A blog about sewing machine repairs,but mainly my hobbies which include old school role playing games, science fiction,films, horror, and general geekery. Sit down and stay a spell.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first Edition Alignment System In Campaigns & Troll Lord's Siege Engine

Right now in my War 1870 campaign I'm coming across a challenge. War 1870 is a hybrid of Castles & Crusades rpg with a very heavy & dark coating of  the Victorious rpg  But its heart & soul is really Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition.

Weird of the white wolf daw 1977.jpg

In the past I've talked about Michael Moorcock's Elric Chronicles on this blog but today we're gonna bring a whole different aspect to the frontage. We're gonna bring up the alignment system & in this case the axis that we know & love from first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons the fact that it sorta lines up with the Victorious rpg's good & evil axis is only icing on the OSR cake. 

Law versus chaos
GoodLawful goodNeutral goodChaotic good
NeutralLawful neutral(True) neutralChaotic neutral
EvilLawful evilNeutral evilChaotic evil
When it comes to Paul Anderson's 'Three Hearts & Three Lions' the alignment system of AD&D first edition is at its center. With all of the occult secret societies, incredible history, and everything happening in the New York City of 1870's. The mystic mythology of Charlemagne & elements of Anderson's 'Three Hearts & Three Lions' lines up perfectly.
A last gasp of the Fey trying to clamp onto humanity's tit & the upside down city serves as a contrast to the scheming Lovecraftian horrors on the other side of this campaign. 

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

Saying this is a simple supers campaign is a both an injustice & idiotic. The background here is steeped deeply in New York City history & D&D.. The Appendix for random Demon generation first appeared in Dragon issue# 13 & aligns up perfectly with Castles & Crusades Tome of the Unclean. 
AD&D 1st Edition - Dungeon Master's Guide (Original Cover).pdf ...

The alignments are not simply morale compasses but indicators of complete & total submission to an ideology that rules the soul but not the PC. Its really more of their place in the grand scheme of the chess board of existence. In point of fact this is something we see in 1981's Classic Clash of the Titan film. Harry Hamlin's Persus is the perfect champion of a type of Greco Roman 'Law' as it were against the backdrop of the chaos that Calibos represents. But notice that there is a touch of Chaos about Zesus himself. The alignments are grand & sweeping embracing & destroying as they create. 

Money And Greek Myths: Lessons From Clash Of The Titans ...

With the Greco Roman revival of the 1870's this is a particularly apt indicator of the grand sweeping gestures of the 'gods' but we'll get into that in another blog entry. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

I8 The Ravager of Time Adventure By Graeme Morris and Jim Bambra For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Editions And Your Old School Campaigns

"So this is the Ffenargh? Mile after mile of stinking bogs overlain by a swirling mist that clings to the skin and chills to the bone. Ahead, a decrepit causeway rises scant inches above the fetid waters and meanders its way through the twisted forms of stunted trees into the depths of this forsaken land.

For years, these blighted fens have been ignored by the outside world, but now an urgent summons brings you into the Ffenargh, to the Court of the Lords Spiritual at Eylea. A foul murder has been committed. Geoffrey D'Arcy, Lord of Myrkfast, has been slain by his own son and you are called upon to find out why.

Death has always hung heavy over this mire, but now an ancient evil has returned to haunt the mist - an evil whose icy fingers reach out to crush any who dare delve its secrets. You, who have faced death a thousand times, meet it now in its most terrible guise. Can you defeat it, or will you fall victim to the Ravager of Time?"

This is a dark and gritty UK adventure set against the stinking fens and bogs of Ffenargh. A setting right out of the imagination of Robert Howard's Solomon Kane adventures. The grittiness of this adventure rings right straight through even as it uses monsters straight out of the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II. This is an adventure that I've seen used with  the Rune Quest Third edition, the Warhammer Fantasy rpg  and ported over to The  Palladium Fantasy Rpg  as well as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons first edition. Well see why in a moment.
"So this is the Ffenargh? Mile after mile of stinking bogs overlain by a swirling mist that clings to the skin and chills to the bone. Ahead, a decrepit causeway rises scant inches above the fetid waters and meanders its way through the twisted forms of stunted trees into the depths of this forsaken land.

For years, these blighted fens have been ignored by the outside world, but now an urgent summons brings you into the Ffenargh, to the Court of the Lords Spiritual at Eylea. A foul murder has been committed. Geoffrey D'Arcy, Lord of Myrkfast, has been slain by his own son and you are called upon to find out why.

