Wednesday, September 20, 2017

OSR Echoes Of 'The Old Earth' Setting Adventure Locations & Commentaries

Meanwhile last night I dug out my copy of C.L.Moore's Northwest Smith stories, Clark Ashton Smith, a bit Robert Howard, and some of the usual H.P.Lovecraft tales. This puts me right back square into the territory of Leigh Brackett. The post colonial world of Old Earth is three ticks from when the 'stars come right'. And this age is  a repeat of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle

 The Hyperboreans coped with the changes and destruction of 'Old Earth' as best they could whist coming out of their bunkers to find themselves far off world. Hyperborea now sits out in the solar system. Meanwhile 'Old Earth' has been reduced to tribalism in spots with high tech city states here and there. A few Hyperborean states still exist but Antarctica is now the new continent of mystery & danger.
Earth has become one vast science fantasy resource with Leigh Brackett's Tribal Exploitation Corporation taking advantage to scoop in, take apart temporary temples and tribal shrines on the plateau of Leng. Then leave before the Tcho Tchos or the Gnophkehs swoop in & tear apart the whole hover craft or space ship. Antarctica is one of the most dangerous places on the Old Earth because of the return of the Elder Things and Shoggoths.

Cults of Ithaqua, Rhan-Tegoth  Aphoom-Zhah,  and the Ice Worm cults are also flourishing at the North Pole Aggregate an amalgamation of Alaska parts of Canada, & some fragments of Iceland. Making the whole of the the upper part of the Americas very dangerous indeed. The religion & cults  of the toad-god Tsathoggua is far more mainstream today. In many places there are hidden shrines and back wood temples not built by human hands. This happened after the return of the empire of the K’nyan. The conquest of the surface world took decades but the remains of the war abound. Hidden temples in the jungles of  Antarctica indicate that the formless demons of Tsathoggua guard dangerous secrets not meant for man's eyes. Unusual & weird artifacts appear in the marketplaces of what was once Australia and the near East.

Meanwhile in parts of Europe cities lay abandoned or taken over by various witch cults, bandit groups, adventurers, & unspeakable monsters. Lamia of many types inhabit parts of Europe, they are often the heads of cults or worse. Initiates often venture deep into other worldly wildernesses using the Aklo rites to become changed by the White People or other entities in rituals far too horrible to describe.  What comes back can hardly be described as human.

Outside the city states block after block of abandoned & lost cities stand empty as if waiting for new owners who might not come. The distant roar of atomic rock engines pierces the night sky with citizens  on their way to the gleaming  space stations that keep track of the strangely changing topography of the world below.

In what was Africa the empire of Opar has awoken from its ancient slumber & taken over their region of the world. The Atlantis refugees have reforged their ancient outpost but local tribes are still resisting them. Heroes have emerged from hidden enclaves of their own with sorcerous knowledge & relic technologies of their own. Various Hyperborean & human adventurers often find themselves here because of the old dolmen gateway systems that still function here. The empire of Opar is it said bows to hidden lizard king emperors who once ruled vast tracks of Africa from their Nameless City headquarters. Many adventurers come to Africa to try their luck in the dangerous ruins that dot the coast. Few if any ever return.

So what's going on here? Well I'm working on building some of the adventure locations and monsters of Old Earth. I've decided to use some of the classic OSR monsters from
Rafael Chandler 's Teratic Tome for some of the weird Lamia style monsters after looking into several new ones from the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition ones.  The Tome is one of my all time favorite OSR monster books and should fill my needs for mid tier Swords & Weirdness monsters for my Saturday evening game.

I'm also working tonight with Dark Albion & Dark Albion Cults of Chaos to flesh out some of the cults of Old Earth. Because Dark Albion works so well with AS&SH, this is really an easy fix because of running out of time with work. Some of the material of Dark Albion's medieval resources have super easy tables to flesh out communities, villages, and more. This means some of the heavy lifting has been done for me as a dungeon master.

Cults of Chaos helps to put some flesh on my take on the Lovecraftian entities. The magick of Dark Albion actually fits rather well with some of the material I've got going with my personal game. Cults of Chaos seems rather well suited for creating the backwater horrors of Old Earth. I'm not looking for the skull crushing horror of the Lovecraft Mythos but the suitiblier horrors of Clark Ashton Smith occultism which Cults of Chaos hits nicely. Brandon has a nice Youtube review that hits the highlights nicely.

