Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Commentary & Review Of Stairway of V'dreen For Crimson Dragon Slayer Or Your Favorite Retroclone System

"Find a place to hide! Luckily, such a place happens to be nearby.
Approximately 50' away from where the adventurers currently stand is a half-buried hunk of metal the size of a small village. Various metallic parts of the thing are halfway sunk into the ground. The large metal structure is tilted slightly downward."
The PC's find a mad scientist Dr. Ebzub in the middle of an   experiment will
open a gateway to "a place the gods have forgotten." the forbidden
Stairway of V'dreen

So I've been laid low by a vicious head cold but that's not going to keep me from reviewing The Stairway of V'dreen From  Kort'thalis Publishing. You can think of the  Stairway of V'dreen as a mid level adventure/setting  for Crimson Dragon Slayer rpg & its easily adaptable to any  OSR retroclone rpg system. This adventure is a throw back to those Eighties setting books that we got for many old school system games. The overview from the adventure's Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarer best describes the other dimensional setting;"

Each PC will have his own reason for visiting V'dreen - a random table will personalize every character's desire/need.  Reaching the stairway, V'dreen's greatest treasure, will not be easy - alien, mutant dreamland hazards bar the way!
This location will be the most bizarre thing I've come up with yet.  The main Kickstarter picture above gives you an idea of what's in store. But I've got some additional details and a b/w illustration directly below...
Fruiting bodies.  The scent of V'dreen is that of a corpse blooming with strawberry and apricot preserves.  A fragrance that one cannot easily forget.  Pungent jam and jelly intermingling with the sweat of human fornication.
Rumored tales of V'dreen: a magical timepiece is buried in the ground, preventing this place from aging, neither evolving nor decaying.  However, some believe the timepiece to be broken in some way - or perhaps it had always been corrupted - because slavering demons roam free, wizards scry and watch and influence life on V'dreen with their little knobs and levers and buttons... my God, even the tentacles have tentacles!
The stairway leads to an even more distant realm.  It is a personal voyage... the discovery of self-annihilation, where travelers lick savage dreams and ride bareback upon the sparkling-scaled magenta snake-thing with golden eyes coiled at the heart of eternity."

So basically this is a part setting, part adventure location that echoes with the Eighties horror/sci fi Lovecraftian horror that Venger loves to mix with his rpg systems. The Stairway of V'dreen is a type of adventure that rarely comes along a mix of dark fantasy, comedy, & lovecraftian weirdness all around the usual Venger quality. It clocks in at nineteen pages & reminds me a bit of the Eighties film 'From Beyond'  with a bit of body horror mixed in with an old school style adventure. Because of the very nature of the dark fantasy of the  The Stairway of V'dreen  
its really useful for other OSR systems such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess or other OSR systems. This is partially because of the random monster generators & the random magic items that can be created from similar generators. The vary fact of this unpredictable  factor is going to keep those jaded & long time players reaching for their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guides. I can easily see adding in the The Stairway of V'dreen  to a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princes as adventure location or a game of Labyrinth Lord. The setting technically could be used as a twisted Lovecraftian  domain for Adventurer,Conqueror, King. But I would using this as an adventure location for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The pulpy flavor is very strong in the the The Stairway of V'dreen .

The Stairway of V'dreen is the type of setting that you could potentially drop in a bunch of Mutant Future PC's or any old school adventurers into & not break it at all. There's the usual Venger Satanis sleaze but much of the setting is far more geared toward the dark fantasy/Lovecraftian vibe. Its well written and balanced for a far more experienced group of PC's to come into in my opinion. I really enjoyed thumbing through this one. Can't wait to subject my players to this adventure/setting. Five out of five.
The Stairway of V'dreen  Is Available Right Over HERE

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Adventure Campaign Construction Using X1 Isle of Dread With Dark Albion

'The appearance of the Isle of Dread has been foretold from the mists of legend. A place from the 'other world' whose shores are the realm of monsters. There beasts walk as men & the jungles are full of all types of horrors but there are riches there for the taking!'

Part of the appeal of X1 Isle of Dread is the incredible mutability & inventiveness that this old school module allows. It can be shaped & molded by dungeons masters for their favorite old school D&D systems or retroclones. Given the nature & breath of Dark Albion setting its easy to see this old school adventure module easily being molded into an adventure destination. Part of the conceit of this as X1 being a part of the mythologies & legends of Dark Albion. This easy to see as the number of Celtic legends about mysterious islands & otherworldly Fairy locations.

So I talked about using X1 Isle of Dread for a sword & sorcery campaign but let's shift this in another direction namely toward using Isle of Dread with Dark Albion. There are a number of reasons why this would make an interesting take on the classic Expert Dungeons & Dragons module. Given Dark Albion's Roman style influences under the main body of the rpg book it & its take on the beginnings of the explorations outside the Rose War's Albion. It makes sense then to pull from mythology & real world history to give a different and slightly dangerous spin on X1 and its relationship to the world of Albion.