Death has always hung heavy over this mire, but now an ancient evil has returned to haunt the mist - an evil whose icy fingers reach out to crush any who dare delve its secrets. You, who have faced death a thousand times, meet it now in its most terrible guise. Can you defeat it, or will you fall victim to the Ravager of Time? "

An adventure for 6-10 characters of levels 8th to 10th.
There's always been something different about the UK TSR's efforts and this one is no different, I've seen this module described as the bastard child of  Shakespeare meets sword & sorcery with an English twist. Wiki actually sums up the British sense of this module quite nicely;"The adventure is a TSR UK branch production and features non-player character types, expository style, atmosphere, and situations that are notably different from many of the game modules created in the US."
This module is full of casts of characters with back story, twisted motives, and monsters lots of em and pay close attention to those PC levels because they mean it. There something really twisted about this module, maybe its the monsters or the main villain or the fact that it can be ported right into a few of the other swamp based modules that I've talked about. The adventure is clever and doesn't talk down to its audience at all, in point of fact it takes the dungeon master and expects them to take the PC's and throw them into the dark alleys of old age.
Here's the break down according to Wiki;"Ravager of Time is set in the Ffenarch. The Ffenarch is a dismal, boggy environment with only some small areas of firm ground. The player characters are hired to search the fens for a lord's son who killed his father. While searching, the characters become entangled in an evil plot that is tainting Eylea."
I8 takes your PC's by the short hairs and knows that your outlaws and adventurers. You're expected to have your characters use commonsense and there huge swaths of this adventure that are complete railroads but that's because this was a convention set up back in Eighty Six. Again this is a part of the TSR UK formula from the D&D Classics website;" Like most of the TSR UK adventures, this one is plot heavy, featuring numerous NPCs; a jury trial; and a life-draining sorceress, the eponymous "Ravager of Time." All of the adventuring occurs in towns or wilderness, without a dungeon to be found. This would all be much more typical of the TSR adventures of the 90s, but in the 80s it was almost exclusively the domain of TSR UK and (to a lesser extent) Tracy Hickman. Like many of the other TSR UK adventures, this one makes heavy use of monsters found in the Fiend Folio (1981) and the Monster Manual II (1983)."  But does this make the module bad or unplayable? Not at all, in point of fact Ravager of Time captures and encapsulates a certain time period in writing and game design. The plot, the writing, and adventure are a trial by fire in sword and sorcery terms. The country of Ffenargh could be in central Europe someplace in the 1400's with its gritty trappings and plot that could easily be ported over to Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dark Albion. Yes I must sound like broken record but believe me because of the familiar nature of royal plot, the dark background adventure elements, twisted motives for the NPC's and the events of the backdrop this adventure fits the contents. Its also a tightly written affair and still widely regarded by the OSR community fondly.
There are three real reasons to use this particular module : 
  1. The Ravager of Time has a very dark resonance with its audience and a pulpy grittiness that really tests players to their limits. Because the setting is generic you can drop this adventure into any campaign world and it will work. 
  2. I8 has lots of investigation, hunting, and is a real mental workout it can be customized for DYI work and can be broken and still work for your old school or retroclone campaigns. 
  3. Because of the connection with both the Monster Manual II and the Fiend Folio lots of old favorites show up and can actually get a deadly workout at the table lending this module a bit of an old world horror flavor. Bring spare characters and sheets, PC's should be of the appropriate level. 

So would the Ravager of Time be a good fit for a game of sword and sorcery pulp action for a game such as Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea? The short answer is a solid yes and the reasons why are very simple. The adventure is distinctly British in both tone, artwork, feel, and content or at the very least pseudo historical in its treatment of Ffenargh. The setting could easily be work of Celtic settlers in shattered shadow of Lemuria, Atlantis, or Hyperborea from Old Earth. The motives and feel of the adventure is sort of a woven dream of a corrupted pulpy landscape pregent with adventure waiting for the right match to come along and set the campaign on fire. This adventure has the feel and elements  of Mac Beth set against the world of Howard and Lovecraft. But this is an adventure for experienced players and PC's in every sense of the word.

Forget the usual solving everything with your sword arm and getting things done with a boot up a monster's backside. This adventure involves thinking things through very carefully and then taking swift action. Because this adventure came out in the shadow of the White Dwarf magazine era. I've seen this adventure converted over to Rune Quest and later on over to the Palladium Fantasy Rpg. This was because of the generic and well thought out way that the U.K. TSR crew put this one together. Its tightly designed, deadly as sin, and capable of taking PC's up a few levels and is a great jump off point for extended bits of old school campaign play. This is not an adventure to be taken lightly. I've seen several TPK's with I8 The Ravager of Time. Is it well done? Yes absolutely it is. Is it worth your time? Yes in a heartbeat. This is also one of the more reasonable used adventures on the open market clocking in at ten dollars for a used copy on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Retro - Review & Commentary On I7 Baltron's Beacon By Philip Meyers For Your Old School Advanced Dungeons And Dragons First Edition Game Campaigns

A strangely delivered advertisement has led you to a sage named Demetrios. He needs a rare component to complete a desperately needed potion. The journey to retrieve it will take you through a large, unexplored swamp to a ruined keep, the former headquarters of a vile cult that once claimed the lives of many innocent youths.
To solve the mysteries of "Baltron's Beacon," the characters must excel in handling wilderness, building ruins, traps, puzzles, and new monsters. This adventure, originally designed for tournament use, is now available for your own campaign.

