Thursday, December 31, 2015

Retro Review of Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book By Bard Games For Your Old School Campaigns Part II

When it came to the second age of Atlantis and a DM needed monsters and creature only Bard's Games's
Bestiary fit the bill. This book was the second section of the Atlantis: The Lost World Rpg Source Book and it has a ton of material in it. From mythology to created creatures the Bestiary delved into them all weaving its monsters and races through a  kaleidoscope of imaginary races and beasts all the way to the pits of Hell itself.  Here's a break down from Wayne's Books; "Return to the second age of Atlantis to a time when  the race of men was young, and giants still walked the earth... when ancient dragons lay sleeping beneath the ocean waves, and the woods of Avalon and Stonehenge were alive with the haunting songs of the magical Sidhe. Encounter the strange and wondrous inhabitants of a bygone age in the Bestiary.
• The Alicanto, a fabulous bird that feeds on precious metals
• The Zephyr, beautiful winged folk from the Continent of Mu
• The Hantu, so-called "earth-bound demons" of legend
• The Ahl-at-Rab, reptilian rulers of the desert sands
• The Kraken, fearsome monsters of the deep
• The Zazir, diminutive and industrious creators of nature's wonders
• And many, many more...

With a separate section for fantasy role players, featuring stats for hundreds of monsters and wild animals, lists of encounters, and much more..."