The PC's might find themselves a portion of a Phoenician captain's log which describes a fragment of a former colony of Atlantis in the form of the village of Tanaroa.  The island itself might be someplace off the coast of South America or Dark Albion's Africa.  This goes right along with Wiki's take on the plot of Isle of Dread;
"The characters somehow find a fragment from a ship's log, describing a mysterious island on which many treasures can be found, and set out to explore it. Typically, the characters will first make landfall near the more or less friendly village of Tanaroa and after possibly dealing with some troublesome factions in the village, set out to explore the interior of the island. In the course of their explorations, they may find a number of other villages of unfamiliar intelligent creatures, numerous hostile monsters and the treasures they guard, and a band of pirates. Many prehistoric creatures, including dinosaurs, are prominently featured, especially in the original printing of the adventure. Near the center of the island is a hidden temple inhabited by monstrous, mind-bending creatures known as kopru; the characters may stumble across it or learn that it is a source of problems for the other inhabitants of the isle, and the climax of the adventure typically consists of the characters exploring this temple, battling its inhabitants, and uncovering its secrets."
The resources of X1 The Isle of Dread is going to a top priority of the empire of Albion who are going to be looking to pay for the War of the Roses. Given the powers of the kopru, you are looking at a prime source of mind bending Chaos magick & a perfect source for a cult to make its way back to the shores of Albion. 

Queen Margaret of Anjou was the Lancasters’ most skilled strategist and given her leanings & knowledge of affairs of the world the appearance of the Isle of Dread would strike up an expedition. Given her historical ties with France its easy to see her deep and abiding connections to the demonic frog kings of that land. Perhaps there have been alliances between the frog kings and the ancient empire of the kopru. This means that the PC's might raid a demonic temple on the French/English boarder for forbidden knowledge of the island.

We can further speculate that perhaps the French kings might have a colony within the swampy confines of the Isle of Dread itself ?! Perhaps this could be the driving force to mount an expedition to the other dimensional shores of the island. This expedition could have long term consequences over the centuries as Albion empire makes it way back up the road of economic recovery.  There could be a Mystara/ Dark Albion connection as the adventurers join forces to defeat the horrors of the island. The other dimensional shores of the island of Dread could be store house for all kinds of relics & treasures that empire of Albion would give their eye teeth for.

"The D&D 5th edition Dungeon Master Guide (2014) places the Isle of Dread in the Plane of Water, though it mentions that the island has the ability to appear in the Material Plane." Given the historical occult care that Pundit has put into his creation this makes an Alchemy connection far more dangerous then the standard Dungeons & Dragons material would have us believe. This is where Cults of Chaos is going to come in vary handy as the array of Chaos water based material can help to fill in some of the gaps for campaign play.

Appearance of the Isle of Dread could spark a gold run like atmosphere of adventure as countries rush to put their own flags and claim it as their own. This could lead to the PC's becoming lords of their domains for an all out bloody war upon the shores of the island. Domain level play comes into its own as the PC's try to carve a bloody swath across the sands and factions that make X1 their home. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Old School Sword & Sorcery Commentary On X1 The Isle of Dread For Your Old School Campaigns

"Hundreds of miles from the mainland, surrounded by dangerous waters, lies an island known only as the Isle of Dread. Dark jungles and treacherous swamps await those who are brave enough to travel inland in search of the lost plateau, where the ruins of a once mighty civilization hold many treasures - and many secrets!"
If there's an adventure module that seems to be ever elastic & adaptable its X1 The Isle of Dread. This module seems to be one of the most easily adaptable of many old school modules. Recently I've been on a bit of a science fantasy kick & some friends suggested X1 for adapting to this campaign/thought exercise.

X1 has all of the makings of an experimentation or staging area of some ancient's laboratory. Many dungeon masters have added in science fantasy elements and much of it seems very reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Who along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World books seems to be a major influences on Isle of Dread. As the official Wizards of the Coast entry on the adventure describes,' Historically, we think of the 70s and early 80s as a time of dungeon crawls, but Cook and Moldvay both frequently pushed another aesthetic: pulp adventure.' This is one of the strengths of X1 Isle of Dread in that it frequently seems to get pulled into may folks 'lost world' adventure locations.

"Cook specifically describes "Isle" as having a "Lost World/Skull Island feel." It was one of two pulpy adventures he wrote at the time, the other being I1: "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" (1981), which centered on a lost city in the jungle. He'd later author two pulpy RPGs for TSR: The Adventures of Indiana Jones RPG (1984) and the Conan Role-Playing Game (1985).
Moldvay also had plenty of other pulpy experience. James Maliszewski thus identifies "Isle" as the first book in Tom Moldvay's Pulp Fantasy Trilogy. It's a pretty apt name, as "Isle" contains a dinosaur-filled island, X2: "Castle Amber" (1981) directly references the pulp writings of Clark Ashton Smith, and B4: "The Lost City" (1982) features a city beneath the desert sands.
The adventure's "Skull Island feel" means that it also also owed something to King Kong (1933). TSR would even more explicitly return to this inspiration with WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1985)."

This brings up the point that while fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons placed the Island of Dread on the plane of Water, does this make the island a stable point as a planar nexus? I believe answer is yes because the entire island is an artificial ecology put in place long ago. The multi dimensional dimensional nature of the island is perfect link to the plane of water making this a great & highly abundant resource. This makes it perfect fodder for one of the original Lovecraftian races 'The Elder Things'. None of the monster combinations really makes sense except in a Moldvay/Cook ecological nice way. Making this a perfect adventure location for ancient ruins of the 'Elder Things' in a Dungeons & Dragons setting.

The Kopru, dreaming the restoration of their lost Empire might have been one of the ancient enemies of the 'Things' left behind after the destruction of their own empire. Dinosaurs & worse prehistoric monsters could be food stock let loose on the island having now established their own ecological niches. The various other races of the island could be simply castaways now having carved out their own factions.

