlay with the Voormis who dwell in the Western Wastelands!

The fight with the Rhan Faced Doppelgangers took up most of the night as did going over the slowly bubbling corpses but the stink isn't going to come out of the PC's clothing. What is happening in the Western Wasteland Outpost?! Do the PC's have time to stop the clock work of events before the forces of  the Gnophkehs invade & destroy everything? Who is the The Cuckold God'? What what other sinister forces are at work on Old Earth? Tune in next week & find out!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Battles, Blood, & The Adventure of AD&D 1st Edition's TSR U.K.3 The Gauntlet By Graeme Morris For Your Old School Campaigns

Indomitable it stood for centuries, a symbol of order in a world of chaos. Bastion of the pass through the Kamph Mountains, the very stones of the Keep of Adlerweg were the stuff of legends. What evil power had strength enough to take it? How were its defenses swept aside?
Fell creatures now attend the battlements that overlook the only pass between Berghof and the sea.
This is not a pretty problem to be solved by the militia of the local villages. These and more may be needed to withstand the mayhem stirred up by the fall of the keep. Indeed, if the Keep is not retaken, and retaken soon, the Hold of the Sea Princes itself may not be secure.
Now is the time for heroic action. Aided by the Sentinel, former protector of the legendary Guardians of Adlerweg, have you the courage and the determination to rid the keep of its sinister occupants?
For characters level 3-6.

UK3 The Gauntlet by Graeme Morris is a strong punch in the face follow up to his adventure  U.K.2 The Sentinel & its a mean little adventure. U.K.3 was the follow up adventure at the  GamesFair 1983 AD&D Open which was won by a Runequest fan. Written by Graeme Morris UK3 The Gauntlet offers many of the qualities that made the U.K. series memorable & solid including solid pacing, weird Celticcentic wilderness encounters but it suffers from being more then a bit more adventure plot heavy. This is because the adventure is. Why because this adventure is war, the bloody brutal war of mythology on a scale that the Fiend Folio implies. This one delivers.

We get lots of details about the Hold of The Sea Kings of Greyhawk & this DMing the U.K. 3 adventure takes a very steady hand on the DM's part. Remember this was a competition module, the encounters seem to of a much higher brutality level then normal because they are. There are lots of details about the defenses
on the defenses of Adlerweg Keep. The Gauntlet keeps its battle guidelines along with U.K. 2 The Sentinel tight & neat something that I'd wished that other TSR adventures had done. Used together these two adventures are excellent. Uk3 The Gauntlet uses the Fiend Folio throughout the adventure in the best way possible. It showcases the monsters in creative & solidly deadly ways. Again this is something that I'd wished other adventures of the old school had done. My love for the Fiend Folio & early White Dwarf magazine era monsters is well known. This adventure is where we see them at their fullest. We get the full range of FF monsters including: blood hawks, ettercaps, a forlarren, an ogrillion, a revenant, skulks, a volt, & much more I don't want to spoil the surprise.

"UK3 The Gauntlet is a 32-page book with an outer folder that was written by Graeme Morris and published by TSR, Inc. in 1984 for the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules."  The above comes straight out of the wiki entry & presents one of the unique challenges of rolling UK3 The Gauntlet into a retrolclone gaming system & setting . Those with OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord Advanced won't have any issues per say except when it comes to presenting the battles, & plots of the modules.
UK 2  The Sentinel & UK3 The Gauntlet in Dark Albion then things are going to be interesting. Because in my mind your going to be looking at the last gasps of the legacy of Fairy & the Elves as two powers from the time of the domination of  Dark Europe reach into the present. The fact is the planar tapestry of Europe is going to look like cheese cloth because the threat presented by Chaos is going to be huge. These two modules taken together represent a change up in the campaign settings  of Europe as a whole. Who could  the Hold of the Sea Princes belong to in Dark Albion? Well for that we reach deep into Celtic mythology and bring back the Princes of Lyonesse.Now the events of U.K. 2 & 3 have a point & bloody purpose as the Guardians of Adlerweg come straight out legend & occult myth to provide the DM with all he needs to bring these adventures into Dark Albion.
For Lamentations of the Flame Princess 
UK3 The Gauntlet is perfectly aligned as a major incursion of the supernatural in Europe during the time of the civil war of England Upturn'd. The factions of that module might be bringing 'things from outside' and the results reach way back into the bloody occult traditions of the U.K. There are going to be a lot of witch burnings after the events of U.K. 2 & 3. You could be looking at the PC's fleeing for their lives. The English church could form groups of witch hunters to track them down & kill them.