    I7 Baltron's Beacon By Philip Meyers is an adventure that you can drop right into the background of an existing campaign and no one will be the wiser. The there are simple reasons for this and are at the heart of why this adventure works so well for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This module is a throwback to other earlier adventures. It's pure dungeon crawling fun in places for a mid level adventure that wears its adventure over plotline on its sleeve. This adventure is one part DYI dungeon adventure location with a very limited backstory that allows a DM to customize it as they see fit. Its an incredibly dangerous dungeon crawl based adventure with adventure content that consists almost entirely of dungeon-crawling, including having adventures through a gatehouse, a keep, and at its core a dungeon filled with a couple of levels of exploration and danger.
It should be remembered that at its core this was originally a tournament module and the adventure is designed for a large group of players and presents a challenge on a number of levels for PC's.

Over the years I've seen  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun For AD&D 1st Edition get a ton of respect and love but one of the modules that over the years I've seen used with   I7 Baltron's Beacon By Philip Meyers where the cultists from one module have constructed the Beacon. Over the years I've seen the Cult of the Black Flame and the Crystal of the Ebon Flame  both tied into the background and setting of I7 many times. This makes it perfect as fodder for retroclone systems including Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dark Albion, and especially Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. According to D&D classics.com; "There's a limited backstory for how some of the inhabitants came to reside in the Beacon, but there's not much attempt beyond that to create an ecology for the dungeon." which makes this a perfect candidate to add into the background of your sword and sorcery campaigns.
Another adventure setting piece is the fact that the adventure has people trying to move into the area around the structure and it sort of reminds me of the fact that the Green Plague has swept through and wrecks parts of Hyperborea. This really brings home the fact that the cult of course would idolize the ruins and dungeon as part of myth and legend from the glory days of the cult. For Dark Albion or the pseudo historic setting of Lamentations this makes the cult a prime target for mercenaries working for the Inquisition placing the cult perhaps at the heart of the Black Forrest or some other border area of Germany or even an isolated region of France or Spain.

 I've also seen this module worked up as a part of the environs surrounding the Frank Mentzer adventure I11 because of the ruins of the Beacon and DM's wanting an area of large expanses of ruins and dungeons. Another interesting character is the sage named Demetrios whose a bit of a non entity except at the beginning of the module, I've seen several friends flesh this NPC to become a central core of a campaign where the PC's were running after the scribe at various times for other adventures in the campaign Similar to the plot line of  the classic Sinbad and Eye of The Tiger.

I've also seen several DM's switch out the Black Flame itself for Lin Carter's Aphoom-Zhah (The Cold Flamefor a more Lovecraftian feel to the module itself. The deity is right in line with cult ideas and Cthulhu mythos elements especially when it comes to adapting the module into a far more sword and sorcery mode for OSR style adventures. The bottom line is that I7 Baltron's Beacon By Philip Meyers  is good solid dungeon crawl adventure that can easily be adapted right into your home old school campaigns and easily fit a wide variety of needs for a sword and sorcery campaign

Reaper Fire elemental which could with the right paint job act as a stand in for Aphoom-Zhah (The Cold Flame)with the right paint job. But I digress I7 Baltron's Beacon By Philip Meyers remains a good old fashioned dungeon crawl that can serve a wide variety of needs with the right motivation and group of players!

Warduke Prince of the Damned?! A More Moorcockian Dive & Speculation Into XL1 Quest for the Heartstone By Michael L. Gray For Expert Dungeons & Dragons

We know that the cold, cruel, & calculating Warduke remains one of the most popular of 'The Dungeons & Dragons' cartoon but is there far more going on under the red glowing eyes of the bat winged helm?! Whom does Warduke really serve!? And is there a Moorcock connection?!

A heart of stone, beyond the mist you’ll find,” Loftos said softly. “The heartstone will tell you who should be your king.”

“But where is this stone? How will I find it?” the queen asked.
“The stone was stolen over 50 years ago by Dahnakriss the Master Thief. He Who Watches originally gave the tiny, heartshaped stone to Qasmar, who was the King of Ghyr during the Prism Wars. During these wars, Qasmar used the stone to see into the hearts of men, and was so able to choose his friends and allies. Soon after the war, the magical stone vanished from Castle Ghyr’s supposedly thief-proof vaults. Until now, no one knew what had become of the heartstone. According to He Who Watches, it lies north, in the great Mountains of Ice.
“We must convince a party of adventurers to retrieve the stone and bring it back to us. But we must be very careful. No one must know of the stone’s power, especially not those who would aspire to the throne. Even those we hire to find the stone should not know of its strength!
And just like that two champions of chaos & law were created from the ground up. Pureheart the paladin & Warduke mortal enemies for all times each representing far more then they seem. The two are representatives of powers beyond the pale in 'the Realms'. According to the official back story he was a simple lowly fighter given almost supernatural power by the heartstone.