But why has X1 been placed on the Plane of Water? Well there's a great article on On the placement of the Isle of Dread  Posted by Stelio  which actually has quite a few useful ideas for adventure fodder.  There's also the 
The history of the Isle of Dread  for a few ideas about old school referencing and more for X1. Threshold issue #3 Sea of Dread contains a boat load of  adventure & campaign ideas for incorporating the Seas of Dread into an old school campaign. The Sea of Dread articles in issue four of Threshold magazine concentrate on traders and those navigating the horrid waters which surround the Isle and its environs. This was the former empire of the Kopru and now the waters are home to a myriad of underwater ruins of these horrors. There could still be many super science artifacts & relics there making this a very useful resource to an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea dungeon master.  Threshold issue four is available right over here

A mid-Expert campaign in the Sea of Dread by Giampaolo Agosta has some great ideas for a sword & sorcery style adventure campaign. These are great for a mid level group of players and PC's because they should keep things moving right along during table top play. X1 The Isle of Dread is balanced for Expert Dungeons & Dragons making this adventure perfect for mid tier retroclones such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea or Adventurer, Conqueror, King, Labyrinth Lord or even Swords & Wizardry.

Monsters, lost treasure,etc from a thousand planes are liable to have been washed up on the shores of X1. This makes it perfect for DYIing in your own twist on this classic module. In fact this makes X1 The Isle of Dread a perfect counter point to AS&SH's Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess.  The island could be another dimensional remanent that has been lost to the far future that caused the events of 'Old Earth. An idea toyed with ages ago making X1 a meet up point where the PC's are washed a shore by the dimensional tides. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Adapting “Outpost on Io” By Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore's NorthWest Smith To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting

So this holiday weekend I've been spending my time catching up with family & rereading classic sword & planet novellas by Leigh Brackett specifically Outpost On Io by Leigh Brackett. 
Is another of her post Colonial novellas set upon the hell moon of Jupiter, Io where a group of criminals & cut throats slaves away for jovium, an isotope that makes other metals explode. This is another almost but not quite lost outer world setting with a material that's an old school sword & sorcery alchemist's wet dream. This novella's masters & overlords sound exactly like the type of bureaucrats who would work without question for Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company. The stuff has got to be worth 6000 gold pieces for per gram because of the substance's unique properties. Which brings up the question how did they know the stuff was on Io in the first place?
That's because the true Lovecraftian history of the'Old Solar System is known to a select few among the Earth's interstellar government &  Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company. Because they're a mining corporation they know the real value of Io. The world was once a Hyperborean weapons development & weapons testing facility. Jovium causes
vibrations of a specific wavelength that break down the molecular bonds in other metals, causing them to liquefy. Its a perfect space borne weapon system able to be delivered to a wide variety of targets.
Io is one step away from Hell in this story where you can die with you boots on or let the planet slowly kill you. The fact is that this makes it a perfect R&D and testing range for a wide variety of super science weapon systems. Much of the life on Io looks like it came straight out of Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Fiend Folio.
So what's this got to do with C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith? There's plenty of over lap as we see another of the old hold overs from when the Lovecraftian races roamed the solar system.

Outpost on IO appeared in 1942 in Planet Stories, Winter 1942 issue as a part of a great all star pulp line up of talent. In Outpost on Io the human colonists are treading on the coat tales of an older civilization & like the asteriod belt, Jupiter, etc. are going to be depending upon the independent contractor rocket jockeys like Northwest Smith. Ships like Northwest's 'The Maid' are going to be flitting from world to world right under the noses of the
Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company & the Earth government or Terran authorities. This issue of Planet Stories is full of various sword & sorcery or planet races that fit the 'Old Solar' system like a glove. Planet Stories, Winter 1942 is full of the kind of old school pulpy goodness that makes excellent fodder for an old school adventure or campaign one shot.

Planet Stories, Winter 1942  starts out with the Colossus of Chaos is by Nelson S. Bond & this novella contains exactly the sort of space borne weapon of mass destruction that the Hyperboreans of AS&SH would be scared of. Planet of No Return by Wilbur B. Peacock is a novella set on 'Old Venus' and gives a very unhealthy snap shot of that world complete with Hyperborean legacy monsters and more. Spoilers of Space is a salvage novella that comes complete with a Hyperborean crew and more. Doorway to Destruction features a perfect old school Hyperborean weapon by Garrold S. Hatfield. "Peril of the Blue World" by Robert Abernathy is perfect AS&SH fodder with a group of Martians facing down a paladin. The Man from Siykul by Richard Wilson is a typical adventurer finds himself pitted against aliens of the Outer Darkness. Galactic Ghost by Walter Kubilius is another Hyperborean artifact of the space lanes style story and points up some of the dangers of messing with artifacts and relics of bygone ages. Meteor-Men of Mars by Harry Cord and Otis Adelbert Kline perfectly illustrates the danger and alien weirdness of some of the horrors dwelling between the Boreas Winds.
You can read
Planet Stories v02n01 (1942 Winter) Here