When it comes to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.
UK 2  The Sentinel & UK3 The Gauntlet have to be placed within the lands of the Keltic tribes, & the Picts. They offer a rather unique set of myths & legends which line up in a bit of a puzzle piece fashion with the ideas & backgrounds of Robert E. Howard & many of the Lovecraft circle of writers. But it is far better to reach deep into the well of Celtic & English folklore for many of the more pulpy aspects of these two modules. The threat of Fairyland here is made quite clear that the threats presented in U.K. 2 & 3 are not only alive and well but taking aim straight at the heart of Hyperborea. Here the Hold of the Sea Princes should be its own area of Hyperborea with its uniquely U.K. TSR Fiend Folio monsters!
 For many U.K. Dungeon masters
UK3 The Gauntlet represents some of the best of the best of the writing & wyrdness of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures of the time period. These are wickly nasty adventures where only the brave shall triumph and weak will be left as pickings for other adventurers.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Slicing Deeper Into UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris For Your Old School Campaigns

"Not even memories of past glory live on in the gentle hills around the village of Kusnir. Today its people have more concern for commonplace things, like the harvest, trade, and the threat of death in the night!

Kusnir is beset by a skulk.

The attentions of such a creature are a curse on any community. Streets and alleys which ring to the voices of children by day become fearful, shadowy places by night. Men go abroad armed and in groups, while women and children stay behind locked doors and even there are not safe. But life goes on. The lot of the peasant is always hard, what cannot be prevented must be endured and, of course, things could be worse.

Much worse. The skulk has begun to visit the village more and more often. Sometimes it kills, yet just as often it spares a victim, leaving clear signs of what it might have done had it wished. Its visits are now marked by strange and illegible symbols scrawled in blood on the walls of the buildings. The people are worried, helpless, and desperate. Desperate enough to welcome adventurers.

This adventure can be played alone or as the first adventure in the two-part Alderweg series. "

When it comes to modules that have a rolling hills sort of history with my experiences with AD&D 1st edition UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris is at its  center. This module is aimed at the lower end of PC levels starting with 2-5 & in the second part of the of the two-part Adlerweg series we get The Gauntlet we get the PC's bumped up to levels 3-6. So its an interesting mix of PC's levels right off of the cricket bat. 
This is classic Graeme Morris, who co-authored UK1 all over with his passion for plundering the Fiend Folio & Monster Manual for many of his gem like encounters within 'The Sentinel.' This brings a weird English sensibility to the U.K. series which for some is too their taste & not so with other dungeon masters. To run this module takes a steady hand on the dungeon master's part.

There is a lot of investigation, sorting through encounters, clue gathering, piecing the myths & legends of the local area. U.K.2 is a location centered adventure with the action taking place within the confines of the local countryside locations  including the village of Kusnir, an old xvart lair, and a lake-side villa.Its worth noting that this isn't a hack & slash module, there is a lot of investigation work by the PC. The fact that U.K. 2 relies on the Monster Manuel II & The Fiend Folio makes this a great gateway drug for players who haven't experienced the U.K. series with its quirks, twists, and turns sure there hack & slash encounters.But this is a module rooted in thinking or your going to gutted & easily murdered several times over.
Also if your like me & sick of seeing 'Drow' as PC races, on the cover of every other 5th edition adventure, etc. & you want to get into a mythological AD&D style race that fits the bill closer to Celtic & Robert Howardian elements?? Let's quickly talk about the Xvart which is a rather nasty humanoid race;'
Xvarts are bald, blue-skinned humanoids with orange eyes. They are 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and usually wear loose cloth doublets. Xvarts live in hilly, cavernous regions, and are usually of chaotic evil or chaotic neutral alignment.' This race makes an excellent stand in for the Drow & they're far closer to the source material
I've used Xvarts as the souls of reincarnated Celts who couldn't move on to their final rewards after being killed by the Roman occupying forces during the time of Caesar for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess game in an England Upturn’d game.  I digest here but not really because the Xvart's lair provides the PC's with some really nasty insights into the ecology of these little bastards.