If you were reading Dragon magazine in Eighty Eight then you were thumbing past advertisements and adds for Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book By Bard Games which contained two different source books under one cover and it was great value for the money. Make no mistake the book was strongly influenced by both Hollywood films such as Clash of the Titans, Legend, and many others.
 This book was packed and it was wall to wall artwork and background, there's a ton of the Atlantis splat book background campaign history in each of the creature sections with special attention paid to the Fey, fairy races, and old world mythological resources strained through the lens of the Atlantis setting.
 There were a ton of races, setting details, adventure hooks, possible religious and magick bits sprinkled though out the book and it covered everything including Undead, Atlantis: The Lost World had its own internal rpg house system that dove tailed right into the resources of the Arcanum
 Races got a first class treatment in this book with incredibly in depth entries perfect for sword and sorcery games set during the second age of Atlantis, there were non human cities, maps, settings, and more waiting for the dungeon master to cherry pick what they needed or wanted. Best of all the book could be used with OD&D, AD&D 1st edition, Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls and other games on the market with several conversion charts included.
 There were hints and suggestions of how the placement of monsters was done in the entries for each of these races of creatures within the bounds of Atlantis and beyond. Most of the entire Old World was used or at least Atlantian analog places and settings. The book went into some detail with a bit of history about the monsters and not even the undead were spared. The artwork is wacky, black and white line art but it fits the spare and leanness of the world of Atlantis.
 The giant races had a ton of detail and added several bits to their mythology making them prime antagonists and a playable race as well. This was one of the differences to other monster manuals of the time. The Atlantis books treated the creatures as more then mere cannon or dungeon fodder they were races with history, traditions, and culture behind them some going back thousands of years.
 Humanoid races were treated differently as well drawing down solid legends and backgrounds to the usual suspects. Sure the orcs analogs were there but there were desert dwelling serpent men and horrors beyond count waiting to murder adventurers in the night.
 Demonic and semi demonic races were also in evidence with all of their own charms and legends surrounding them. These horrors spoke of the mating of man and something else. There's more then a bit of Lovecraft and Robert Howard between the lines here in the monster entries but stats for these creatures are way in the back of the book.
 Monsters including the usual suspects such as the Dwarves and Elves of D&D fame are here as well closer to their inspiration from mythology and the movie Legend then the Monster Manual.
 Monsters of Earth, Sky, and Water are also here and they're mean as hell too, some of these races have an aura of menace and murder about them in spades enough to give many of the usual suspects from the Fiend Folio a run for their money.
 Werecreatures and horrors of the night are given their due as well, there is a sense that this isn't simply an Alternative age of mythology but something of an alien world entirely. The book reeks of Appendix N style Weird Tales action and in several spots delivers exactly that style of vibe making the Bestiary a perfect resource for OSR games such at Lamenations of the Flame Princess and Dark Albion a perfect fit.
 Remember those various charts and formula from the Compleat Alchemist? Well,  the Magical Hybrids and Constructs chapter has all of those monsters and more. This is one of those sections that the DM in some of the games I played in back in '90 or so were forbidden from referring back to this book for useful tid bits unless the appropriate rolls were made.
 The Monstrosities and Oddities chapter were for a wizard to look through for help with their latest hybrid monsters or worse. Its a particularly good chapter in a book full of bloody useful stuff.
 You get ton of monsters from myth and legend sprinkled thoughout the product and it really lets the DM know the details of a species without bogging down heavily on the gaming aspects of the creatures and monsters it describes.
 The undead are treated with something akin to respect and a sense of horror that just can get under your skin very quickly when you realize the full implications for adventurers. Ghouls are very Lovecraftian with a hint of menace from legend. Use some of these with some caution they can cause a lot of damage.
 Speaking of damage one difference with the religions of Atlantis as an appendix the PC's have full breath and depth of the setting's faiths. This makes this chapter something the clerics in the party are going to thumb though.
 Devils, demons and the infernal races get their due along with the spirit realms of Atlantis: The Lost World  setting. There's a ton of details here including infernal rulers, monsters, a lot of Atlantian occult details and more.
 Lots of the spiritual entities are given full fleshed out entries along with highlighted bullet points about bits and pieces of their full identities and place  within the spirit realms.
 The rulers and entities of the Elemental planes are also in evidence and their chapter opens up all kinds of possible alternative plane hopping and crousing on adventurers parts.
 The Genie, demons, and other horrors of the Abyss and the various Atlantian Hells are mean , dangerous, and can cause adventurers incedible amounts of stress and death.
 Many of the Earthbound demons are a part of the setting's spiritual realms as well as the various campaign and setting material driving the overarching plot in the landscape of  Atlantis enabling a DM to play merry havoc with adventurers out in the wilds.
 The sheer variety of monsters can be a bit overwhelming and placement is critical, there are several key points and even a smaller monster driven adventures are easily handled with handy tables and charts referencing everything into easily read sections of material.
Even the realms of the dead get their due and some of the cosmology issues of earlier edition games are elegantly handled in the Atlantis books. This also means that games such Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea can easily benefit from the Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book because the material is easy to convert and with a little fifth grade math can be used for all kinds of adventure design and custom old school adventure builds.
 There's a sense of completeness about the Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book  as if we know that this book is only one that we're really going to need. Is it any wonder that with such an almost system neutral gaming system within the bounds of this book. This makes book an invaluable resource for the old school gamer who wants to flesh out his own material.

All in all the Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book By Bard Games is a must have for any old school DM or player. The material here is fresh and interesting, as it was in 1988 and can be used with a wide variety of OSR games. The trick is to know how and where to apply the monsters and setting material as the DM needs.

Retro Review WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun For AD&D 1st Edition & Your Old School Campaigns

 WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is one of my all time favorite modules hands down, there is so much occult bleakness and darkness set within the bounds of Greyhawk. Perhaps the over all sense of menace and dread hanging over the temple itself.  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is flat out creepy and dangerous even more so then the Tomb of Horrors. I dug out my copy of  WG4 as soon as I had picked up Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. This adventure is basically a prequel to the legendary S4, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. This adventure is a grinder in some respects and does a quite nice job of featuring monsters from the Fiend Folio. It was designed for characters levels five to ten and there are clear reasons why this logic was used.