Monday, September 18, 2017

OSR Sword & Sorcery Commentary As We Enter The World of 'Manos der Dämonenjäger" For Your Old School Campaigns Part II

As I covered in my first part of this series of articles, the Eighties were the second golden age of Sword & Sorcery adventure fiction. Coming in hot to usher in this age of decadence and magick was the  Conan The Barbarian film released 1982 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can't tell you the impact this movie had on people across the world. For small town Eric it was a huge deal & it colored my views for decades to come. This was a defining film for a generation in a way & devoured each & everything Sword & Sorcery related. I snuck into a rated 'R' showing with friends way back when.

Savage Sword of Conan magazine was going strong but it wasn't enough for a restless slightly hyperactive  kid with a passion for Dungeons & Dragons, Sword & Sorcery comic books, & that more edgy European stuff. My adoptive uncle was there to feed the flames of youth.  I got more then my share of a wider audience of  comic books from aboard. A year after Conan hit the theaters,another thinking man's  barbarian prince had hit the comic book stands in Germany. Europe had always had a different take on the Sword & Sorcery market and in post war Germany the thirst for literature of the escapist variety was very high. Manos The Demon Slayer was the perfect vehicle for it. Whist I worked on my German to read the issues. Half a world away in Germany veteran comic book writer Peter Mennigen was churning out stories of foul sorcery, deeds of daring, and a thinking barbarian warrior who used his brains and courage far more often then he used his sword arm.

These were a different breed of comic book hero carving their way across the news stands and specialty comic book shops of the Eighties. I learned quick from 'Manos der Dämonenjäger' how the pacing of an adventure was put together, where and when to apply over the top monster encounters, how to develop quick sweeping back stories for PC's, & most of all how to wrap a Sword & Sorcery campaign in the European style. Meanwhile back in Germany Peter Mennigen was creating more danger and horror for our heroes. But I'll let him tell it. 
"Manos der Dämonenjäger – Teil 2
Oder: Gezeitenwandel, Neubeginn und Ende

Manos the Demon Hunters - Part 2
Or: Changing times, new beginning and the end

In August 1983, Bastei took the next step: „Manos“ got its own magazine. The target group of readers was no longer the „usual“ Bastei reader. Rather, they tried to get a new readership among the fantasy fans who had not shown any interest in the series so far.
Instead of „Geister Geschichten“ appeared now in great letters the title „Manos der Dämonenjäger“ („Manos the demon hunter“) on the front cover. Each issue was given an impressive wrap-around cover. They were great fantasy works of art, painted by Ertugrul Edirne and Ugurcan Yüce. Both artists were already responsible for the covers of the „Geister Geschichten“, which looked - because of to the small layout - relatively unspectacular.
The „Manos“ comic was expanded from 14 to 22 pages. The two additional stories were deleted. The comic was supplemented by one pagern who, in pure text form with a great illustration, illuminated the mythology of the „Manos age“. The middle section of the comic book contained a poster of a great fantasy artist such as Vincente Segrelles, Esteban Maroto, Rowena, Boris Vallejo or Luis Royo.

For the new magazine Werner Geismar worked out the plots of the first five „Manos“ stories. I wrote them as detailed exposés and after getting the okay from the editors I wrote them as scripts. All following stories I wrote completely on my own again.
The stories in the old series „Geister Geschichten“ had mostly been completed in every issue. „Manos“ now had story arcs extended over several issues. Obviously the life of the protagonist was subject to many changes, which often led him to gloomy lands.
In one storyline, Manos’ sister Parda married a demon ruler. If Manos had expected to get the benevolence of his sister when he killed her demonic husband, he had miscalculated. Parda refused him any help and developed instead to his deadly enemy. A happy ending may look different.

Towards the middle of the eighties, the gloom of the worldwide fantasy boom slowed down. What was also reflected in the decreasing sales of the „Manos“ comic book. At some point, the series does not pay off anymore and was canceled after 35 issues in December 1984. "

The Eighties were a very weird transitional time period for comic books. There the numerous American, European, & Italian Sword & Sorcery knockoff films ( which I happen to love)  not to mention the shake ups happening in original Dungeons & Dragons, B/X D&D, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition

These comic books had plots & subplots which were a bit more involved and had far more back story then some of the mainstream Marvel ones of the time but DC was starting to go that same style of route. The Manos the demon hunter issues were consistent & much less adult then the issues of Heavy Metal & The Savage Sword of Conan making them easy fodder for the younger players in my Uncle's game to devour. We played through our Der Ring des Nibelungen WWV 86 cycle but these comics seemed to compliment the action. Plus we were learning a different language. It wasn't until years later that I finally got into the same comic book stories  with those outrageously gonzo wrap around covers!
The wrap around cover  pages are a thing of lurid pulpastic things of beauty! Simply bask in them.