Understand that
this is classic Graeme Morris hear & some of the encounters are way over powered for the PC levels suggested. This is an old school module in every shape & way here, they're not worried if your PC gets a bloody nose or impaled on a half orc spear. The gloves are off & the module will come at your party swinging in certain parts. The cartography is one of my favorite parts of U.K. 2 The Sentinel, the maps are clear, concise, & done by the same cartographer who would later go on to work with Warhammer Fantasy first edition. The artwork is passable for the time period which is the latter half of the TSR classic era.

So can U.K.2 The Sentinal be used with modern retroclone systems? In a word yes. This isn't a perfect module by a country mile but its deeply entrenched in both AD&D monsters & Celtic lore. This is a thinking man's adventure with lots of opportunity for killing on the PC's part but they'll just as likely to get slaughtered. U.K.2 The Sentinal would make an excellent Dark Albion
inquisitor's introduction adventure taking place in the back waters of Albion. The monsters of fairy are rising up as the events of the Rose War begin to bring supernatural elements & powers to a boil. There several encounter areas that could lead to fairyland & bring real trouble for a party of adventurers. There's an implied connection between The Plane of Shadow & Fairyland sort of off stage in U.K.2 in the plot line & gaming elements of U.K. 2 in my mind. This makes it a good bridge gap into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition with its mix of encounters with giant bats, an iron cobra, kenku, needlemen, sheet ghouls, a sheet phantom, a stunjelly, witherweed, boat loads of xvarts. Could there be a doorway into Hyperborea's underworld that leads into the realms of the night hags as detailed in U.K.2?

For Lamentations of The Flame Princess I can easily see U.K. 2 being moved right onto the English countryside with little issue. Set during the beginnings of the Pike & Shot era. This adventure could easily be placed at the beginning of one of the numerous skirmishes that happened before 
the Hundred Years' War. The DM would have to twist & turn some of the elements to be a bit more bloody,surreal, & downright dangerous. But let's face it. You can easily refer back to real world mythology & pop culture to give all of the monsters a bit more of the LoFP treatment.
UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris isn't perfect nor as widely regarded as part II but there's enough meat here that it stands on its merits and its a damn fun module to run! For now keep em rolling & I hope you all make your saves!
More to come folks!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Adapting Beyond the Crystal Cave (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Module UK1 By Dave J. Browne, Graeme Morris, & Tom Kirby For Your Old School Campaigns

Fleeing the rage that consumed their feuding families, Juliana and Orlando fled to the Cave of Echoes, where it is said every wish is granted. Two years have passed, and all attempts to return the lovers to their parents have failed, though some believe them lost in the enchanted garden beyond the cave. Many are the rescuers venturing into that enchanted park; a few have returned after long absences, their minds and memories curiously disturbed.

Alright so yesterday I wrote briefly about U.K1 Beyond the Crystal Cave by British designers Dave J. Browne, Tom Kirby, and Graeme Morris, and published by TSR in 1983 as a thirty two page booklet. So it trails in for PC's levels four through seven. Its sort of set within the confines of Greyhawk but its got a very midevil English countryside approach with a very differently enchanted fairyland sort of feel to the adventure taking place within Sybarate Isle in the Hold of the Sea Princes. The size of the isle has always been a source of contention among DM's & players. For me its always been U.K.1's setting situated someplace between Robert Howard's Solmon Kane with the threat of his Conan Picts someplace out there in the far away. The sort of backwater adventure location that could be dropped into War Hammer Fantasy Rpg first edition or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with little issue. 

Yeah sort of like this but with more Fiend Folio first edition monsters!