Once again according to D&D classics site; "Though "Tharizdun" was labeled as WG4, there were no previous "WG" adventures (and never would be). In the Glossography for the World of Greyhawk boxed set (1983), TSR indicated that T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979) was meant to be WG1 and that S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" was meant to be WG3. Meanwhile, in Dragon #71 (March 1983), Gygax revealed that the adventure formerly known as T2: "The Temple of Elemental Evil" was to be WG2 - but he now said it was to be published in two parts.
As it happens, Temple of Elemental Evil would be delayed a few years more and eventually published as the T1-4 supermodule (1985).
In the forward to Dungeons of Dread (2013), Lawrence Schick further underlined the continuity between the modules intended to be WG1-3, writing, "there's evidence that Gary considered Tsojcanth part of a longer Greyhawk campaign, placing the adventure between T1-T4: The Temple of Elemental Evil and WG4: 'The Forgotten Temple oF Tharizdun'." When seen in that light, the four modules do form a nice adventuring continuity: T1 is "introductory to novice level"; T1-4 carries that up as high as level 8 (and possiblly higher); S4 runs levels 6-8; and WG4 goes from levels 8-10.
In his "Greyhawk Grognard" blog, Joseph Bloch suggests that Iuz might have been the lynchpin holding the arc together, since he's involved with the Temple of Elemental Evil and is also the son of Iggwilv from "Caverns."

The over all look and feel of WG4 is completely Weird Tales. From the cover art and interiors all the way to the essence of the adventure. There's a uniformity of Lovecraftian horror about The Forgotten Temple. According to D&D Classics there are several key reasons for this;"Temple of Tharizdun" was reportedly produced very quickly by Gygax himself, rather than the company's design department. Much of the work was done by Gygax's new Greyhawk cadre. Thus Eric Shook drew the maps, while Shook's mother, Karen Nelson, drew the evocative artwork. Gygax later said that he choose Nelson's artwork to highlight the "melodrama and pathos" of the adventure. An adventure being done by someone other than the design department was very unusual by 1982, as was having a single artist illustrate an adventure - that is, rather than the usual teamwork illustration done by TSR's art department"

Gary Gygax borrowed the god Tharizdun from Kuntz's Kalibruhn campaign and you can get more of the back history on that here This is one of the modules that I've DMed and played since the Seventies and it was a gift from a family friend whose now long gone. Because of this module's connections with the Southern Yatil Mountains its been a fairly easy fit to customize the entire module to other campaign settings one of the reasons for this was;" It is a combined wilderness and dungeon adventure set in the Southern Yatil Mountains, focused on a temple dedicated to the evil and insane Greyhawk god Tharizdun" Because of this  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun can easily be used within the confines of AS&SH with a bit of work, this module could be used as a part of the centerpieces of the Spiral Mountains. Gods exist in multiple planar locations enabling a DM to port them into a wide variety of old school campaign setting set pieces. In fact I've connected Ksarul, Ancient Lord of Secrets, Doomed Prince of the Blue Room, Master of Magic and Grammarie from Empire Of The Petal Throne to Tharizdun

The battles with the humanoids and the epic uptick in the over all Lovecraftian feel of this adventure piece enables it to be used with other a gaming campaigns including Stormbringer style games with the Deities and Demigods style rules. I've also used this module with both Lamentations of the Flame Princess and as design fodder for the Dark Albion system. It is one of Gygax's most  demonic, sinister, and dangerous Gothic adventure, followed closely only by T1-4.

Over all this is still one of my favorite adventures to customize and play around with because its such a corner stone of a sword and sorcery campaign. There are so many ways that it can be used and go with WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Plane Hoping And Nazi A Go Go - OSR Actual Play Event - High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventures Campaign

Here's a quick rundown of the pre Christmas game that the players are referring to as Christmas Plane Hoping And Nazi A Go Go!
The PC's were going through some of the objects that they had found in Asylum Q
and one of them happened to be a Crystal Egg and as the wizard began to play with it weird colored lights played marry havoc with their perceptions and they found themselves on the infinite time trails.  That wasn't a good thing as the party began the task of trying to navigate across the vast kaleidoscopic landscape of infinite dimensions. Here are some of the random pulpy encounters they ran into whist traveling  through the infinite dimensions.