There's no doubt that Outpost on Io's background seems straight out of Leigh Brackett or a dark dark corner of a Clark Aston Smith novel but many of the ideas are later foreshadowed in C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories. The legacy of a solar system much older then the new comer colonists settlements is something we see time and again in the various pulp magazines. Northwest Smith is going to be running all kinds of small and illicit cargoes to and from prison worlds like Io. The gold coins are going to far too much to resist for a smuggler like Northwest Smith but I think its the small antimetal amounts to be smuggled back that part of the temptation.
If the anti metal of Last Outpost on Io got back to Earth unchecked the results could be incredibly dangerous given the metal rich environment of the moon is it possible that Io is in fact home to some variety of AD&D rust monster? It begs the question of the other Gygaxian monsters found in the weird ruins of the novella.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Commentary On A Weird Tales Or Sword & Sorcery Campaign Theme On Some OSR Resources & Adventures Featured In The Fifteen Percent Special Sale For Your Old School Campaigns

So the emails have rolled in asking all kinds of questions about OSR adventures, PC classes, etc. & which ones have merit and so forth. Alright this is based solely on my opinion and on the table experience as a dungeon master so your mileage may vary. Beyond the Ice Falls by  Raven God Games 
is very well done especially for a Viking or 1970's Marvel style Conan or Sword & Sorcery campaign. Grab any of their stuff because its done by Joseph D. Salvador. Yes the same author who did more then a few of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventures which are also under the same sale.

Next up is L. Kevin Watson Lovecraftian adventures for both fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons & the OSR, The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR) From  Fat Goblin Games.
This has definitely different take on the Lovecraftian material but its easily adaptable into either Astonishing or your favorite OSR system. DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure is the second follow up adventure and continues in a similar vein but is whole separate from the first adventure. Its very well done & nicely written. These adventures are balanced and play their parts well for getting the weird feel of the Mythos across in the author's unique style.

Even though the following isn't on sale per say, I have to say I'm a huge fan of  Jeremy Reaban. The man writes good PC classes and excellent adventures that can easily be adapted across the board for OSR style games. His adventures are balanced professional and hit that OSR Sword & Sorcery fix just right. All of his OSR material is 'pay what you want' and I try to give the gentleman props every single time. His work is very well done & easily adapted to OD&D, B/X Dungeons & Dragons as well as similar retroclones.

Don't think that just because the big sale is one that older tried & true OSR companies don't have anything to offer. Goblinoid games springs to mind with the classic Wyrms & Warlocks adventure which offers DM's an interesting little side adventure that pits the PC's against a Medusa & her mate. There's also one of the prime Lovecraft  OSR books in my humble opinion on the block Realms of Crawling Chaos. This is perhaps one of the single best books for a DM to have in their arsenal. From PC classes to a full Lovecraft monster catalog this one has it all.

Any of the Barrel Rider Games PC's stuff is excellent fodder for a DM or players looking to add player character variety to their OSR games. There isn't enough time to go into the quality and variety of their offerings. Which brings me to one of the most unsung Weird Tales style offerings that came out way back when I first got into the OSR, I'm speaking of the excellent The Peoples of the Pit Adventure from Brave Halfling. 
Wicked, nasty, and a very dangerous ride for PC's;""The People of the Pit" is an excited adventure module for 4-6 player characters of levels 5-7 and has been designed for OSRIC(TM), but is easily compatible with the Advance Edition rpgs. The module was written by Alphonso Warden and features art by John Bignham." I've used this one countless times with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea before I was even aware that there were adventures for that system! Yeah I'm a huge fan of Alphonso Warden & he does an excellent job with this adventure. His other adventure which I love is for Swords & Wizardry and its a great take on an old Lovecraft favorite of mine 'The Nameless City'. This is a freaking deadly little romp of a Lovecraftian adventure. The Nameless City (WhiteBox Rules) was an old favorite mine and still retains that Mythmere games reputation. Just remember that this is an adventure for PC's of level seven to ten. Unfortunately, The Nameless City isn't a part of the big Drivethrurpg sale.

Speaking of Weird Tales style books may I highly recommend  Ivanhoe Unbound 
Black Book series which is for original Dungeons & Dragons. There are two bundles which cover books one through five & books five through six in the other bundle.
This material covers everything from ancient astronauts, demons, to black powder gun rules. All for under three dollars USA.

Speaking of strange, dangerous, and completely weird, the first edition monster book Malevolent and Benign
from Expeditious Retreat Press  is well worth the price of admission. Its chalk full of all kinds of horrors, monsters and things waiting to meet your players and incredibly useful for constructing dungeons, adventures, and more.

Adapting C.L. Moore's North West Smith Novels & C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner Last Citadel To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting

So last night I took a look at C.L.Moore's North West Smith novellas &  how they relates to my 'Old Solar' system setting. North West Smith is at his heart & soul a rocket jockey whose adventures come from side ventures. So there's a ton of elements that have much in common with pulp Westerns, but when it comes to the planets of the 'Old Solar System' then the role of adventurers comes very clear. These rocket jockeys are the life blood of the 'Old Solar' system ferreting cargoes across the worlds & bringing supplies where & where they're needed. Yet in almost every story & novella Northwest Smith & company seem to down on their luck. The fact is that rocket jockeys are being constantly  squeezed by outfits like Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company. Mars & the rest of the solar system is an incredibly rich mineral & natural resource playground, these corporations know the 'real history' of the solar system & are taking full advantage of it. Northwest Smith is one rat whose able to move through the walls of the politics, situations & more that have arisen around these events. There have been several mass extinction events that took out the Hyperborean presence in out in the 'Old Solar System'.
Moore's friends Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett used the Lovecraftian history of  these events within their own stories but that's another blog entry entirely.

