Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Monsters, Mayhem, & OSR Urban Dungeon Ecology For Your Old School Campaigns

There are times when a certain aesthetic is called for the monsters in a game setting & for me bizarre is the norm not the exception. Yesterday/early this morning I wrote about my  turn of the of the century alternative Earth setting & system,an old school OSR hybrid of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarians of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu mixed in with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures firearms, modern equipment & more. The combination will be called Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings!  I've been working on an Appendix 1800 - 1980's Science Romance list. 
Well today my focus has been on my urban environment & dungeon adventure location New York City.  I love the ACK's Lairs & Encounters books, but sometimes I going over to the classic D&D adventures has a certain something. Fortunately there's a pretty good thread on the ACK's forums for conversions.

What I'm looking for is a bit more pulpy  & a bit more comic bookish in style & substance while simultaneously being very, very, dangerous. But an OSR  resource that I can still plug in all of the classic OD&D resources into. Hmm fortunately a couple of years ago I grabbed Neoplastic Press's Teratic Tome 

'But, but these are campaign ending monsters & nothing but nipple & penis horrors,' save your breath I've heard it all from  certain corners of the pearl clutchers of the OSR & fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons dungeon masters. But the truth is that the Brine orc, gelatinous pyramid, &  azure slime are exactly the sort of horrors that some pulp style vile villain would be cooking up in a New York lab.
The brine orc are perfect servants for the Deep Ones in the pulp make over of  Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull's UK1 The Sinister Secret of SaltmarshMaking an ACK's style Lairs & Encounters set up for these creatures from the Teratic Tome  By Rafael Chandler would be an adventure unto itself.

Most likely these sorts of encounters would be mid way through an adventure or used as a side adventure unto themselves. Take the Ingenue for example according to the PowerScore blog which has a good breakdown & review on the book;
" A humanoid female with blue skin and white horns. They change their minds constantly and live for cruel pranks. Ingenues thirst for the blood of men, particularly nobles. She takes 1/3rd damage from spells cast by men, and double damage from spells cast by women."
These monsters are the perfect horrors to visit upon the royal houses of Pan America's New York City.  The whole place is riddled with dimensional doors & warp gates leading to other much more lethal planes of existence.

ACK's Lairs & Encounters breaks down not only the background & detailed pseudo ecology of a given monster but then gives a detailed encounter suitable for any OSR retroclone gaming system but obviously geared toward the Adventurer Conqueror, King system. Given this approach its reasonable to assume a very detailed breakdown for a pulp adventure location using these same guidelines found in ACK's Lairs & Encounters. The ACK's system from Lairs & Encounters will give any pulp or super hero pause and then some.

This same sort of approach could be taken with Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu where a very different occult approach is given to the Lovecraftian horrors of the other worldly setting of  Kanahu.
The approach to these creatures of Chaos is similar  to the  level of lethality of the  horrors found in the Teratic Tome  By Rafael Chandler. 

To a much lesser degree the chaos cults of Lion & Dragon & Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos have a far more personal approach & slower level of corruption but non the less are just as mutating & otherworldly. To some extent the OSR NPC tools of Lion & Dragon  & Cults of Chaos fit the level of weirdness that I'm going for.

So why I'm I worried about using this style of monster placement within my alternative history New York City? Because the monsters often make the setting & while its true that this is a pulpy sort of gonzo campaign with weirdness drenching out of the pores of the campaign & a very strange twist on events of a post Martian Invasion America in 1904. There's some degree with which I'm juggling the campaign's elements around both OSR & classic OD&D ideals here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Old School Adventures & Beyond Appendix N - Old School Resources From The Dawn of Science Fantasy

Sometimes I go a off a bit to wander away from the conventional band of Appendix N titles that we've seen in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide for first edition.
If you've been following from other day's blog post I've been looking do a turn of the of the century alternative Earth setting & system,an old school OSR hybrid of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarians of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu mixed in with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures firearms, modern equipment & more. The combination will be called Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings!  I've been working on an Appendix 1800 - 1980's Science Romance list for this system. One of the best titles in this group is Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century: or, The Autobiography of the Tenth President of the World-Republic By Andrew Blair.

Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century: or, The Autobiography of the Tenth President of the World-Republic is a science fiction novel written by Andrew Blair, and published anonymously in 1874.[1]
Blair's work is one of a group of early science fiction novels that are now little known, but were influential in their own time—group that includes Edward Maitland's By and By (1873), Percy Greg's Across the Zodiac (1880), and John Jacob Astor IV's A Journey in Other Worlds (1894)"

Blair's vision goes from one technological marvel to another weirder dance partner of wonder. Ever one how a beast master or ranger might be used in  such a setting? How about training armies of animals to do your science fantasy war lord's bidding?
"The modern U.S. Navy trains dolphins; Blair foresees much more:
...a levy of 40,000 naturalists were engaged for years in forming a hundred different zoological armies. Each of these was, by an admirable system of drill, brought to such a high state of discipline that a brigade, consisting of a thousand elephants, a thousand rhinoceroses, 180,000 monkeys and 15,000 other beasts of draught and burden could be officered with perfect ease by as few as one thousand naturalists. Birds of burden and fish of burden were in like manner drafted into the ranks of the zoological army, and, being subjected to similar training, were brought to a similar degree of efficiency"
Weirdness upon weirdness is heaped upon the reader & a dungeon master would take weeks to sift through the weird science that's presented here. Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century: or, The Autobiography of the Tenth President of the World-Republic is available at the Internet Archive here.

The Autobiography of the Tenth President of the World-Republic By Andrew Blair is a grand & sweeping exercise in broad strokes of speculative writing in a epic manner & its a perfect fit for a Dying Earth or alternative history adventure.

Its an interesting contrast to the way that H.G. Wells gives his novel War of the Worlds such a weird rational & almost documentary style to the novel. It contrasts very sharply with A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future  by John Jacob Astor IV, published in 1894. This novel is a colonist's dream with the United States a corporate super power & rest of the world socialistic utopia. There's also an element of the horrid supernaturalism of the weird occult as space explorers discover "discover the icy world Cassandra, home to the souls of unworthy Earthlings."Are there weird Spiritualism ruins from some ancient lost civilization or other remains of lost Atlantis or some other lost world civilization?

Across the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record (1880) is by Percy Greg, & his novel has  many of the classic science fantasy or science romance's adventure elements  that would become prevalent in many of the later more contemporary tales of other authors. The Journal of a Southern Book Reader blog entry on Across The Zodiac goes into both the author & his works. Its a very interesting, well thought out & a  highly detailed read.

'Across the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record' (1880)  by Percy Greg is available for download right from the Internet Archives here.

Edward Maitland's 'By and By' (1873) is a rather unique book & not really one that I'd include here. Its a book of its time & if your curious I'd take a look.

For myself all of the above titles have something to offer the dungeon master as a jumping off point or stepping stone into the greater exercise of adventure writing.

'Across the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record' (1880) contains a very detailed account of the creation and use of apergy &  a highly detailed  form of anti-gravitational energy & within my mind a creation of HG Wells Cavorite.
This is the same substance used by Wells in his novel 'The First Men in the Moon'.
Its also the perfect substance to use as an antigravity core for a space dungeon & one that I've used many times. Many of these early scientific romances used the lone group of adventurers, or a combination of gadeteers or scientists to create a space craft in a work shop garage. C.S. Lewis would later 'borrow' this concept for his novel,'Out of the Silent Planet';
The influence of Wells's book is especially visible in Out of the Silent Planet, the first book of Lewis's Space Trilogy. There, too, a central role in the story line is played by a partnership between a worldly businessman interested in the material gains from space travel (and specifically, in importing extraterrestrial gold to Earth) and a scientist with wider cosmic theories.

Also in Lewis's book, the two quietly build themselves a spaceship in the seclusion of an English country house, and take off into space without being noticed by the rest of the world. (It may be noted that both Wells and Lewis, like virtually all science fiction writers until the 1950s, grossly underestimated the resources needed for even the smallest jaunt outside Earth's gravitational field.) Like Wells's book, Lewis's reaches its climax with the Earth scientist speaking to the wise ruler of an alien world (in this case Oyarsa, the ruler of Malacandra/Mars) and blurting out the warlike and predatory nature of humanity."

We can already see the early strains of Sword & Planet adventures in these titles but its really crystallized in Gullivar Jones: His Vacation by Edwin Lester Arnold,1905. All of these elements would later come together in Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mar.
Here the lone hero conquerors all in a desperate attempt to overcome the odds & obstacles of adventure.