It wasn't long before they ran into some old friends of theirs, a Nazi lich and his pack of undead cohorts were looking for other dimensions to plunder and the resulting combat took up a good portion of the evening as they battled from world to world. The party stuck with swords and magic to make up the difference between changing conditions where magick was infinitely dangerous but still usable. The lich escaped after prolonged fight but left them lost in the other dimensions face down his horde of zombie like horrors

WW II   Zombies 
Armor Class: 8(11),7(12) with Shield & Side Arm 
Hit dice:2 
Attack:Weapon, Strike, or Bite (1d6)
Special: Immune To Sleep, Charm 

Now the PC's are hopelessly lost among the planes and they're dealing with the fact that these bastards know that they're alive and will be actively hunting for them.

1d6 Random Other Dimensional Travelers Encounter Table
  1. An alien wizard on a mission from his god to capture specimens for his master's zoo. He is a 6th level black wizard of no small means on a rite of passage to prove his worthiness 
  2. Travelers who look exactly like you. You have accidentally happened upon the infinite path of repetition. You must fight and destroy your doppelgangers or be absorbed into their reality. 
  3. A Nazi lich and his undead bodyguards 3rd level fighters from a colony on the moon
  4. A dangerous sorcerer working for a vile villain in Blackmoor who needs sacrifices for his dragon god. 
  5. A party of other dimensional alien travelers who are on a mission to free their dimension from an alien tyrant 
  6. Alien caravan with trade goods laden for an other dimensional market place perhaps Interzone.

    This was one of the other monsters from just before Christmas's adventure and session.

    Chrura ari
    These other dimensional worms are found swimming and feeding between dimensions, these horrors feed upon the debris and jetsom of universes and timelines that have become extinct. They feed on flesh, memories, reality and anything that comes their way. They are dangerous monsters who have little to no fear with humans and human like races. These horrors can regenerate as trolls after three turns of seeming to be dead or destroyed.
    Armor Class:8
    Hit dice:2 
    Attack: Bite (1d6)
    Special: Regeneration As Trolls

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Retro Review of Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book By Bard Games For Your Old School Campaigns Part 1

 If you were gaming in Eighty Eight then you might have been lucky enough to pick the old school sword and sorcery sourcebook called Atlantis The Lost World From Bard Games. This book is a combination of both the original text of THE LEXICON (Atlas of the Lost World of Atlantis) and THE BESTIARY (the Atlantean creature compendium),according to Wayne's books Rpg Reference site.  The Lexicon created the setting material for the Atlantis line and
THE ARCANUM held the PC material. THE BESTIARY was the Atlantis Monster Manual and contained a wealth of monsters from myth, legend and some very original monsters.

 The Lexicon contained a wealth of information on the background and setting of the world of Atlantis including history, material, and a ton of background material most of this was generic enough to retrofit into your own AD&D style world but it could be applied to other games such as Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest or your own Rpg system.There was a semi definitive date ,history, and background for Atlantis.  Once again according to Wayne's;"In game terms, a Second Age campaign may begin anytime between the years 150-200 (by Atlantean Second Age reckoning); in modern day terms, this would equate to approximately 15,000 B.C."

 Today we're going to concentrate on the Lexicon aspect of the Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book. We get a nice solid overview of the places and settings of the various races that appeared in the THE ARCANUM. Everything here slots quite nicely into the background and setting of the Bard's Game in house world which has been polished out and expanded. Everything described is generic enough to fit any old school retroclone system.
 The artwork has improved, system and setting history has been scaled back and expanded in certain areas. Much of the material in Atlantis: The Lost World could easily fit your favorite rpg retroclone or AD&D style game with no issue at all. The book is very detailed and well written. The quality of the book is surprising for the era it came out of and much of the matrerial here would fit into a Lamentations pseudo historical world. Even better is the fact that the book's content could be used even with a Dark Albion game campaign.