There was a lot that I learned from reading these these comics from the mythology of the past catching up with the dreams of the present to the fact that familial relations between PC & NPC's are a thing to be exploited to the fullest, these comics also had a driving supernatural almost what could be considered a Lovecraftian edge to them. The plots revolved and changed, adventures were dynamic and pulpy, and the characters were well rounded to a certain Sword & Sorcery degree much of this was due to Peter Mennigen's writing. Next time we dive more into the world of the demon slayer. Stay tuned!

Hit On the Alchemist's Laboratory - Even More Swords & Strangeness - Actual Play Adventure Event

Back at Tegel Village the PC's have been dealing with the priests & sorcerous healers of the temple of Thor. They also had a run in with a pair of alchemists who were working for Sir Triston. The players found out has been using a dimensional map to navigate through the dimensional doors that surround the grounds of Tegel to go to the lands of Lomar.
Meanwhile back at the Alchemist's shop a group of five alien mercenaries assaulted the brothers who owned the place. The PC's had to stop the bastards and the alien bastards gave them a hard time. The alchemists explained that the aliens wanted some of the weird artifacts that Sir Tristan had brought back from his travels. The PC's have had dealings before with these bastards a couple times.

The PC's also learned of the the quest Tristan has for the
Pnakotic Manuscripts and his journey to Olathoë, lying on the plateau of Sarkis. The PC's also got a look at a  rune covered skull of a Gnophkeh and its connection to the mysterious ruined outpost of Atlantis that recently surfaced on Old Earth. Now the players are gung ho about getting on the corrupted knight's trail onto Lomar on Old Earth. The ruins are straight out of Ray Harryhausen's Mysterious Island from 1961.

So what's really happening here? The PC's are waiting to the other dimensional & demon haunted manor & its surrounding lands appear on Old Earth & the lands of Lomar to track down are knight. They are also really not happy that some old friends showed up in this past  week's game. What you might not know is that I quietly shifted  in the alchemy rules from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd edition. 

 Which gets into one the basic adventure of the Second Edition of AS&SH, (“The Black Moss-Hag of Lug”) which is a solid little romp of an adventure for first level PC's. The background, goals,etc. could easily be modified by the DM. The adventure gives a really nice quick introduction into the world of Hyperborea and like Keep on the Borderlands a possible lair and base for the PC's to operate out of.  It also ties directly in with the mythological & weird fiction roots of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I'll get into the roots and connections of this adventure & my own on going game next time. I don't really want to give too much away. If you haven't picked up AS&SH second edition yet, I strongly suggest that you do while its on sale.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review & OSR Commentary On Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition) From North Wind Adventures

So many months ago it seems that the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition's kickstarter seemed to take the OSR community by storm! Well the long await is over! Last night whist I was at my weekly AS&SH game the pdf broke! It was billed as the premiere Sword & Sorcery OSR rpg during the kickstarter. So let's see if that's true and I'll be the judge of that claim! Clocking in at over six hundred & twenty two pages this is one hell of a hefty tome. But let's get the big question out of the way first for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hypborea first edition fans this second edition is fully and wholly compatible with first edition.