Now lets dive back into the fray with four characters cut from the opposite sides of the cloth. Warduke himself is a study in contrasts but its his own nature that bares out the curse that comes from the Heartstone ;" Both were exposed to the Heartstone, and Warduke’s cruel nature was brought out while Pureheart’s just nature became stronger…." The heartstone manipulates its victims traits into the best or worst alignments & personality that they can be.  The heartstone literally is advancing its own agenda giving more power to both law & chaos within 'The Realms' & Mystara in the form of champions.
[He] especially hates Pureheart, who he feels wastes his time protecting the weak and helpless. “A true fighter,” Warduke feels, “makes himself rich and powerful by the strength of his sword arm. He takes what he can—if you would keep your possessions, kill those who seek to take them.” He calls his sword “Nightwind.”"
I've said this before I think that the power of Warduke isn't the man himself but his accouterments & sword. I think the helm is an artifact similar to Frazetta's Deathdealer paperbacks & Deathdealer comic books by Glen Danzig. 
Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer Book Series

This also goes a long way to explaining some of the inconsistencies that we see in appearances, levels, etc. going all of the way back to Warduke's official inclusion in Wizards of the Coast's 'official' canon on the character here.  But imagine the tragic circumstances surroundings Strongheart the paladin whose hunted, and tried to defeat his friend so many times only to have the knowledge that he's trapped within his own body & mind!? Very dark stuff indeed. 
But surely there's not an Elric analog of the Pureheart/Warduke relationship in Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion mythologies is there?! Meet " Prince Gaynor Paul St Odhran Badehoff-Krasny von Minct, known as Gaynor the DamnedGunnar the Doomed, and Paul Minct, is a fallen knight of the Cosmic Balance. "
13150035 10206463894064462 130759938 n
 A cursed & damned  champion of Chaos. He is an arch enemy of Elric of MelnibonéUlrich Von BekOona Von BekPrince Corum and The Rose, and has crossed swords with Elric of Melniboné. In the guise of Paul Minct, Gaynor antagonizes Jack KaraquazianSam Oakenhurst, The Rose and Colinda Dovero.
Gaynor is responsible for the destruction of a universe dear to The Rose, and this has earned Gaynor her eternal hatred. Gaynor seeks the Holy Grail to be reconciled with the Balance, or else to die and drag all of the Multiverse into Limbo."
Prince Gaynor  too appears in Kuntz & Ward's Deities & Demigods borne on the  whims of Chaos to serve in every single major conflict of Law & Chaos. He would definitely seek out the heartstone from  XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray
Jeff Vogel on Twitter: "Deities & Demigods is infamous for ...
But Gaynor very cursed chaotic nature with Elric makes eerie parallels with the Pureheart & Warduke relationship dynamic & Gaynor is tied into the immortal  existence of the Eternal Champion;" In Corum's universe, Gaynor served Xiombarg and led an army of Chaos against the city of Halwyg-nan-Vake. Corum defeated him and removed his visor, exposing his face and banishing him from Corum's universe to continue his torment elsewhere."
Even  Gaynor gear & weapons look very similar to Warduke?! So is there a prophecy or two tied into the fate of 'The Realms' wrapped around Warduke?! Gaynor2

XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray leads to more adventure opportunities & questions then answers for me. But here are ten of them right off the top of my head. 
  1. Does the heartstone have a Greyhawk analog & if so will there be more conflict & chaos that it inflicts on Oerth. Could some of the wars & conflict be because of it. 
  2. Are 'The Realms' subject to other darker & sinister incursions of chaos & could Tiamat's relationship with 'the Realms' be tied directly into this. 
  3. Do the lords of order have a stake in 'The Realms' & if so how!? 
  4. XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray tie into the greater cosmic chess game of the Eternal Champion in ways that affect Venger & his dark master. 
  5. Could the 'Nameless One' be the source of Warduke's dark power?! Is this why he's so cavilier in his relationship with Venger in the D&D cartoon episode 'In Search of the Dungeon Master'. 
  6. Could Elric or one of the other Eternal Champions pop up in the Realms searching for one of the artifacts that 'young pupils' destroyed?! If so would this put the albino prince in a direct confrontation with the Dungeon Master or Venger for that matter!?
  7. What of the other powerful NPC's mentioned & outlined in AC1 The Shady Inn?! Could they have more then a vested interest in fate of Warduke. 
  8. With his nightmare mount Warduke could theorically travel the planes including making appearances on Greyhawk during his time as a mercenary. Why was he on Greyhawk!? Did he cross swords with Gord Gary Gygax's renegade theif,  cat lord, & champion of balance?! 
  9. Whose personality or mind are in charge of Warduke & what is this person's actual agenda in 'the realms'. 
  10. Could Warduke be planning & building up some hidden agenda far more dangerous then Venger's?! 