The PC's are hired to rescue a recently eloped couple that has fled into the Cave of Echoes & its from here where things go wrong. This is a thinking man's adventure where experience points are rewarded for role playing your way out of situations. You as the DM are going to have to think on your feet & move on the trot when it comes to seeing where the PC's take events in Beyond The Crystal Cave. Because kids this is Shakespeare meets AD&D first edition & its an adventure that does it with style.

The PC's are going to have to be wily & clever to enter the Crystal Cave then enter Porpherio's Garden. The Garden is on the island of Sybarate. This isn't as easy as it sounds. There's lots of possible complications, drama, & possible circumstances to easily murder a seventh level PC with easy. The trips, traps, & encounters are balanced but for the thinking rpger & AD&D 1st edition player. Could this adventure be adapted for retroclone systems today? Quite easily because U.K.1 has its roots firmly within Celtic mythology & it wears these on its sleeve!
In fact this module could be transported whole hog into a variety of retroclone systems starting with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. The combination of Fiend Folio monsters & AD&D 1st edition makes this one a nature for the Keltic based nations. The easy of slipping this into the bounds of Hyperborea might need a bit of a push here & there. But all in all it will easily fit into the campaign setting.

I can easily see this  adventure module working for Dark Albion as well where the families become mid tier royals & the PC's have to find the couple as part of the background tapestry of the Rose War. The monsters & adventure background fit the whole cloth of the setting nicely. The lay out & clear writing are hallmarks of the U.K. series.  I can easily see adapting this module into a Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg campaign with more then a few twists & turns!

U.K. 1 Beyond The Crystal Cave isn't for everyone, the module works on a number of levels with its writing, investigative style, quirky subject matter, approach to role playing rather then the traditional Dungeons & Dragons dungeon crawling. For some it remains a cultclassic with its revolutionary approach but for others its not their cup of tea. For me its an old favorite of mine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

1d6 Random Demons of The Outer Void Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

The Outer Void allows many spirits to bridge the shores of reality. They travel on the Winds of Darkness moving across the bows & breaks of the currents of the Astral to come to foreign shores. These spirits often take over corpses of warriors, strange wanderers, & the fallen. These spirits count as wights or even minor demons, they have often been in the void for centuries. Spirits such as these often carry out ancient agendas that have little meaning in the world of today. So these terrible spirits have to adapt & change to their surroundings.

Often 'Demons of The Outer Void' are summoned to 'Old Earth' & other worlds by means of a simple monster summoning spell. Often this is done by wizards seeking dangerous knowledge of certain Ancient Ones relics & artifacts that leave more questions then answers. The demons are often evasive & very deceptive giving the wizards just enough information to wet the appetites of their summoners. Other summoners use these monsters to create siege weapons when they possess ordinary animals or other prehistoric life forms. These possessions often create 1d8 mutations within the host one of which is always increased size. 

A mirror of reality is always needed for the summoning of one of these spiritual monsters. The mirror is a 40,000 gold piece convex mirrored arrangements of lens that will show any nearby realities for those of a para natural occupation. It will take a skilled craftsman about a year to create the mind bending curves to see into the various levels of alternative realities.

Many times these entities are summoned by necromancers, black magus, & wizards for the sole purpose of advising royals,kings, & rulers about any relics, treasures or ancient artifacts that the Ancient Ones left behind. The demons will mislead, manipulate, & cause as much mayhem after 1d6 years & a day.