For myself and other fans of AS&SH this is an OSR retroclone that we've been waiting for with both baited breath & some trepidation. Trepidation because its a game that hearkens back to Dungeons & Dragons whist wearing its sword & sorcery linage on its sleeves for all to see. All of the usual AS&SH humancentric racial choices are here with Hyperborean &  Atlantean intact inside the PC game swell.
Lets start at the top all of the usual PC core classes are there:
-Fighter: a swordsman, bowman, or other warrior type
- Magician: a sorcerer who memorizes arcane formulæ and casts spells 
- Cleric: an armed and armoured mystic sorcerer 
- Thief: a nimble swordsman possessed of numerous specialized skills
Then instead of multi classing like AD&D or certain B/X Dungeons & Dragons editions you get subclasses  of the main four and there are twenty two of them enabling players to get the pick of the Hyperborean litter: From the fighter you get:
- Barbarian: an outland warrior possessed of feral instincts
- Berserker: a rampaging shock trooper renowned for unbridled battle rage 
- Cataphract (Knight): an armoured horseman and warrior elite
Huntsman: a wilderness warrior who glories in the hunt 
- Paladin: a champion who crusades for justice and Law 
- Ranger: a borderland fighter, frontiersman, and defender 
- Warlock: a spell-weaving fighter who wields steel and sorcery interchangeably
From the Magician you get:
- Cryomancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of ice
- Illusionist: a sorcerer who evokes phantasms and manipulates shadows and light
- Necromancer: a sorcerer who practices black magic and communicates with the dead
- Pyromancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of fire
- Witch (Wizard): a sorcerer who brews potions, divines portents, and lays curses
The Cleric has some interesting choices:
- Druid: a mystic sorcerer empowered by ancestral, elemental, and animistic spirits
- Monk: a warrior-priest who strives for physical and mental mastery
Priest: a chaplain mystic of prodigious spell-casting capacity
- Runegraver: a mystic warrior who carves runic spells on bone, metal, stone, and wood
- Shaman (Witch Doctor): a primal sorcerer who confers with ancestral and totem spirits
 And the Thief adds their own flair to the mix:
- Assassin: a thief who specializes in murder and intrigue
- Bard (Skald): a warrior, scholar, and weaver of enchanted lyrics and/or music
- Legerdemainist: an adept thief who also commands the power of sorcery
- Purloiner: a religious thief who also practices the esoteric mysticism of a cleric
- Scout: a lightly armed explorer, intelligence gatherer, and stealth master
Now many of these character classes  are making their debut in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in the second edition of the game. Before this they appeared in AFS OSR gaming magazine which has always worn its pulp, Weird Tales, & old school roots proudly. For AS&SH fans all of these classes has been collected, edited, and combined in one package that works with the second edition system. This means that DM's don't have to fart around with system issues straight out of the gate. So why was a second edition necessary? The layout, artwork, organization, and internalization  of  the games contents is where this game really shines. Divisions of sorcery,campaign & world building material even the advice is all laid out with care.

So one of my friends have scoffed at the claims that the  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg cleaves close to the twisted visions of HP Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith. Well I'm happy to report that its so much hog wash. This edition injects even more Smithian goodness into the rpg setting material. The author and his vision are well intact in AS&SH with the roots of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle center stage. HP Lovecraft is here sure but its really Smith's game center stage now. The monster section has borne the fruits of all kinds of metal style monsters in its blood soaked pages. I've got to say something about the demon section.

The demon section has been expanded with some brand new types with Russ Nicholson artwork thrown in. But that's the whole issue, many of the monsters from ants  to zombies have been expanded upon & amped up for the Hyperborean setting. This closely ties in with the setting material being knotted back into the world setting of Hyperborea. This is a far more lived in world not defined like you get with Middle Earth or even the HP Lovecraft  Dreamlands but lived in. This means that the Dungeon master has clear license to create lots of their own twists & turns in Hyperborean adventure for themselves.

The Lovecraftian  little touches that get brought the fore mean that you as the reader get snatches of the world within and actually will want to play in Hyperborea. Take for example that Brown Jenkins from HP Lovecraft fame is now an option for only the wickest of sorcerers;"A brown jenkin is sent by Thaumagorga (or one of his six dæmon princes) to serve only the wickedest sorcerers. Its mandate is to encourage its master to greater deeds of depravity and Evil." Its the little touches that make this a solid addition to the AS&SH line. But there are heaping slime laden gobs of  Hyperborean campaign & world building goodness.
There's a ton of expanded setting material, campaign stuff, DM advice & guidance. Plus a starting adventure and campaign location. All of this I will get into sometime next week!


Whole sections of the Hyperborea world itself have been built, expanded upon, and been blown open. This also includes the incredible map included by Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design . 
Let's be honest here. This is an excellent example of a map waiting for adventurers to put their mark of violence and depravity on it. There's also a fillable pdf character sheet as well that comes with the pdf

Now how would I rake this second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea? Well, kids lets be honest here for a moment, I've done incredibly rude things to my own home game of Hyperborea. I've twisted the world, distorted the setting, added and subtracted huge chunks of the setting, modified the system and much more. I can totally & honestly see me doing the same thing with this edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  I give the second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea a solid five out of five. I only got the pdf at ten o'clock this morning and cranked this review out at three! This is 'the' game system that I personally use at my table and my players love!

Right Now PDF is on sale for 12.75 HERE!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Using Modern OSR Adventure Resources For an Old School Lovecraftian Campaign Twist

Mark Taormino's latest adventure Kickstarter broke earlier this afternoon. He wants to add new artwork & pieces to his existing modules. No this isn't a few coats of paint, some new artwork here & there this is a solid revamp.

So tonight I've been thinking does one use modern OSR game adventures with old school campaigns or campaign designed settings. All of this centers around Mark Taormino's latest Dark Wizard Games Kickstarter which dropped earlier today.