Northwest Smith's novellas & stories indicate a very different solar system to our own.One where the loss of 'Old Earth' edges toward the fact that the Hyperboreans dealt with a incredible event on a solar system scale event  as best they could. Coping through  planetary terraforming, large scale inter-dimensional planar engineering, & mass population migration into the past as well as the future. There are a number of alternative worlds where the Hypeboreans also set up shop.
  A number of Lovecraftian alien god survivors pop up throughout the Northwest Smith stories. But these are lower tier alien god things that have carved out niches in the histories of the younger races of Martians, Venusians, etc. These god things are those that survived as the younger races have migrated out into the solar system have done so with cults. The younger races have now become the dominant species throughout the system. The old cults carry on as best they can with traces of Hyperborean religious zealots surviving as fringe cults on the edges of the solar system. There are rumors of these in the asteroid belts, colonies on Mars, Venus, etc. Religious cults in some inter colony areas are possibly simply a part of life.

The Terran Exploitations Company from Leigh Brackett's stories & novellas is perfectly aware of the Lovecrafian history of the solar system. They allow many of these fringe elements to go on for the simple fact of exploiting the technologies & situations. As a sprawling corporation with mining interests they know about the exo planetary fossil record. As a faction in a retroclone system they're perfectly aware of the dangers of dimensional travel & time travel as well as how they relate to FTL in the 'old solar system' setting. A good example of the types of weirdness that we see are the Hyperboreans in C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner Last Citadel.

"Earth's Last Citadel is a science fiction novel written by the American husband and wife team of C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner. It was first published in 1943 in the magazine Argosy[1] and in book form it was published first in 1964"
The accounts of the survivors of the "Earth's Last Citadel" novella are going to have be circulated through the halls of power on Earth for centuries. Its going to point out the dangers of planar & dimensional travel.
"During World War II, four people (two belonging to the Allies, two to the Axis) find a strange vehicle in the Tunisian desert. It whisks them to the far future where the Earth has been conquered and mankind is nearly extinct."
This far future is very much in the style of William Hope Hodgeson's Nightland 
full of all of the usual Dying Earth & Lovecraftian setting motifs that we've come to expect in pulp lost world adventures. This novella is a perfect adventure location for dungeon or ruin exploitation by adventurers. This makes it a perfect location for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Friday, May 26, 2017

OSR Commentary On A Few Of The OSR Titles Being Featured In The Fifteen Percent Special Sale For Your Old School Campaigns

The big sale over on Drivethrurpg continues to roll on & I've gotten an email asking which titles are worth getting into if your old school or OSR dungeon master. Alright here's a few thoughts and opinions about some of the titles that are on sale. Any of the Hill Canton's campaign material from Chris Kutalik  is worth getting especially Slumbering Ursine Dunes ,Fever-Dreaming Marlinko,& the crazy weirdness of  Misty Isles of the Eld.

This is one of the stand out OSR campaign settings with a completely different twist on the classic Eastern European fairy tale world elements that seem to come out of their own reality. Because this material is set up for Labyrinth Lord its so easy to adapt a wide variety of OSR retroclone game systems. Be sure to get the free downloads that go along with the setting for that added playability. 
Another title that goes in a completely different direction & ramps up the violence for Dungeon Crawl Classics is Hubris by Mike Evans. This thing is a massive three hundred & fifty pages of world building charts, new races, classes, kingdoms, etc. all set on the fetid corpse of a god that's only the start of it. There's a certain decedent brutality & vicious swords & sorcery death metal vibe about the world of Hubris that few other settings come close to. I've modified it time & again with use with a number of OSR retroclone systems even though its intended for use with DCC its easily hackable with others.
Another more modern OSR setting done is a pulpy not quite Weird Tales style is Trey Causey's Weird Adventures. Part campaign setting book, part player's guide, & complete guide to the City the domain of the  hard-boiled adventurer. There are few other settings that have that certain OSR something that has DM's coming back to them again and again. This is one of those for me. Make sure to download the free sampler/expansion of the Weird Adventures setting book Strange Trails. This book has important adventure  bits & campaign  pieces for the world of the City.

Another title that I'd probably pick up is Androids,Aliens, & Aberrations by Kirt Dankmyer 

its just one of those damn useful science fantasy OSR books that has a lot of uses at the table. A great book  especially if I'm looking to add some race or other PC class with a sci fi twist to it to an old school game.

Any of Tim Snider's Mutant Future or Apes Victorious material is top drawer & is so great to throw into a B/X D&D style game or even a Mutant Future one shot. Speaking of Labyrinth Lord or similar retroclone systems I highly recommend anything by  James Mishler Games. Their OSR material is highly recommended and easy to adapt to an number of systems especially any of their monster, adventurer, or setting titles.

 Another strong contender in the must grab OSR titles department are any of the  Necrotic Gnome Productions  books which have some very strong OSR credit to them. They're very well done and highly useful for the DM on the run.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

OSR Commentary On The Fifteen Percent Special Mega Bundle Sale On Drivethrurpg

So +Greg Gorgonmilk  directed me over to the fact that Drivethrurpg is having a fifteen percent off sale on lots of titles over at Drivethrurpg .  There's lots of OSR titles & retroclone systems available through these sales. You can pick up lots of products at a fraction of the cost but what's really interesting is that that major publishers have recognized the fact that the OSR is a legitimate gaming category.
When you've got the  AD&D Core Megabundle (1e) [BUNDLE] 
which has almost everything you need to run AD&D completely except for Unearthed Arcana. Well, then things get a bit interesting. Because you've got the Known World Megabundle (BECMI) which has everything you need for Mystara & the second edition AD&D setting Planscape for sale. Its easy to see why some have stated that the OSR has one the war. To which I say to the pundits that the battle goes on. Yeah, the major & minor publishers are recognizing that there's gold in that there hobby & childhood  nostalgia. But getting new blood into the hobby is really the major hurtle. 