 1d6 Random Demons of The Outer Void Encounter Table
  1.  A former general in the armies of the gods, this deceptive & corrupt spirit king's name has been erased from history. It seeks his former comrades in the Underworld but he was separated from them. Only they know his name which will restore him to the rank of  fiend. It is a cruel & infinitely terrible spirit that loves to torture & kill humans as well as near humans. 
  2. Former plaything of the serpent people this spirit is called 'He Who Waits to Kill' a spirit of infinitely cruel jest & torment that loves to possess the strong & virile. This spirit has been a warrior, scholar, & torturer. 
  3. Reubs Sona  The demon jester of Cul is a spirit that hasn't a memory of Earth but the jokes played on him by the Outer Gods. Since then he has to sift through the memories of infinite lives of his victims to form any identity. A joker & trickster spirit that can jump from one body to another to create 1d100 zombie servants. 
  4.  'The Storm of Hours ' is a spirit of infinite destructive power able to possess the elements and create 1d20 demonic elemental bodies. It has knowledge of many technological systems of the 'Ancient Ones' but hates being summoned & bound by magus. It will only serve for 1d6 days before returning to Outer Void as its fury & anger drive it back to its infinite prison between realities. 
  5. Sham Oth - A raging fury of colourless fire & darkness that possesses the dead as its way as former spirit warrior of decay. This spirit knows all of the planar byways & mortal works of history but it can only answer 1d20 questions of horror & madness. 
  6. 'The Shape Without Body' is a spirit of body & biological madness that pulls from an infinite varies of itself for its knowledge. The thing uses dark Chaos energies to shape monstrous bodies & will only answer questions relating to biological weapon systems & cosmic events of an insane nature. It can create 1d10 bodies for itself but direct them as needed. 

Mirrors of steel or silver, gold or glass antique!
Whether in melancholy marble palaces
In some long trance you drew the dreamy loveliness
Of Roman queens, or queens barbarical, or Greek:
Or, further than the bright and sun-pursuing beak
Of argosy might fare, beheld the empresses
Of lost Lemuria; or behind the lattices
Alhambran, have returned forbidden smiles oblique

Of wan mysterious women—mirrors, mirrors old,
Mirrors immutable, impassible as fate,
Your bosoms held the perished beauty of the past
Nearer than straining love might ever hope to hold;
And fleeing faces, lips too phantom-frail to last,
Found in your magic depth a life re-duplicate.
Mirrors  (1922)  by Clark Ashton Smith

OSR Commentary & Review on The Midderlands - OSR Bestiary and Setting From MonkeyBlood Design For Your Old School Campaigns

So I've been looking over  The Midderlands - OSR Bestiary and Setting 
pdf last night during a wicked ice storm. This morning I'm looking over the Midderlands setting last night & can't seem to shake the feeling I've seen this style of setting  before. But first what is the Midderlands, "A green-hued, dark-fantasy, old-school mini-setting and bestiary set in a twisted middle-England." So what do I possibly mean I've seen this style of OSR setting before?

The Drivethrurpg blurb goes into far more detail;"

"Situated in the middle of Havenland is an area known by the ancestors as the Middle Havenlands. They don’t use that name much any more, preferring to talk lazily, and skip letters.
In strange accents, often misheard and little understood by those outside of the central region - they call it “The Midderlands”, and themselves “Midfolk” or “Midderlanders”.
There are many peculiar folk that call these Midderlands home. Generally mistrusting of outsiders, they suspiciously eye strangers, close doors, bar windows and scurry in opposite directions. Maybe the area has had a troubled history and that is why the folk behave the way they do.
All that aside, there are good folk too. These folk just want to subsist peacefully and not have interference or “goings on” in their lives. Nothing is ever that simple.
As well as the people of the area, there are the places. The towns and hamlets, the woods and hills, the lakes and the rivers. Amongst all these places are stranger locales too; circles of stones, strange towers, castles and burial grounds.
Everywhere, the Midderlands is tainted by a green-hued menace that rises from the deep and affects nature and order, sometimes subtly and sometimes catastrophically. It rises from the mysterious subterranean realm known as Middergloom. Often described as hell bathed in green fire and flames. Green-tinged slime, noxious vapours, and miasmas creep upwards, amongst them viridian-coloured demons, lime-green tentacles and other malachite horrors claw their way to the surface to wreak havoc. The Lords of the land are always working to keep things at bay. The realm of Middergloom is deliberately nebulous and mysterious, and left for you to develop as needed to suit your campaign.
The vileness that lurks below taints the skies above the land too, known as The Drab. The atmosphere is a hint of green rather than blue. The colour can shift between turquoise and sickly yellow-green in a short space of time. When night comes and the Drab clears, the midfolk can see the constellations surrounded by wispy green nebulae, strange wandering stars and comets, and a single many-cratered moon.
There are many things to keep the inquisitive minds of treasure seekers amused. There are also many things to keep the treasures where they are.
Things stir in this viridian-hued landscape. Evil eyes blink and watch. Teeth and claws scratch and sharpen. Gaping maws slobber and drool.
All is not content in the Midderlands."
So needless to say that the Midderlands is very well done, the layout is easy on the eyes, the material fits exactly the itch of a deep, dark, dank fantasy England. Glynn Seal knows his sources & solid background of his world very well. This is not your average OSR world but one that seems to reflect the uniquely weird U.K. brand of fantasy.
So where have I seen this style before? In The U.K. series of classic TSR modules. This same home grown U.K. style where the grit is matched by the monsters of the setting twisted into the plot background of the product so that the adventure flows together well as a cohesive setting whole.