Many of Mark's adventures center around adventures with some pretty wild, weird, gonzo anachronistic adventure set pieces. From space craft,death roller coasters, fun house dungeons with modernistic elements, & many more. You can see exactly the sort of weirdness I'm talking about in Mark's walk through of the
Secret Machines of the Star Spawn. So how the hell does a dungeon master cope with some of the modernistic touches in many of the Dark Wizards titles? Surely there can't be a classic old school Sword & Sorcery solution that can not only build upon some of the guiding principals of these modules but actually incorporate them.

If we begin to look into the actual adventure plot for Secret Machines of the Star Spawn several small plot points jump straight out, "Locals have been hearing whispers of strange happenings around the Ancient Volcano. Rumors over the last several years of an unspeakable evil that has risen up inside. An evil that “fell from the stars.” There is something wicked and devilish going on inside. Highwaymen report of strange creatures, mechanical monsters, horrible beasts and “little green men” that are roaming the land. You and your stalwart adventurers have decided to take on the challenge of plundering the mountain for the treasure within!"

Star Spawn uses many of the popular pop culture & sci fi pulp tropes to great advantage within its setting, it throws PC's into the deep end of the adventure pool with sci fi references, traps, tricks, etc galore. The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn exists in a sort of campaign vacuum so that the dungeon master can slot it into their own campaign. That's fine and it works really well but what if there was a back ground campaign setting & a possible drag & drop point for adventurers? Well there is in the third series module Villains of the Undercity, we get the small coastal city of Los Farport. This is a sort of campaign setting parody, homage to several well known  old school & TSR campaign cities. But it manages to create its own flavor of mayhem with its old school style plot;"The locals insist people are being abducted in the night and taken into the bowels of the rumored “Undercity Dungeon” below. A lone survivor managed to escape and give some information before dying in your arms: “Secret door... Tavern of the Wiley Wench... Ugh!” You and your brave team of adventurers have decided to investigate these rumors, plunder the dungeon and destroy the dreaded “Villains of the Undercity!” ...right after you loot his still warm body, of course."  Well what if this world is a throw back to another earlier age.

Taking my cues from a classic science fiction novel by Clifford Simak called the Goblin Reservation. The book is a
blend of science fiction and fantasy, it features a ghost, leprechauns, trolls, banshees, a dragon, a cybernetic sabertooth tiger, a Neanderthal, Shakespeare, aliens who get around on wheels, time travel, and stranger things. It was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1969. But this was a bit to close to Tolkein's influence for me. But man do I love that '77 cover artwork! I have this edition lovingly bagged up because I love the artwork so much.

So I began to dig into a few earlier C.L. Moore stories along with Leigh Brackett's novellas. I began to look into the possibility of a small Exo planet out beyond Pluto caught in the Boreas Winds. This world was once a Hyperborean empire out post world populated by near humans with a few twists on the traditional fantasy & Dungeons & Dragons tropes. This means that there is more to this then simply placing an exo world outside the normal bounds of the solar system and populating it with traditional D&D style races and monsters. These races are actually human based hybrids genetically engineered eons ago by dark Hyperborean masters for working under weird conditions. But there are far darker undertones here especially if Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft's monster 
cosmicism is followed. 
It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.
Read more at:

"It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests."
HP  Lovecraft

Here adventurers actions aren't irreverent instead they're absolutely necessary for the survival of the communities, kingdoms, and city states existing on the edges of  the solar system.
"In Lovecraft's work, human beings are often subject to powerful beings and other cosmic forces, but these forces are not so much malevolent as they are indifferent toward humanity" In other words the world needs the PC's to stand between the threats from outside because there are far more malevolent forces waiting beyond the bubble of reality.  Time and again we see monsters, funny house situations, and more yet we're not seeing the whole picture of  events. Monsters are merely one more pray animal to far more dangerous forces lurking outside of this cheese cloth reality.  This isn't Thundarr the Barbarian so much as its the dungeon or adventure ecology of a Sword & Sorcery world with sort of trappings of high fantasy. But this is not.

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things—in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him." 
HP Lovecraft The Call of Cthulhu

This means that Elves, Dwarves, etc. are merely magically charged 'happy meals' waiting for any number of Lovecraftian entities to come and feed on them. These beings are more then merely alien to mankind their a set of prey animal waiting to be snatched away by alien and extra terrestrial races of incredible power.