Time & time again I've seen wonderful folks come into the old school hobby & some leave but its those with the staying power who are really the leading lights. This is something that the classic  GROGNARDIA 
blog talked about time & again. OSR adventures are jam to the system peanut butter & there's some really fine ones on sale in  The OSR(IC) Extravaganza [BUNDLE] From  Expeditious Retreat Press .This set has some serious titles that can take PC's from first through the end of their gaming levels. Its also a set that perfectly lines up with another system that's on sale during this run, I'm talking about North Wind Adventures Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's rpg system product line & adventures!

This is great time to get new gamers into sword & sorcery OSR gaming, and branch it off into other avenues of old school gaming. Which brings me to my point which is that on the ground play is the route to go.Keep the ball rolling to get new campaigns and adventures at the table with both new players and old. Its new blood that keeps this hobby vital folks.
Anyhow keep em rolling and I hope you make your saves.


1d6 Random Ancient Minor Treasures of Clark Aston Smith's Tomb's & Necrotic Vaults Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Some treasures get passed from hand to hand along the path of adventurers going along the path of travelers. These items are too valuable to lose but sometimes move in odd ways from place to place. Hands hold them for a time and sometimes they acquire an aura of magick & mysticism. An aura that comes down from legend or made up on the spot by some fool.  These items are not the stuff of legend but instead the minor treasures of a thousand adventures. Past around in taverns to pay gambling debts, given to pawn brokers for the debt to a flop house or brothel. These items not the less maybe far more then they appear.

Image from here

There are minor treasures that have been left behind in the wake of ages past in the vaults & tombs of ancient & vastly dangerous peoples. These items are tinged with the irony of ages past & wreathed in the mystique of forbidden history.
“Stern and white as a tomb, older than the memory of the dead, and built by men or devils beyond the recording of myth, is the mansion in which we dwell.”
― Clark Ashton Smith, The Return of the Sorcerer

Balkis feeds
Topaz grain and ruby seeds
To an uncouth fledgeling roc.

Untold Arabian Fable by Clark Ashton Smith

These treasures & relics will be worth at least 200  to 2000 gold pieces or more depending up if these items are found in an urban or country setting. There will be 1d6 NPC's who might latch on to the aura of value that these items or relics carry with them.

1d6 Random Ancient Minor Treasures of
Clark Aston Smith's Tomb's & Necrotic Vaults Table
  1. A dagger of mother of pearl, with a emerald like stone set into the hilt. The blade is wrought with all kinds of 'mystical writing'. It is actually a story dagger of Hyperborean make that tells the story of a wizard & his treasure including locations, monsters,etc. Worth 700 gold pieces. 
  2. A wrought golden pitch for exotic wines & strange syrups that turns many colours when the vintage or material is poured into it. The thing turns black if poison is poured into it. Worth five hundred gold pieces it has the name of an infamous wizard hammered around the outside of it
  3. This silver seal of some noble ancient king that was used to seal important documents & royal decrees. It can also be used to seal a demon inside a pentacle with a Hyperborean symbol of command in an emergency. Worth 300 gold pieces to a wizard of the white school or the lawful. 
  4. A fist sized stone of cut crystal that is actually a decoration from a wizard's tower that shows its owner their heart's desire. Worth 600 gold pieces to the right collector. 
  5. Rod of crystal from a dead world made to fit an inhuman hand, this rod can be used to point to the nearest treasure or valuable when the command word is spoken in the new moonlight. The word is writ on the side of the rod in high Hyperborean. Worth 500 gold pieces 
  6. A skull of a wizard with a ruby in the right eye socket, the thing is wrought with springs and muscles of metal. The lower jaw bone has been replaced by gold and silver. It is worth 500 gold pieces for it carries with it a legend of horror and greed. The thing will recite a poem of the dead under the new moon and cast two second level black magic spells at a target within twenty feet. 
 Austerest Beauty, terrible, sublime,
Has claimed my lips with solemn kiss of snow;
Now through my harp the tremors come and go
Of things not stirred with urgencies of Time.
Now must I tread the snows of lonely moons;
Pale rigors of dead planets desert-girt
Enthrall my dreams--solicitous, alert
To keenest colours of supernal moons.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1D20 Random Vicious Gargoyle Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

The souls of the worshipers that make bargains with the powers of Chaos become trapped within the Outer Darkness. These souls attract a myriad of particles of stone, dirt, dust, and worse in the darkness between worlds this becomes a pseudo living body for the monster. Minds, former lives, personality including individuality are finally scrubbed clean by the ever changing forces of chaos & mutation. These beings become trapped within living stone like flesh that becomes a prison of living Hell for centuries. Black wizards, sorcerers, etc. of the lowest orders  call them into the world of the living.They serve the will of their masters longing to rip into the flesh of trespassers, & adventurers. There are thousands of these beings floating around the orbit of Saturn & Jupiter awaiting the beckoned call of the Great Old Ones & many gods of evil intent.