I'd compare the Midderlands setting to U.K.1 Beyond the Crystal Cave. "Beyond the Crystal Cave was written by British designers Dave J. Browne, Tom Kirby, and Graeme Morris, and published by TSR in 1983" There are several reasons why I'm saying this. Your going to need to actually role play, think outside the box, and figure your way out of the interiors of several of the nastier bits of the Midderlands. This is the same idea that Beyond the Crystal Cave employed. By hook or crook the PC's have to use their brains time & again. The second reason I'd compare the two is because of the way that the author has shunted the material into a strangely spun English countryside;" U.K.1  is set in an old English milieu on Sybarate Isle in the Hold of the Sea Princes." This is the same style that we'd later on see in later on in the classic  Warhammer Fantasy by Games Workshop because authors of TSR U.K. would go on to create classic era Games Workshop!

Let me go so far as to say that you could drop the entire TSR U.K. series right into the Midderlands & the setting would let out a burp & a fart then continue on. That's the beauty of this setting its adaptable easily able to be used in a wide variety of OSR setting & milieus easily including Dark Albion, Gavin Norman's
Dolmenwood , Greyhawk, & many others.  The Midderlands Promo gives a good sampling of the sorts but Gods below that music.

For Dark Albion, The Midderlands is the going to be a mid point in the Albion empire. Not quite a backwater but the sort of a frontier border countryside that's common in England. These lands are going to be 'settled' but not quite up to the usual Albion strictness of control that one gets deeper in the cities & towns. There are deep & dark monsters in these places. PC's are going to have to tread very carefully between the politics of the area, the residents, and the monsters.
So what kind of artwork are we seeing? Well I stumbled across this video of the author/artist doing a bit of pen work on one of the buildings featured in The Midderlands.

This isn't simply a commercial or art video pay attention to the building's style . For adapting The Midderlands setting for an old school Sword & Sorcery campaign world like Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition, 'The Midderlands' represents the point where civilization ends & the wilderness begins. The technological level is a mid to high point late Roman Empire to Medieval real world historical perspective. As such The Midderlands would be a place where the humans have recovered or retained a good deal of their technological prowess compared to some of the places in Hyperborea. This means that the Midderlands would be the belt way of the capital of Hyperborea. This is the beauty of 'The Midderlands' as a mini setting it can be moved where its needed in an OSR campaign setting.
I'd give it five out of five for an outstanding product. We will be reviewing, offering more commentaries on the 
The Midderlands  Setting as we  adapt it into the on going campaign stream of play.
You Can Grab The Midderlands - OSR Bestiary and Setting Here

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Unboxing & Campaign Building Commentary

If you've been following this blog for awhile now then you know of my all consuming love of Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition from North Wind Adventures.

 So imagine my surprise when I received a great big package( alright don't because I was informed bout this about a month ago by the author himself. I nearly nerdgarmed right on the email. Merry Christmas to Jeff, The North Wind Adventure crew  & The Talanian family)!

The North wind packing & packaging was excellent. They did this the right way unlike some of my packages in the past from lulu publishing which has gotten better.
 But this fantastic Christmas present got me thinking about the on the table use of classic B/X Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures with AS&SH. This comes adapting other OSR adventures as well but we'll get to that in a second.

Jesus you could kill someone with this book don't mind my hairy Bigfoot like arm in the picture but check the quality of the binding on the side that's what I want to see in games.