We see snatches of this in Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique stories especially in Xeethra by  Clark Ashton Smith
"Subtle and manifold are the nets of the Demon, who followeth his chosen from birth to death and from death to death, throughout many lives.
—The Testaments of Carnamagos"
The players should never be made to be suitable for an adventure or module. The module or adventure should be modified out to the players needs as necessary. Here the changes to the modules or adventures are subtle from the standard D&D or OSR modules here its all in the background or side story elements to convey that something is more then slightly 'off'' adventure motifs. 

In the end its not about just killing monsters and taking their stuff, its also about staving off the darkness for a bit longer and having your PC be the larger then life heroes they were meant to be. 

If You Wish To Support
Mark Taormino's latest Dark Wizard Games Kickstarter Go Here

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Distant Thunder From T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax

 I've been gone most of today  on sewing machine repair calls but I wanted to really do a bit more OSR commentary on T1 The Village of Hommlet. This is following hot on the heals of yesterday's T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil commentary.

So the year is '86 & I'm going through a box of rpg books as gamers are apt to do. But I came across an odd little module titled the Village of Hommlet.

And it was in that same box that I came across a copy of the Dunwich Horror by HP Lovecraft. So in my mind the two locations are intertwined;

"When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.
The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation.
Without knowing why, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows. Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do. When a rise in the road brings the mountains in view above the deep woods, the feeling of strange uneasiness is increased. The summits are too rounded and symmetrical to give a sense of comfort and naturalness, and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especial clearness the queer circles of tall stone pillars with which most of them are crowned.
Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, and the crude wooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic's upper reaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises.
As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their wooded sides more than their stone-crowned tops. Those sides loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep their distance, but there is no road by which to escape them. Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base of the hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. Afterwards one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.
Outsiders visit Dunwich as seldom as possible, and since a certain season of horror all the signboards pointing towards it have been taken down. The scenery, judged by an ordinary aesthetic canon, is more than commonly beautiful; yet there is no influx of artists or summer tourists. Two centuries ago, when talk of witch-blood, Satan-worship, and strange forest presences was not laughed at, it was the custom to give reasons for avoiding the locality."
The Dunwich Horror By HP Lovecraft 1929

Hommlet & Dunwich have many things in common, there are secrets upon secrets locally. The places are cursed in a certain sense of the word & twisted by their own internal poison. The land isn't right and there are ancient things about. Hommlet is the landing zoning for T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. The door into the forbidden world of the temple.
"In the module T1 The Village of Hommlet, the player characters must defeat the raiders in a nearby fort, and thereafter Hommlet can be used as a base for the party's subsequent adventures.[1] The adventure begins in the eponymous village of Hommlet, situated near the site of a past battle against evil forces operating from the Temple. The adventurers travel through Hommlet and are drawn into a web of conspiracy and deception.
The module is recommended for first-level characters, who begin the adventure "weary, weak, and practically void of money".[3] They travel to a town that is supposed to be a great place to earn fortunes, defeat enemy creatures, but also to lose one's life. While the town initially appears warm and hospitable, the characters soon learn that many of its inhabitants are powerful spies for minions of evil.[3]

The T1 adventure stands alone, but also forms the first part of T1-4. In The Temple of Elemental Evil, the characters start off at low level, and after establishing themselves in Hommlet, they gradually work their way through the immense dungeons beneath the Temple, thereby gaining experience.[1] T1 culminates in a ruined moathouse where agents secretly plan to re-enter the Temple and free the demoness Zuggtmoy, imprisoned therein. The Village of Hommlet module has been described as a beginner's scenario, which starts in the village, and leads to a nearby dungeon, while The Temple of Elemental Evil continues the adventure"
But is all that there is? Not on your life! Many of the best games I played in '86 & '87 centered in the countryside surrounding Hommlet. There were other abandoned villages, minor ruins, & other secrets scattered around the area.

Atlach-Nacha, Spider God by KingOvRats
There were far more dangers lurking nearby then simply the moat house dungeon T1 The Village of Hommlet suggests that Lolth is behind things and that's where my connection comes in with Atlach-Nacha. This changes up the temperament of T1. It gives a very weird connection aspect to the village itself and a deeper background to the moathouse dungeon. We get a ton of background on her from  The Seven Geases (1934) by Clark Ashton Smith. Zuggtmoy comes straight into the action and that's when things get really interesting. Her backstory gives her the depths that she needs to sustain the elemental cult. These days I'd really play up the Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft angle mixed with liberal doses of Algernon Blackwoods 'The Willows' style of alien horror/ future weirdness.