'Of Albino Princes & Heartstones' A Deeper Moorcockian Dive Into XL1 Quest for the HeartstoneBy Michael L. GrayFor Expert Dungeons & Dragons

“Elric knew that everything that existed had its opposite. In danger he might find peace. And yet, of course, in peace there was danger. Being an imperfect creature in an imperfect world he would always know paradox. And that was why in paradox there was always a kind of truth. That was why philosophers and soothsayers flourished. In a perfect world there would be no place for them. In an imperfect world the mysteries were always without solution and that was why there was always a great choice of solutions.”
― Michael Moorcock, The Elric Saga Part I

'Does the 'Realms' have an artifact that overlaps several campaign settings at once & does said artifact sew chaos on wide range of venues?' this was the question lasting night that I asked myself thumbing through my archives. One of the modules from the classic era that comes up quite obviously is XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by 
Michael L. Gray. Now by no means is this a fantastic module or even a great module as its a licencing tie in between the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, the D&D cartoon action figures, several lost cartoon action figures that appear as NPC's & the grand game itself. I don't want to get lost too much in the history of XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray..

I'd like to point out the fact that the vaults of Pandius website article  'Mystara Module and Placement'  by Andrew Theisen has the following ; "XL-1: Quest for the Heartstone

Location: Ghyr
Location Notes: The module takes place near the kingdom of Ghyr, located near the Mountains of Ice, which are not explicitly located on Mystara.
Time Period: Pre-1000 AC or 1001-1004 AC
Staging Suggestions: The module can pretty well be placed anywhere in a mountainous region. A likely location is somewhere near the Icereach Mountains of Norwold.
Continuity Problems: The module can pretty well take place at any time. If one assumes that the LJN Toy Characters are the NPCs who take part in it, it could create some continuity problems. Strongheart and Mercion are listed as King and Queen of Ierendi in module X10, and they (along with Figgen, Elkhorn, Ringlerun, and Peralay) are described as being retired from adventuring (as well as being Companion level characters). This would then mean that XL-1 must take place either before 1000 AC (when Palfrit and Marianne rule Ierendi), or between 1000 AC and 1005-1006 AC (when the Master of Hule invades the Known World). As Strongheart and Figgen are both mentioned in Gaz4, either of these choices would fit. From their histories, the LJN characters did take place in some kind of Heartstone Quest, though it need not necessarily be module XL-1 itself; the DM could assume they were part of an earlier quest, thus avoiding continuity problems and allowing his players to run the module as suits their campaign.
References: AC1, X10 (p.16), Gaz4 (p.23)"

So not only do Pureheart & Warduke appear within 'The Realms' or version of them but they also appear in Mystara. Was Mystara at some point going to take on 'The Realms' when the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was on the airwaves?!
But the hearthstone itself is still out there in the planes spinning its web of destiny & weirdness. And this dear friends is where & when we might pick campaign events. 
XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray isn't a fantastic module but its got several things going for it. The module has all of the heavy hitters of the D&D cartoon built right in. With the right group of players it has potential to be a blast. But what if the Heartstone is far more then it seems?! 
Mystara Monday: AC1 – The Shady Dragon Inn – AggroChat

The Heartstone itself & its properties remind me of several of the artifacts from a certain albino prince's adventures. Hear me out here. Michael Moorcock's Elric saga has any number of chaotic, lawful, & highly dangerous artifacts. What if the heartstone is 'The Realms' & Mystara's equivalent? The Heartstone is a heavy hitter artifact able to change the alignment, personality traits, and even the stats of NPC's. The heartstone is key to the creation of Warduke himself. In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon every other episode there's literally an artifact level magic item that the 'young pupils' are delving for.

The Elric Saga Part I: Michael Moorcock: 9781568650401: Amazon.com ...

Since we've got all of the Stormbringer mythology from the Elric saga in Robert J. Kuntz & James M. Ward in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition Deities & Demigods.

The True Story of the Cthulhu and Elric Sections Removed from ...

It stands to reason that Elric could indeed theoretically cross swords with Warduke himself if the campaign need arises. The question is do these artifacts that the kids of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon are questing for have far more value then simply getting those kids home?!

Jeff Vogel on Twitter: "Deities & Demigods is infamous for ...

 XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray answers this question quite nicely as the fate of a kingdom hangs quite literally in the balance. Again there's some weird parallels between the Elric saga & a tie in module for the D&D cartoon.
But could 
 XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray be used as the jump off point for an Eternal Champion Expert level D&D module campaign with Moorcock influences or darker?! In a word quite easily. Here are ten reasons why this would work: 