"One was a snarling, murderous, cat-headed monster, with retracted lips revealing formidable fangs, and eyes that glared intolerable hatred from beneath ferine brows. This creature had the claws and wings of a griffin, and seemed as if it were poised in readiness to swoop down on the city of Vyones, like a harpy on its prey."
Clark Ashton Smith, The Maker Of Gargoyles

 These monsters are summoned by a simple 'Monster summoning' rite but the caster must have an absolute command of these raving beasts for they are of the lowest intelligence. But they have an incredible cunning that only top apex predators have.

They must be commanded to guard a particular area or territory for they are violent and fickle creatures at best. At worst they are raving psychotic monsters of most terrible aspect. They eat what they can catch and haunt ruins, dungeons, and other places of black occult activity.
Many black magick cults promise immortality in exchange for the souls of their members, which they grant after a twisted fashion. These souls are given over to demonic horrors that weave bodies of stone like flesh and dust around the newly created monsters. These monsters vent their violent & angry tempers on the world of living with a vengeance.

"Then, as he still gazed irresolutely at the group before him, and its vague reflection in the glass beyond, there came a thunderous crash, and the panes of the window with their pictured scene were shattered inward in a score of fragments. Ere the litter of falling glass had reached the tavern floor, a swart and monstrous form flew into the room, with a beating of heavy vans that caused the tapers to flare troublously, and the shadows to dance like a sabbat of misshapen devils. The thing hovered for a moment, and seemed to tower in a great darkness higher than the ceiling above the heads of Reynard and the others as they turned toward it. They saw the malignant burning of its eyes, like coals in the depth of Tartarean pits, and the curling of its hateful lips on the bared teeth that were longer and sharper than serpent-fangs."
Clark Ashton Smith The Maker of Gargoyles

All entries inspired by Clark Ashton Smith's The Maker of Gargoyle story.

From the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Characters Coloring Book (1983)
     These monsters gain a +1 to their damage in melee due to the violence that warps & colours their perceptions. They hate & fear priests and clerics of religions of order which they will attack on sight being reminded of their inhumanity & depravity.
 1D20 Random Vicious Gargoyle Encounter Table 
  1. Garusai - A gargoyle that once served a black magician and picked up 1d4 black magic spells of first level. This monster delights in taking out warriors and fighters whenever it can. It has a small stash of magic items that it will use to bargain with for its freedom from its dark god master. It loves to carve its name into its victims after a kill. 
  2. Brarus Otrus - A former gladiator and black wizard who was done in by her husband but now has become a monster of the nether darkness, she takes her vengeance out on all living beings and has a yen for the lower intestines of her victims. She can read  Latin and Hyperborean, she loves to recite black poems as rips apart her victims. 
  3. Htrrus Thal - The former black wizard of a coven who became the sacrifice to his own dark god. This left the soul of the wizard a hollow and terrible thing that was scrubbed clean by the forces of darkness. Now it longs to hurt & maime any it comes across often keeping and eating its victims hearts. 
  4. Arusi No - The soul of a boy given the form and violence of a monster through the means of black magick. This vicious monster longs for its own innocence but takes its anger at its fate on any it comes across with vicious and dangerous claws. 
  5.  Trysu Frus - This former fat man and killer for a dangerous black cult is now the guardian and assassin for several black occult groups that rely on its talents to clean up their messes. This gargoyle has twelve minor treasure caches scattered across the country and its looking for a black wizard to break its condition and free its soul. Until then it vicious kills send chills up the spines of locals and its name is used to frighten children. 
  6. Brus Tri Rursu - A former prince of power who was given over to the talons of a black god. This gargoyle loves to torment and hunt the rich as well as stupid for pay of black cults. It hunts on the wing and leaves 'presents' of dead animals and pets for its victims. 
  7. Aruro The Wanderer was once an explorer from another world that pissed off a black wizard of the darkness who feasted on the fool's soul. Now it passes its time reciting poetry and hunting the enemies of the wizard that created it. 
  8. Orus Rex - The king predator is a former king's hunter that slept with the king's wife and maid servant. His privates & brains were given over to a cult of black wizards and this mighty hunter was the result. He loves to hunt lovers, cheating husbands and black witches. Orus has a forty percent magick resistance created by his dark masters who nightly blast him with the blackest curses. 
  9. Boicyal has become the avatar of the Dark Ones to a local cult of 1d6 Lovecraftian cultists lead by a dark wizard of 4th level. This gargoyle has come to relish its position of murderer and assassin to its master. A violent and yet silent soul, this being's eyes betray its thoughts of wanton chaos and depravity.
  10. Thrus The Myriad is a collection of souls knitted into its current hideous form that serves 1d6 black cabals of wizards. This thing loves gems and to collect the eyes of wizards so that it can stare into the black abyss of the final rewards after it makes a kill.  It has 1d6 souls stores in bottles along its hide out. 
  11. Bris Thal - A former princess who willingly walked into the darkness and embrace of her gods. She has served many masters and has collected hundreds of treasures in her time. She has become a power broker to several black cabals whom she pits against one another to match her price. She is a power broker and information seller flitting from world to world on her black wings. She retains the vicious and violent nature that she had in life. 
  12. Rue rie Rex - The king of the dungeon has become the head of a cult of gargoyles who raid other black cults for their treasures. He will work as a mercenary for any black cults who may meet his price. His gargoyles are highly cunning and have high chance of casing their own clients for a raid. 
  13. The Blood Soaked Warrior is a gargoyle who serves the blood handed cult and has for centuries. He has no proper name is actually an extension of his dark master's will but there are those in his clutch who whisper he was once a prince who was wronged. As the centuries dawn he might have become more self aware and then seek the dead world where his legendary legacy awaits.  
  14.  The black priestess Kell is a gargoyle in a long line of warriors who serve a small goddess who carries out an agenda of guarding dungeons and treasures. She has a string of clients 
  15.  Gru's Rell a former psycho killer who was punished by being made into a perfect instrument of vengeance of a black cabal of sorcerers. He now carries out the wishes of his black hearted masters will relish and longs for the time when their entrails will decorate his claws. He moves from world to world carrying out a streak of violence as a gesture to his black god. 
  16. Resu Thurs - Created on a Thursday in the month of the black goddess this gargoyle has obsession with  time and kills each Thursday so that he can add another cat's eye gem to his thousand and three collection marking his kills. He is convinced that his freedom will be granted when he collects one million kills. 
  17. 'A rrus The Black Mother' a former queen who was given the form of a black gargoyle warrior to wreck vengeance on her enemies. Her form was merged with her warrior husband's to make a better murderer. Her violence has claimed the lives of many and she guards the most precious of her cult's treasures. 
  18. True' Val The Cat Headed - A warrior gargoyle who was the head of a black cleric cat cult whose body was warped into its current form to guard the cult that he founded. He guards all of the holy of unholies of his former cult now. Able to cast 1d4 second level black magic spells this hunter is without peer and collects the ears of Elves which he hates with an incredible violence. 
  19. Rrus Rerllei A former cult of Cthulhu priestess who was given over to the vengeance of a cult of Hastur.  This priestess now guards her former rival's cult members but she has a mind of her own and has murdered twelve cult members over the centuries and secreted away two treasure boxes.  When her curse comes true her current employers will find themselves as sacrifices for her dark god. 
  20.  Areus The Undying is a former priest who turned himself into a gargoyle to save his black cult from twelve warriors of Law. His sacrifice proved his cult with their much needed sacrifices and he was granted immortality. He will regenerate wounds as a troll and has the abilities of a priest of darkness. Very few live to find out these secrets as he guards a Lovecrafian relic of dangerous aspect. He is vicious, violent, and a dangerous hunter of souls. 