This of course ties in with the Dökkálfar of the Descent into the Depths of the Earth series of modules. Which is some of the weirder pulpiness of great old school gaming design.  For me this module represented 70's AD&D adventure location design at its finest, that is it gives you the location & its inhabitant monsters. This can be done by tying in the moat house dungeon with the underworld of D1-2 or linking in some of the adventure plot elements into the Village of Hommlet itself. Personally I've used the village as the adventure link in the over all plot chain.

I've hooked up part of the plot of Against the Giants with several of the were rats that were encountered in that module who were also working for the Dr erm the Dökkálfar who were part of the plot of King Snurre. This in turn hooks back in with the cults and NPC's of the moat house dungeon. Again there's a sense that this was a part of the underworld of dead gods, post 'Old Earth survivor monsters, mutants and more.

All of this gets back into the creating an underworld linked to both Hyperborea & Old Earth but that's another blog entry coming up soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Prince Of T1-4 Temple Of Elemental By Frank Mentzer and Gary Gygax

So I've been gone for a good part of the day on a sewing machine repair call. But I found some time to get in an old favorite flick of mine with my folks. Tonight my mom & dad wanted an Eighties fantasy film with some romance and heart. So we settled on Legend from Eighty Five, which has attained the status of a cultclassic film with a plot that draws heavily from the fairy tale and mythological traditions;"Legend is a 1985 American-British dark fantasy adventure film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, and Annabelle Lanyon. It is a dark fairy tale and has been described as a return to more original, sometimes disturbing, fables, from the oral tradition of ancient times before reading and writing were widespread."
My brain can't watch a movie without making connections between popculture films, legends, & D&D references & then I began to notice the details in Legends mirror some of the stuff we've seen in Lovecraft & especially Clark Ashton Smith

Legend basically tells the story of the Lord of Darkness hatching a plot with a group of mercenary goblins to kill the last two unicorns who guard the power of light. ""Once, long ago", the ancient Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) laments his isolation in the shadows before sensing the presence of two unicorns who safeguard the Power of Light; whereupon Darkness instructs Blix (Alice Playten) and his fellow goblins Pox (Peter O'Farrell) and Blunder (Kiran Shah) to kill the unicorns and bring him their horns to free himself." There's a dream like quality to the film & the plot sounds like something straight out of HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands cycle. But there's a subplot in which the Lord of Darkness wishes to bring on eternal night to this storybook world. He also wishes to bring over his father whom its implied is a sort of anti god whom the Lord of Darkness is acting on his behalf. Its through dreams that the Lord of Darkness influences mankind.

When the apocalyptic events happen the dream world is plunged into a wintery darkness, time stops, & for a brief moment the creatures of Farie & darkness have free reign over the Earth. Or that's how it seems. In actuality I think what we're actually seeing is the Lord of Darkness trying to forestall the End of Days. The action of Legend takes place inside of  HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands with the whole of mankind's fate at stake.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
H.P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"
A year after Legend came out, a  John Carpenter's film came out called  Prince of Darkness. It was one of those films that gets under your skin & it share many minor plot elements of Legend. A secret Catholic sect called “the Brotherhood of Sleep” has been covering up a major secret as the son of the anti god is coming back into our world. There is a fluid that contains his life essence and it means to create a gate way from our world into its and as this happens reality begins to break down around it. A crack team of college students and their professor are brought in to translate a book of forbidden knowledge and dissect a swirl cylinder of liquid evil. Meanwhile the Earth is having a major eclipse & reality seems be breaking down in preparation for the return of the anti god. There appear to be several forces & factions at work helping this come about.


One of which is a beetle like faction of Great Race of Yith allies of the son of the anti god. I say beetle like because they seem to correspond to the beetle like creatures mentioned in The Shadow Out of Time.
"After man there would be the mighty beetle civilisation, the bodies of whose members the cream of the Great Race would seize when the monstrous doom overtook the elder world."
"Perhaps these entities had come to prefer earth's inner abysses to the variable, storm-ravaged surface, since light meant nothing to them. Perhaps, too, they were slowly weakening with the aeons. Indeed, it was known that they would be quite dead in the time of the post-human beetle race which the fleeing minds would tenant."

-H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Out Of Time

As the son of the anti god's power continues to grow things go from bad to worse. World War III is referenced as zombies of weird aspect wander the grounds around the church where all of the events of Prince of Darkness take place. So are we seeing how the old Earth passes away before the Great Old Ones come back? I actually think so. Prince of Darkness was written by  "Martin Quatermass" a pseudonym of John Carpenter but in the fictional universe of the film is the character is brother of Bernard Quatermass who confronted ancient evil in Quatermass and the Pit and The Quatermass Conclusion.  