  1. XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray introduces all of the heavy hitters of an alternative D&D cartoon style campaign & with a simple DM push they can become all that much more Sword & Sorcery style. 
  2. The PC's following in the foot steps of Elric is easily done & they don't even have to meet the albino prince for that matter! Or the young pupils for that matter. 
  3. In a campaign back in the Nineties I had my players cross swords with Warduke & they didn't survive. 
  4. This is where D&D Expert set, Mentzer/BECMI version of D&D shines crossed over with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. 
  5. There were a number of artifacts that the 'young pupils' umm destroyed that could still be out in 'The Realms' causing trouble. 
  6. Venger is powerful enough to cross from 'The Realms' into Greyhawk, & Mystara especially if he's expanding his power base. Venger crossing swords with Elric is a frightening prospect. Yes Elric might wipe the floor with em. But the destruction wrought on a campaign world?! 
  7. Elric might be questing for the heartstone for a client to restore the sanity of a person or cure some alignment curse. 
  8. Then there's that pesky kingdom up for grabs at the end of XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray. One of my players brought up the fact that the PC's might want to take it over. Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg is perfect for this. 
  9. If we push the D&D cartoon into a Sword & Sorcery light, it becomes quite dark, dangerous, and really deadly. It wouldn't take much at all to go all out in a Conan or Stormbringer style D&D cartoon campaign. 
  10. XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray is a solid campaign jump off point for a D&D cartoon style floor level campaign. Done right this could introduce a whole new Sword & Sorcery group of players to a very nice Eternal champion game. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Upside Down City - Blood Soaked Travels With Game Lords LTD's Thieves Guild & TheCatalyst series By Flying Buffalo - More OSR Campaign Commentary

"A complete rules system for fantasy thieves!
This new, completely revised second edition of the Thieves' Guild? rules now provides more ways than ever for players to experience the danger-filled life of a medieval brigand, burglar, or cutpurse. Thieves' Guild? gives thief characters opportunities to use a wide range of thieving skills and abilities to plan and commit the perfect crime. In addition to basic game mechanics, system rules cover every aspect of thieving activity, including:
? Basic Thieving Abilities ? Thievish Combat Tactics ? Disguises and Diversions ? Tailing and Surveillance ? Poisons and Venoms ? Fencing Stolen Goods ? Medieval Justice ? Ransoming Prisoners ? Underworld Organizations ? And Much More!"

Its been a few years since I busted out my box set of Thieves Guild the Fantasy system from 
1984  by  Richard Meyer & Kerry Lloyd & Michael Watkins aka  GL 3901.  This was a glorious box set from a very different era. A glorious era in fantasy table top gaming called Nineteen Eighty Four & Game Lords were a very cool company. You can read all about their history & products right over at the Black Gate Blog here 

Now flash forward to the Nineties when lo & behold I was able to pick up the whole range of Game Lords product on the cheap. Then I began to run a first edition AD&D style game with sprinkles of Flying Buffalo Catalyst system books you remember those right?! Butcher,Baker, Candlestick maker well the line had one particularly nasty book called Deadly Nightside. As the Amazon reviewer called 'the dude' puts it; "Admittedly, the art is a bit stiff, but the stories make up for it. There are settings like "The Bloodmoon School" for training in the martial arts - replete with a thematic system of advancement and a mysterious sensei with a hidden purpose. There are organizations like the "Beggar's Guild" that establishes an information network and suggests that your best friend might secretly be one of the "changelings" exchanged for deformed children at birth. There's an assassin's "guild" called "The Steel Man" that is over the top on atmosphere. But best of all is the metaplot - there's a connection between the "Steel Man", the "Shadow Riders" (caravan raiders on the route into town), and a slave trader. Played right, it's an epic campaign... And I haven't even mentioned the time traveler!"
Now back in the 90's I used the Thieves Guild box set to give legs at the table top level among my players with the Flying Buffalo Catalyst rpg seamless  system. 

Now I used Deadly Nightside  quite lines up nicely with its sister book Citybook V: Sideshow which both of these line up almost but not quite with 'The Thieves Guild' books. Christ, I got a ton of use out of the Catalyst series of b
ooks including using them for a Vampire Dark Ages game in the early to late 00's.  But now seems like the perfect time to bust out Thieves Guild & the Catalyst series.  The inhuman terrorist cell, the strange almost Night Breed businesses, and more all cry out to be used including Thieves Guild. I have a cunning plan! 

What I'm going to do is add in these books to my Castles & Crusades rpg/Victorious rpg campaign now that the player's PC's have been brought to New York City in 1870;

"Imagine if you will that usual hum drum city of 1870's New York isn't, imagine just for a moment that half a step away & around the corner is another city a world away. A city if you will full of danger,excitement, fairies,dragons, & thieves. Now imagine that at certain hours, days, & times of the year that people can cross between these worlds only a foot fall away. "  Imagine if you will desperate thieves & adventurers stalking the night of 1870's New York City for any booty they can find. A shot rings out & the player's PC's find themselves in a whole cloth different world! The Upside Down city a far from conventional York City of the Castles & Crusades or Dungeons & Dragons variety with overtones of Lord Dunsany thrown into the mix. Elves, gods, & worse exist right around the corner in this fictionalized heavy dark fantasy New York..
Lord Dunsany's Pegana | Skulls in the Stars

As for Games Lord LTD. they still exist after a fashion right over here.  This campaign aspect is still brewing in my head at this point but this is what I've come up with tonight.
Apparently Tunnels & Trolls rpg has a humble bundle & Eric Tenkar is covering that here. 