Weirdly enough I think that the group of adventurers tinkering in a workshop or wizard's tower to create a space craft might actually work far better then the lone hero stereotype. Forgotten are the Fantastic Four style adventurers who take on the mantle of 'explorer' & conqueror to take on alien settings, strange space dungeons, & other weird pulpy adventures. Yet I think that this closer to many of the elements of original Dungeons & Dragon's play mission in my mind. This material is perfect to be plugged into the ACK's

Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu setting.

Since all of these titles are public domain they can be used & morphed in any way that the dungeon master sees fit. They make excellent fodder for a dungeon master looking for an adventure setting for those jaded players who have seen it all.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Arthurian Wickness, & DA2 Temple of the Frog By Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie For Your Old School Campaigns.

Its been a long while since I turned my attention back to the arid red planet of my Clark Ashton Smith fueled dreams but a chance encounter & conversation with an old friend over a beer convinced me to take a look at Smith's short story "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros", written in 1929 and published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales.  Long into the night we talked about Dave Arneson's Frog God & its deep connections into the roots of old school gaming.

We also talked about the Lion & Dragon rpg & the Arthurian literature's connections with the Arthur's forays against the forces of Chaos in Europe. I've spoken about using the DA2 Temple of The Frog in the Swamps of Europe in a balls to the walls adaptation of the module. Personally I set the temple up someplace within the swamps of outside of Paris & use the whole adventure as an excuse to add in the frog cult  Chaos elements of the Dark Albion Cults of Chaos book.

I'd personally adapt the
Lancelot or Lancelin family as part of the rebel forces of the Parisian resistance to the frogs tyranny of France. These families of royals can be set up as PC allies or NPC patrons. They're perfect families to connect with the party's paladins or knights. St. Stephen, has been circulating among the families of the elite of Paris by command of the Toad god & causing havoc among the general population. There are several magical swords that Lancelot uses throughout his career as a knight of Camelot. This means that there's a good chance that these swords might be used as heirloom artifacts passed down from father to son.

This heritage of the perfect knight may haunt characters trying to escape the shadow of their grand father or great uncle's knight hood.
"It is not until Chr├ętien's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart (Le Chevalier de la Charrette), however, that Lancelot becomes the protagonist. In this text, he is presented as the most formidable knight at King Arthur's court. His adulterous relationship with the Queen is also introduced in this text. Lancelot is portrayed in Chr├ętien's work as the bravest of knights and one whom everyone is forced to describe as uniquely perfect. His deeds are recounted for their uniqueness, not only among living knights but of all men who have ever lived."

N. C. Wyeth's illustration for The Boy's King Arthur: "Sir Mador's spear brake all to pieces, but the other's spear held."

The idea of a knightly family patron isn't a new one but the fact that families of knights could have a stake behind the resistance is a bit epic & legendary. The fact is that this whole idea is going to make the PC's squirm from going across the society's social strata is merely an added bonus.

When opposing the toad god's machinations it should be remembered that subtly is the watch word for the forces of the toad god. This is a thinking man's monster & god able to manipulate not only his own forces but those of the opposition in spades. 
There are several reasons why using
the DA2 Temple of The Frog:
  1. Because D2 Temple of The Frog isn't that well known among modern fifth edition D&D  players & running it with Lion & Dragon makes it a rather unique module. 
  2. The science fantasy elements can be up played allowing some of the unique devices found within D2 to be a bit of a shock 
  3. Giant Toads & Frogs! 
  4. Various aspects of  DA2 Temple of The Frog  is campaign can be modified by the DM as needed. 
  5. Clark Ashton Smith's ripe for using with a Arthurian setting. 
  6. DA2 Temple of the Frog has a rather weird reputation among gamers of a certain age and its time for younger generations to come to fear this classic 
  7. DA2 can be easily connected with some of the down & dirty violence & corruption of the War of the Roses. 
  8. Blackmoor is another resource the DM can pull from for their own old school campaigns. 
  9. DA2 has lots of hooks & guides  to include the PC's into a wild hot mess of a game. 
  10. King Arthur literature has lots of potential for all kinds of dangers & weirdness to offer the old school DM's

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pulp Era OSR Make Over For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons's Modue Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull's UK1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

"Desolate and abandoned, the evil alchemist's mansion stands alone on the cliff, looking out towards the sea. Mysterious lights and ghostly hauntings have kept away the people of Saltmarsh, despite rumors of fabulous forgotten treasure. What is its sinister secret?"