The whole centeral focus of AS&SH system & campaign settings  are the writings of Clark Ashton Smith  & the Lovecraft circle of writers 
But the DM shouldn't feel crippled by an official setting for AS&SH at all. Instead they should be making it their own. But the fact is that a lot of DM's & for that matter players don't have the time to do a lot of prep work & whatnot today. So instead their going to focus no classically published B/X D&D or AD&D first edition adventures. But I just briefly want to talk about the focus & flavor of AS&SH second edition. On the whole it can seem right out regular Dungeons & Dragons but its not. Instead the setting echoes the classic pulp era with HP Lovecraft & Robert Howard's mythos writing but it might also be the far future where Hyperborea is in its last gasps before the whole mass sinks into that bloated red sun.

I really appreciate the sentiment Jeffrey seriously I do & right back at you.

For my 'Old Earth' campaign setting Hyperborea is a echo of a bygone war torn age. But for running something like the T1 The Village of Hommlet, the place is a bastion of civilization in the wilderness of cavemen,giants, etc. that are waiting to meet & eat your PC's head on. The PC's are going to need the Keep from The Borderlands  & want a base of operations straight out when adventuring on Hyperborea.The town of Swampgate & the introductory adventure does the exact classic bastion of civilization. The technological levels of AS&SH run from secondary Ice Age cavemen to Greek & perhaps in some of the most civilized areas mid period empire Rome. This means that wilderness adventuring  can be the rule not the exception on Hyperborea. And its that Weird Tales wilderness where villages & entire farms can be swallowed up by some Lovecraftian horror or nameless thing. Classic campaign run modules such as the Temple of Elemental Evil should be adapted to AS&SH not the other way around. There are the classic D&D monsters but in AS&SH they've been given a Hyperborean coating. Should the DM work with them they can surprise & kill even seasoned veteran player's PC's easily.

The page meet is solid meaning that the binding is quality.Notice where the meet points are & how the pages are balanced.

This means that AS&SH is wearing its Sword & Sorcery origins quite literally on its sleeves. So I have a tendency to run classic Dungeons & Dragons modules with a twist or two that the players who have played the classics before are not expecting. Because let's face it 'gamers' in general are a pop culture wary & jaded lot. AS&SH's Hyperborea isn't drawing from one cycle of  Clark Ashton Smith's cycles or H.P. Lovecraft's writings its drawing from many of them. Stealing from them in the night & then moving on. This makes campaign play not only doable but it demands it. This isn't to say that you as a player or DM can't run one shot adventures in fact I would suggest a television episode style of adventures to expand & flesh out their Hyperborea setting because Sword and sorcery commonly overlaps with heroic fantasy.

The color plates really do add to the spice of the setting and give the DM fodder. They lay the ground work with regards to the hows & why's of Hyperborea as a living breathing campaign adventure setting. They're gorgeous.

On the whole AS&SH is a classic OSR retro clone system & many of the fine OSR adventure products on the market can easily be adapted to the system. This also includes settings as well. Because in my mind AS&SH takes place in the far future its easy to adapt them to the AS&SH system. I reading some of this minor blog entry I make the whole thing sound plodding & as a stick in the mud serious retroclone. AS&SH can easily do classic Saturday morning cartoons such as 'The Herculoids' or 'Thundarr The Barbarian' as easily as Robert Howard's Conan.

I haven't talked much about North Wind Adventures other official adventures like Beneath the Comet , Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess, or Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes 
but especially The Mystery at Port Greely
The Mystery at Port Greely is a recasting of  HP Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth onto Hyperborean shores. This adventure has given me the most campaign adventure hooks, player reactions, & TPK's of the AS&SH line. Why? Because its one of the defining Lovecraftian  adventures of Hyperborea. The adventure seems to fade from players minds for some reason but the events of the adventure point to a world baring threat with implications of Lovecraftian wars brewing on Hyperborea. This adventure has some very dire implications for my own 'Old Earth' campaign but we'll get to that soon enough. Mental note to self get a physical copy ASAP. Seriously I keep forgetting to order the physical copies of these adventures because last year I gave them to a friend as a Christmas present.