Apologist For 'The Dungeon Master' - Robert E. Howard's Conan Mythology & The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon

The Dungeon Master from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon has always been an old favorite of mine as a dungeon master of the 'grand game'. But there's always been lots of aspects of the little robed demi god that have bothered  me.

"Dungeon Master: Listen to me Ranger. Do not let your anger control you. [The kids close in] The course you are taking.... can only.... lead.... to.... ruin? [Defeated] So then, it has come to this: Tiamat lives where the dragons go to die. The place that is the source of your weapons: the Dragon's Graveyard. As for to use her to overcome Venger-
Hank: No riddles! Tell us straight.
Dungeon MasterAsk her! She may help you. But then.... she MAY NOT. May I go now?
Hank: Wait Dungeonmaster..how do we find the way to the Dragons graveyard?
Dungeon Master: You carry the way with you ranger"
The Dragon's Graveyard.
The figure of the 'Dungeon Master' while all knowing seemed down right tortured by his predicament. Yet he was more then capable of being savage when sending his young champions into every happenstance & danger in 'The Realms'. The 'kids', Robert E.Howard's Conan, & even Michael Moorcock's Elric always seemed to be tied to the whims of the gods & the destiny of greater events that happened around them as well as too them. Was there or is there a common thread?! 

The complete unedited works of Robert E. Howard's Conan...in one ...

Last night was one of those times when I busted out my copy of Ward & Kuntz's Gods, Demigods, & Heroes for original Dungeons & Dragons.. There are reasons for this along with the Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard. 

All of this has to do with a certain little red robed demi god from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. We know several facts about the character he's powerful, known throughout the realm by reputation, & is a force for good. But what pantheon does 'the dungeon master' belong to?! I think he belongs to a long forgotten pantheon in point of fact.

"For there are worlds beyond worlds, as Kull knows, and whether the wizard bewitched him by words or by mesmerism, vistas did open to the king’s gaze beyond that strange door, and Kull is less sure of reality since he gazed into the mirrors of Tuzun Thune."
Robert E. Howard - The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune 

The dungeon master along with other members of his family fled to the 'Realm' after something nasty happened on Earth thousands of years ago but their first stop was Greyhawk.  The family didn't stay because the events of 'The Reign of Colourless Fire'..

Dungeons & Dragons #5: In Search of the Dungeon Master: raoulraoul ...

They battled the cults of the 'Nameless One' & the cult of Tiamat across the face of the 'Realm'. But still they continued to act through intermediaries such as 'Pureheart the paladin'. Much later on would be the 'children' after the banishment of the 'Nameless One' & the corruption of Venger.

Could 'Dungeon Master' be another Elder God ala Mitra from the Conan mythology of Robert E.Howard?! Hear me out first.
""Over ten thousand years ago, when the minions of Set and Apophis threatened to burst forth upon the world, [Mitra] chose as the world's defender a king who was born a barbarian -- and the king was victorious, aided by the sign of the Phoenix which Epimetreus caused to be inscribed upon his sword blade." -- Richard L. Tierney: "The Soul of Kephri""

One of Mitra's most potent aspects is 'The Defender' where he acts with & through a champion or set of champions often sending dreams & riddles to his chosen;"
One of Mitra’s most potent aspects is as the Defender, protecting Hyborians from evil sorcery, most specifically from his ancient enemy, the serpent-god Set."
Sounds very similar to the situation the kids found themselves in with 'The Nameless One'..


Mitra's M.O. sounds very similar to a pint sized little demigod of the Realm with lots of familial issues. Remember the 'kids' are there to act as the 'Dungeon Master''s champions & remind Venger of his lost humanity all of the while defending the trouble spots of the 'Realm'.

The kids themselves might very well be smaller status champions of the 'Realm' other indeed smaller aspects of the Eternal Champion . Do the kids ever get home?! I honestly don't think they can or will even with the events of the Requim reading of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. The mini plane of 'The Realms' is far from settled. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Purple Blackness & Ancient Swordsin The Back Alleys - War 1870 - Campaign Background Session Report

"Another item connected with the legend of the lich Vecna is the Sword of Kas, his onetime bodyguard. This sword is said to have a thin grey blade of some metallic substance. It's powers are only dimly hinted at by legend, but Kas was said to have been the mightiest swordsman of his age."

Today I broke out my copy of Eldritch Wizardry & I began to reread the artifact section on the Sword of Kas. The sword has been travelling  across my game campaign settings for ages now leaving a trail of murder & mayhem in its wake. I'm not even kidding this goes back to my Godbound/Cha'alt campaign in October of last year.  The sword found a new host body & its been cutting a bloody swath across the prime material planes for months now.
The sword has been looking for something & now tonight its made its way to my 1870's War campaign in New York City. This is a part of my diabolical plan to uncloak one of my main big nasties in my Castles & Crusades/ Victorious rpg  hybrid campaign.