Some Commentary On The Free OSR Fanzine Underworld Lore Issues 1-3 For Your Old School Campaigns

 Wormskin magazine  From  Necrotic Gnome Productions  is a an old school twisted fairy tale sandbox setting which if you haven't gotten into I would because its perfectly aligned with B/X Dungeons & Dragons. Its really an odd little setting but in a good way. I'll get into Wormskin another time and blog entry.
But this isn't an advertisement for Wormskin instead long before this quality old school magazine there was Underworld Lore. Underworld Lore was Greg Gorgonmilk assembling the parts & pieces of what would become Petty Gods.  My love of that project is well known among the OSR. Meanwhile we got a preview of dread things to come in Underworld Lore.

Underworld Lore is a free OSR fanzine with lots of great stuff to mine for your old school games. Most of the material is completely OSR system focused so its easily adapted but its got that zip tang of weirdness that seems to go down so easy with the old school crowd. All kinds of bits of sewer born things and wisdom snake their ways through the issues.

Issue one features gems, dungeon fruits, quick & dirty rules on insanity, a petty god, and some establishments in classified to throw at your players. All really good stuff to throw into a game adventure to add that memorable bit of color.
Issue #2 has 'the Slanterry Mermaid Tap House' an establishment that I've used a number of times especially in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg adventure The Mystery at Port Greely as a start point. The Honey Veiled Reclusive Webcap is just the sort of seemingly innocent monster that will cause all kinds of havoc with a party. Then a party patron that can be just the sort of a god that a group of first level PC's might need. Let's not mention the petty goddess of children's teeth. Then we get into the petty goddess  of jerky,hard cheese mold, & entropy of food. This is one that you definitely want on your party's side. Then there's a guide for dungeoneering cocks which isn't as sick as it sounds. Magical diseases of the dungeons and infections is next and its perfect to infect your adventurers with. Delver's Dictionary is slang terms of the dungeons. There's a ton of ideas in the classified and its well worth the download just for those. But Conan has found your gaming wanting!

But if we're going to talk about one of the most useful of the Underworld issues for me it was issue three! There is a ton of OSR information on Robert Howard's Conan series along with a great overview of the world of Hyboria including a monster, another preview of Petty gods this time its James Mishler's Crom., Robert Howard's The Hyperborian Age including some great maps that have been modified for rpg system play.
Alright so where is this free material useful? Well, you can easily adapt this stuff to either Labyrinth Lord or B/X Dungeons & Dragons making this easy to fit into a number of niches within an old school campaign setting. This means that this OSR material can easily be adapted to any number of old school & retroclone systems. If there is an overall theme and idea here with dungeons being a spawning ground for all kinds of magical diseases, fungi, and infections that seem run through various issues of Underworld Lore. This means that you as a dungeon master can infect your PC's will all kinds of expensive & heinous conditions. With games such as Adventurer, Conqueror, King this infectious material doesn't seem like it would fit at all. But actually its a perfect focus making adventurers the target for spending their hard earned gold on cures for these nasty magical diseases, fungi, and infections.