For me Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition isn't just a gorgeous book but a setting that I want to play in  again & again.
 If You Want Your own copy of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition Grab It Here

Have a great afternoon & Trouble says hi folks. Remember to keep those dice rolling!

Monday, December 11, 2017

OSR Commentary - Using Classic Dungeons & Dragons Adventures For Campaign Construction

The Grand Duchy of Geoff has recently been plagued by a rash of unusually weird and terrible monsters of an unknown sort. This western area, particularly the mountain fastness which separates the Grand Duchy from the Dry Steppes, has long been renowned for the generation of the most fearsome beasts, and it has been shunned accordingly -- save a handful of hardy souls with exceptional abilities. Within the last few months, however, a walled town not far distant from the area, and four small fortresses as well, have been destroyed by mysterious attacks!

Areas of dimensional instability first started to appear in the time of the Ancient Ones with the 'The Amazing Stranger  from Another World Affair'. A space craft appeared in the skies in 1918 to the fanfare of the world at the edges of the outer solar system through a rip in the fabric of time & space. Scientists, physicists,astronomers were able to chart the very bounds of reality. The adventure career of the occupant of that craft is well documented elsewhere & far to much for a single blog entry. Needless to say that this single event catapulted the world's sciences decades forward on all levels including FTL travel,astronomy, physics, even the basic building blocks of what we call reality.

 The second event is 'the mysterious Warden event' in which an interstellar traveler from a far away world crashed into Earth in 1922 in the then Yugoslavian mountains. The disaster devastated local villages, cities, & burnt massive swaths of the countryside. The loss of life totaled in the thousands but then the monsters started to appear. A few at first & then more. Teams of international scientists, explorers, etc. were sent in & none returned. The reports of monsters continued, a few artifacts of incredible technological potential were recovered. During World War II the Nazi conquered, sent in teams, & died by the hundreds.


The Americans & Soviets sent in teams as well learning from what they could about the craft.
A few baubles were recovered which propelled the sciences once again this time in medicine & energy production. The biggest break came in the early Fifties after the 'California They' disasters which were indirectly influenced by the mutagen forces released into Earth's atmosphere from the craft. Scientists incorrectly attributed it to the atomic bombs. An engineering bot was recovered after repairs on the crashed craft were being done. A mercenary group managed to smuggle the bot out of the restricted area. The bots data banks took decades to decode by the R.U.R. think tank. This lead to a revolution in robotics, A.I., & the fields of artificial intelligence that is barely understood.  The appearance of the Warden on Earth signaled a barely recognized start of events that spelled the end of Earth. The Hyperborean & Mound wars started a few short decades later. The end was on its way.

Bubbles of dimensional unreality lead to other dimensions & alternative Earths making the whole place one of the most dangerous on Earth. Adventurers, scientists, and dimensional trespassers routinely come through this place. To this day not many have penetrated the secrets of the Warden. It still stands quietly being repaired, worked on & tinkered with by its robotic & monstrous inhabitants.

So what is this above? A brief set of passages based on my 'Old Earth' campaign history's  time line. What I've done is basically taken a classic TSR era module & molded it around the needs of my players & the campaign setting's history.
There's a quick background, some fun fluff, & a way of combining this with any number of retroclone systems.

"S3: "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" (1980), by Gary Gygax, is the third "Special" adventure for AD&D. It was published in February 1980.", is one of the more flexible & completely adaptable but very deadly adventures. I've used it numerous time for weird fiction ala James Raggi IV's Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Rpg Pundit's Dark Albion, Adventurer, Conqueror, King, & even Stars Without Number. The point is that one module can be used to set up & run an entire campaign setting as its touchstone.  Hell,
The Grand Duchy of Geoff could become a pre WWII micro nation that hires the adventurers to penetrate & possibly die among the mysteries of the Warden. Dungeon masters should never ever be intimidated by 'classic' adventures because other gamers have strong opinions about these classics. Your players are the one who matter and its them you are playing with.
May all of your saves happen & you roll twenties. More to come!