All across New York City there have been undead sightings, ghostly activities, & undead incursions.Slayers & heroes are getting a work out from this past weekend's game. The Earth is on edge & not because of the appearance of Tegel Manor.. The manor has been drawn here by something big & very nasty. The PC's have a contract to retrieve the body of a nobleman in this  for a resurrection at the temple of Thor. They've been hearing rumors of several cults worshiping dark occult forces on the water front.

The cult of the Ever Expanding Eye & The Hand of Ultimate Salvation have both been hitting the air waves & bill boards of this alternative Steampunk Earth. Day & night the commercials have been really hammering home the creepy message of these new & exciting street religions.
There have been signs of Greyhawk's portals merging with the city here & there across the city. The unmistakable air of something nasty, dangerous, & truly dire coming to the city that never sleeps.

Yet what is happening in Yemen, California, Cario, & across the Earth?! There are whispers of a black pyramid, strange men appearing in the underworld, murders,  dangerous technologies, dark sorceries, and worse in these corners of the globe! The alien men & women from Elsyuim are making their way into the thieves guilds of the underworld of New York. And what is strange new drug 
 xanthium-183 that many of the wizards,psychics, & occultists of New York are buzzing about!? 

On three fronts dark forces are tracking our PC's! The snares have been laid out & now the simply wait for our PC's to blunder in.. 

'A Gothic Touch or Two'- The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon With Karl Edward Wagner Commentary

Happy Father's Day everyone! Hope all is well with my readers & last night I curled up with one of my all time favorite Michael Moorcock's Elric anthology's 'Tales of the White Wolf''. Back in '96 I grabbed this paperback with the express purpose of looking into the Karl Wagner story," The Gothic Touch"  for one of my all time favorite Sword & Sorcery characters Kane!
Kane is a mystic swordsmen & unlike mopey Elric Kane is a 'Gothic hero' in the traditional sense. He states his mother might be  Lilith & his father was Adam. Kane's world is one of a weird melding of the Sword & Sorcery with elements of Science Fantasy.  He is a left handed warrior who was cursed by a mad god with eternal life. He's marked as a killer & murderer with his icy blue eyes whom no one can stare into for too long. Kane is rather good at killing & in fact he states so;""I kill things," he tells Elric in "The Gothic Touch". "It's what I was made to do. I'm rather good at it".

Frank Frazetta's cover artwork for the Bloodstone paperback

But Kane isn't a simple Robert E.Howard Conan clone but a thinking man's Gothic hero instead;"Some commentators have argued that the fantasy protagonist that Kane has most in common with is Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné, but Wagner was also inspired by novels such as Melmoth the Wanderer and The Worm Ouroboros.[2] Kane is unconcerned with common morality, since no human relationship can ever last more than a small fraction of his lifetime (although the daughter he fathered in "Raven's Eyrie" turns up as an adult in the modern-day "At First Just Ghostly"); and he frequently ends up on the wrong side in the conflicts in which he involves himself, often to his own detriment. A common theme running through all Kane stories is the hero's weariness with his own immortality and his attempts to give his existence meaning."
Kane's travels throughout the series leads him across many eras, worlds & settings in the books. The book to get if you can find it is 'Gods In Darkness' a collection of the complete Kane novels; "Kane An immortal, cursed to wander the Earth until he is destroyed by the violence that he himself has created. A warrior and statesman: As comfortable in the shadowy halls of courtly intrigue as he is on the bloody battlefields where those intrigue's inevitably play themselves out. Karl Edward Wagner's complex and compelling character of Kane redefines the boundaries of heroic fantasy, and stands besides Michael Moorcock's Elric, and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser as one of the most idiosyncratic and compelling characters of the fantasy genre. Gods in Darkness gathers together in one volume the complete novels of Kane." This collection brings together three novels 'Bloodstone', 'Dark Crusade', & 'Darkness Weaves'. This collection brings together all of the Karl Edgar Wagner elements of science fiction, science fantasy, & Gothic horror all with a Sword & Sorcery topping. 

"The Gothic Touch" brings elements of 'Science Fantasy', Sword & Sorcery, & more. Which brings the it back to the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon & Tiamat. Tiamat is very much the sort of entity that Kane deals with. There are many alien entities that trip through the Kane stories that is that they have multiple divine  aspects across the planes. 

Kane would definitely have interest in the 'Dragon's grave yard' planar lair of Tiamat. The 'dragon's grave yard' has a ton of artifact level weaponry & there might be an artifact that could end Kane's tortured immortality. But where exactly is the Dragon's Graveyard?! 

'The Dragon's Graveyard' episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon places Tiamat's lair on some distant plane. But my uncle who was both a fan of the cartoon & a pen pal of Karl Edgar Wagner's turned to a much older source for the location. In case the classic Judge's Guild Inferno By Geoffry O Dale! Not only do we get her lair but several artifacts scattered about. This location plugs right into the classic Divine Comedy & Biblical aspects of the 'Kane' character. 

But where do we take things from here & what do these Sword & Sorcery influences have to do with a certain little demi god dressed in red robes. 
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