But it was The Stone Tape in the Quatermass series that really hooked into the vibe of Prince of Darkness;
"Combining aspects of science fiction and horror, the story concerns a team of scientists who move into their new research facility, a renovated Victorian mansion that has a reputation for being haunted. The team investigate the phenomena, trying to determine if the stones of the building are acting as a recording medium for past events (the "stone tape" of the play's title). However, their investigations serve only to unleash a darker, more malevolent force." Many of the ideas of these films & stories plug into a darker more sinister undercurrent of the mythology of the Biblical & the  occult. These trappings are something that we see in classic Star Trek over & over again. In the 'Alternative Factor' from season one we get a matter & anti matter versions of the time traveler/dimension traveler Lazarus. ""The Alternative Factor" is a first season episode of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is episode #27, production #20, and was broadcast on March 30, 1967. The episode was written by Don Ingalls, and directed by Gerd Oswald.

In the episode, the crew of the USS Enterprise encounters a "reality jumping" madman. It is the first Star Trek episode to deal with a parallel universe." Should Lazarus escape into the Trek universe the whole of reality would be destroyed. Much of the time/dimensional traveling equipment looks like the type of set up that the Great Race of Yith might use.
Another episode that uses many of the elements of  mythology of the Biblical,  the occult, & classic Shakespeare is Catspaw.
"Catspaw" is an episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is episode #36, production #30, and was first broadcast October 27, 1967, and repeated on May 24, 1968. It was written by Robert Bloch, and directed by Joseph Pevney. This episode was the first filmed including series regular Pavel Chekov, as depicted by Walter Koenig, although its airing was delayed to coincide with Halloween, by which time several other episodes featuring the character had been broadcast." Catspaw uses many of the classic motifs of the occult mixed in with a good dose of the Tempest by William Shakespeare. Kirk & crew find themselves at the mercy of Korob & Sylvia two 'travelers' & explorers from another galaxy who torture the crew of the enterprise. Here's the part that interests me, " Sylvia takes an interest in Kirk and changes into different attractive forms to test his emotions. Sylvia tells Kirk that she and Korob are explorers from another galaxy. They wield their power through a device called a transmuter, which gives them control over matter. Sylvia decides Kirk is using her and becomes angry, sending him back to the dungeon."
The Transmuter not only turns thought into matter but warps reality to suit the needs of the user and it sounds just like another machine that also uses similar technology. "
“Morbius— a big machine, 8000 cubic miles of klystron relays, enough power for a whole population of creative geniuses—operated by remote control! Morbius--- operated by the electromagnetic impulses of individual Krell brains. [..]  In return, that machine would instantaneously project solid matter to any point on the planet. In any shape or color they might imagine. For any purpose, Morbius! Creation by pure thought!”"

So what does all this have to do with Clark Ashton Smith? Well we know from the timeline established in "An Adventure in Futurity" By  Clark Ashton Smith that events don't go well for mankind.
By the time we get to the era of Zothique the demon god Thasaidon "black god of evil" has become one of the dominate gods whose cult has spread far and wide. "Thasaidon "black god of evil", "the archfiend", "lord of the seven hells beneath the earth" is the chief. He is depicted in the form of a warrior in full armor, wielding a spiky mace; he is also said to have "dark horns" and to sit on a "throne of ever-burning brass". Thasaidon gives help and power to those necromancers who put themselves at his service. He gave aid to the ancient king Ossaru who dominated half Zothique (TS); he aided the sorcerer Namirrha in his projects, until he projected the destruction of Xylac,(DE); he lent his power to Xeethra, in whom the spirit of the long-dead King Amero was revived, and allowed him to restore the kingdom of Calyz, for a time, to its former glory. (X)"
Sounds an awful lot like 'The Lord of Darkness' from the film Legend as depicted by Tim Curry.
So what happened? At some point the Anti god came through and all of reality began to break down. The stars came right & all Hell literally broke loose as the bounds reality shattered. Is this really what the tales of the Lovecraft circle warned about? I think so. The Great Race might have monkeyed with forces far beyond their control and they've been trying to make things right for eons. 

Do I have any proof that these connections are legitimate? Sure in the 'Dark Eidolon' by Clark Ashton Smith we really get a look inside a world that has gone to riot & rot with the wastelands of Zothique mirroring our own world. In many ways this also mirrors the AD&D first edition adventure Temple of Elemental Evil. The influence of the cult of the White Worm grows & the ancient evils of the Old Earth begin to stir again.  The influence of the anti god is on the rise and evil things begin to stir again. 

The old world has passed away eons ago but the gods remain to have back their strangle hold on our little world.