 Places, governments, and even foreshadowing of Talislanta are all spelled out in this book and then expanded in certain areas of the book. The level of detail in some entries and places is a bit overwhelming but the book doesn't prattle on and instead outlines a number of optional places and peoples. There are sinister hints of things to come and are in the background waiting for adventurers to take full advantage.

 The cartography is exceptional and we get a full range of the city of Atlantis itself including neighborhood by neighbor write up through out this book. There is plenty of factions and city residents and more all waiting to cause a party trouble.

The book focuses on both a little and a lot all in one go and there's a sense of the mystical and Biblical throughout the book. As if we the audience are sitting through a lecture about the Second age from those who lived it.

Countries, settings, high weirdness is all there but there's something else lurking in the backdrop of  Atlantis: The Lost World. The various peoples and quick thumbnails of the various peoples lurking throughout Atlantis: The Lost World. 

 When you get right down too it, there are boat loads of maps, details, and more waiting for your DM to incorporate them into their own home grown campaign. This is one of the things that makes the sourcbook work as a whole that all of these pieces fit together as an uneasy puzzle.

 There really something of the sword and sorcery vibrations working its way through the source book.  Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book. That fluff and essence of  Atlantis herself comes through in spades as one reads and thumbs through the  Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book

 There are also a ton of other rules and backgrounds that while optional can be essential in my humble opinion The approach works on several levels through the  Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book
On the whole this is one of the most dynamic and fun books that came out during the Eighties time period. If you can get this book at a good price? Don't even ask just grab it and go to town with a campaign all of your own.  The Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book is an excellent addition to any game campaign or inhouse setting. Bard Games did an excellent job with  The Atlantis: The Lost World Source Book.

Review & Commentary On The Free OSR Resource DFF33 Stele of the Silver Thane By Greg Daley For AD&D 1st Edition or Your Old School Campaigns

Violence and adventure await your PC's in the marsh lands as your part ventures into the world of Stele of the Silver Thane By Greg Daley

An ambitious sorcerer schemes to hold sway over a fragmented eastern marchlands. An adventure for 1st or 2nd level characters.

Alright I just ran across  DFF33 Stele of the Silver Thane By Greg Daley over on Dragon's Foot, I had a feeling that new AD&D first edition module was out but the nice part about this module is that its geared for a first level party of adventurers in a marshland setting.
The nice part of this module is that its been put together for first level characters with a scheming sorcerer and his amitions are grand. The PC's are going to find themselves in way over their heads and this module features a bit of everything some wilderness, a bit of dungeon crawling, and lots of opportunity to plug this module right within their own campaign worlds. Reading through this adventure I was reminded of my review of Quagmire!
There's plenty of opportunity to plug in and DYI Stele of the Silver Thane into your own campaigns, it contains everything you need to run it including random encounter tables, background, and more all in fifty six pages of old school goodness. The nice thing is the ecology and Gygaxian ideas are peppered throughout and the marshlands are pretty nicely fleshed out enabling a drop and go to be done into the back end of your own old school campaigns.

Stele of the Silver Thane By Greg Daley creates a sustainable atmosphere for adventuring in and can be added to or subtracted from with adventure elements as needed even though there is a viable plot structure and ideas within the adventure's bounds. This is an adventure with clear cut goals and solid backing for its monsters. This gives the DM all of the reasons he needs to expand on the ideas presented within Stele of the Silver Thane. This is part of the reason why I can actually see using Stele of the Silver Thane as a part of an Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea module where the adventure elements help to set up and expand upon vile villains motives. Parts of this adventure reminded me of Robert Howard's Cthulhu Mythos cycle of stories and that alone made me want to adapt it for a retroclone style system. 

The artwork and maps are nicely done and can be used to flesh out some of the sword and sorcery aspects that give the DM quite a bit of latitude to work with. There are several swamplands within Russia and Romania that could be used if the DM wants to adapt this module for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure or as a part of a Dark Albion campaign. There's more then enough to keep things very interesting and I personally think that this is a well worth downloading adventure for old school gaming.