So I'm looking ahead to putting down the PC's in a turn of the of the century alternative Earth  old school OSR hybrid of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarians of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu mixed in with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures firearms, modern equipment & more. The combination will be called Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings! The first thing I'm going to do is to give Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull's UK1
The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh an upgrade to 1904 New York City's docks & sub urban villages.

First thing that happens is that alchemist becomes a full blown undead & the illusionist becomes his cat's paw. Next the smugglers are perfect for the environs around Pre World War I  New York City harbor & fishing culture. Yes this is going to have a very Gangs of New York feel to it with super powers, magick, adventure & pulp elements.

The lowlifes & smugglers of the UK1 series can easily be modified to accommodate Lovecraftian elements.  
Lovecraft's 1931 novella "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" makes a perfect case for Kou Toa being cousins of the Deep Ones.

The lizard men are not the same faction as we've seen from N1 Against The Cult of the Reptile God. These are of a far more peaceful off shoot but still dangerous none the less. There have been reports of unknown lizard like creatures seen around the outskirts of New York City. This gives a perfect connection to the weirdness of N1 to hook up with U.K.1.
Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull's UK1 lizardmen are no less dangerous but N1 Against The Cult of the Reptile God lizardmen resemble the full blown slaves & servants of the Serpent Men. These nasty & rather nasty Lovcraftian cults of N1 Against The Cult of the Reptile God might be found in some of the back alleys of New York City stretching its coils & influence deep into New York State's back woods. This could be represented by the very Adult themed Obscene Serpent Religion by Rafael Chandler. 
The war between the lizard men & Deep One Kou Toa is a very old one & the river traffic on the Hudson up points the one resource that's at steak here that's mankind itself! The very souls & bodies of mankind are up for grabs from the back rooms of power to the lowest river bottom captain everyone's got a hand in this pie.
So how does
Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull's UK1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh enter domain play especially one of a pulp era? The PC's gain a dock side base & a ship if they play their cards right plus a ton of underworld contacts & more.  The rivers & byways of New York City's waters hold secrets from the 1890 Martian Invasion making navigating these areas very dangerous affairs.

Blood & Murder In Hi Rise City - Actual Pulp Era Campaign Event

In tonight's game the PC's got themselves in way over their collective heads, the royal family they were staying with were kidnapped! The high rise that the PC's were staying in was invaded tonight after a new weird science dimensional portal device was unveiled! The party's bard went to check on Samantha Turck after her almost death & poisoning.

A sky ship landed on the roof pad with various mine consortium exacutives & mine heads from the outer edges of the solar system. The deep exploration & elemental planar mines had yielded a new type of portable gate device aboard the sky ship. Its application for new avenues of exploitable mining opportunities was about to be discussed when something or someone interrupted the meeting. Time went funny & the elevators weren't working properly.
The adventurers grabbed
Samantha Turck & made a hasty retreat to the roof of their own sky ship. Then they encountered a strange shape changing ooze monster & they were lucky to escape with their lives! One of the PC's henchmen was able to buy the party some time to escape.

 Finally the PC's made it past the roof & their own sky ship. They boarded, got skyward, & locked & loaded the guns! What they don't know is that a Visitor saucer is hot pursuit of them!

Will the PC's survive their ordeal! And why are they being pursued by the Visitors?! What strange alien agenda do these alien beings from beyond the stars have for a small child? These and other questions will be answered in next week's game as the players head for the wild & woolly wastelands of New Jersey! There in the wastelands

warbots battle amidst ruined starships & still active Martian war walkers!

Everything in tonight's game was accessed from the
Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu handbook for Adventurer, Conqueror, King retroclone rpg sytem.

Technically I'm working on integrating a bunch of OSR & old school D&D elements from original Dungeons & Dragons as well as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition. The pulp elements from Clark Ashton Smith Zothique series of stories has already been cropping up in the background of this game campaign but its time to really move them forward along with a good dash of H.G. Wells for good measure.