Retro Review For Module Xs2 Thunderdelve Mountain By William Carlson For Dungeons & Dragons Expert Sets & Your Old School Campaigns

Thunderdelve  Mountain about as metal a Dwarven adventure as you can get, the blurb is like something Wagner meets Tolkien on a mountain someplace and this is their baby. This is supposed to be a solo module but at levels seven to nine its more of a fully realized Dwarven party romp through the lair of a red dragon.  Thunderdelve Mountain is an adventure tailored for solo play and doesn't get talked about at all these days.

I got a copy of  Thunderdelve Mountain for Christmas from a friend and I've got to say its not a bad little adventure at all. For Dwarven D&D players this would be a solid little adventure to take a party through.

"The ancient dwarven kingdom of wonder and fable is no more! Only the tales of it's grandeur remain to entertain the children, or so you thought.

Then you met Nimron. Distraught and desperate, you alone can pass the gates sealed so long ago. Within are the lairs of bandits, cutthroats, and worse. The evil that destroyed the dwarven home - the Halls of Paradise - is awakened again. Into this horror ventured the dwarven princess Grona Marblefist to reclaim her kingdom. She, like so many others, has not returned.

Now, you must face this peril alone.

According to Waynes books you've got to watch out for this bit on used copies of the adventure;"This solo module has a curious feature: Each entry has a corresponding room or hallway section, intended for the solo player to sketch onto the blank map in the back, slowing revealing the entire dungeon.
This also means that many used copies will have the dungeon in back already filled out.

My copy came from a yard sale this past Summer and there isn't any marks or writing in it. Back to the adventure and adapting it to actual party play. There's something very tragic about Thunderdelve Mountain and operatic its almost one part Tolkein and one part sword & sorcery as your party descents into the lair. Your off to restore your honor and be heroic but this is a red dragon's lair. I was reminded at some points of Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Dwarves.
A dying race of warriors pushed to the edge of extinction trying like hell to reclaim some of their former glory.

"Thunderdelve Mountain is a solitaire adventure for the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Expert game. Players who don't wish to face the fallen Halls of Paradise alone may also use this adventure for group play.", this is precisely what your going to want to do. 
After really reading through this module and thinking about it last night I've got to say that this one is a good choice for a mix party of sword and sorcery adventurers. It really will challenge a a smaller group of players perhaps six or so. Dwarven clerics, warriors, and a human wizard or thief are going to be a must.
So one of the things that I've done with this module and thought about is to place Thunderdelve Mountain in a dark fairy tale Europe and I'm thinking either in the Romanian Mountains or someplace in Russia. The adventure has a dark adventure feel where one misstep and you end up in the bowels of horror. Think classic Disney's Dragon Slayer film and the lair of the dragon, your going to be on its terms and within is realm.
The big complaint that I've seen on line is the map for this adventure, well the Vaults of Pandius website has a solidly done composite map right over here

Could this module be used for the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system? Absolutely it could with a bit of modification, Dwarves in the AS&SH games I've played in and DMed fall into two different schools of thought for their creation. One this race is the bastard children of the maggot peoples of Underborea or two they might be a servant race of another Lovcecraftian race of monsters. The on going debate among my friends is which one. Personally I've used them as cannon fodder for the Elder Things and their bloody handed violence fits the pattern personally for them.As for where I'd place the adventure I would say within the central patterns of Hyperborea's Mountains where there is plenty of room for a beast such as a red dragon to cause the mayhem that they do. As for the fact that Red Dragons don't appear within AS&SH, make the monster a one off and be done with it. A relic and horror from the old times which fits with the general over all pulpy tone of the game. 

Is this a perfect module? Not by a long chalk but it is fun and has some really interesting things going for it and there's a bit of online support for it if you dig. Rpgnet even has a walk through of play if your curious about it here