Showing posts with label PWWO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PWWO. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plays Well With Others: BASSH, Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I love my Basic-era games, Holmes, B/X, and BECMI and their clones.
BUT I also love Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The games are similar of course, drawing from the same sources, but there are also a few differences. 

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) is more closely aligned with "Advanced Era" D&D, but its feel for me has always been more OD&D, though over the last few years I have been treating it as another flavor of Basic.  


I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.
AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

In fact, it works so well with Basic that I have featured AS&SH with other Basic-era books in previous "Plays Well With Others."
I find the game that useful and that inspiring.

Class Struggles: Which Each Game Offers
Originally this was going to be a Class Struggles post, but with the inclusion of the monsters below, I felt it had grown beyond just that.  

If Basic-era D&D lacks anything in my opinion it is class options. Yes. I know the classes are supposed to be archetypes to play anything.  A "Fighter" works for a Paladin, a Ranger, a Barbarian, a Knight, and so on.  But I like a little game mechanics with my flavor.  I also like to have choices.

AS&SH achieves this in a beautiful way that can be adopted by any Basic-era game, but in particular, ones that cleave closest to the original sources and of course Holmes, B/X and BECMI.

So we are going to go beyond the Basic Four (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif) here.  I'll talk about demi-humans in a bit.

In AS&SH we have our Basic Four; Fighter, Magician, Cleric, and Thief.  Each also gets a number of subclasses.  Fighters get  Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Huntsman, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock.  The Magician has the Cyromancer (a new favorite of mine), Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer, and Witch (an old favorite of mine).  The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest, Runegraver, and Shaman (see BECMI).  Finally, the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist,  Purloiner, and the Scout.  Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes. Every class goes to the 12th level.


Looking over at the Basic side of things we have a few more choices.  Holmes, B/X, and BECMI all cover the Basic Four in more or less the same ways.  BECMI gives us the additions of Paladin, Avenger, Knight, Druid, Mystic, and the NPC/Monster classes of Shaman and Wicca/Wokani/Witch.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord gives us the Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger in addition to the Basic Four.

Old-School Essentials' Advanced options give us the Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, and Ranger.  It also gives us the new race-as-classes Drow, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, and Svirfneblin.

The B/X RPG from Pacesetter has the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger along with the Gnome and Half-elf.  (Yes, a review for this is coming)


AS&SH classes go to the 12th level.  Basic classes, at least B/X flavored ones, go to the 14th level.  I like the idea of splitting the difference and going to the 13th level. 

Additionally, AS&SH has different cultures of humans to provide more flavor to the human classes.

All the Basic-era books have demi-humans that AS&SH lacks. Lacks is a strong word, the game doesn't need demi-humans by design, but they are still fun to have.  Combining these gives us the best of all worlds! Kelt Elves? Dwarf Picts? Lemurian Gnomes?!  This could be a lot of fun.

Plus the mix of cultures in AS&SH is second only to mix found in BECMI Mystara in terms of "let's just throw it all in there!"

I might let people choose one of the Basic Four and stealing a page from D&D5 allow them at 2nd or 3rd level to take "sub-class."  I'll have to see what the various classes all get at first level vs 2nd and 3rd level.

Monsters! Monsters!
It's can't be denied that AS&SH has some great monsters.  Not only does it give us demons and devils (Basic-era is lacking on both) but also Lovecraftian horrors.  Sure, "At The Mountains of Madness" took place at the South Pole, who is to say there is not a similar outpost in the North? 

BECMI does talk about "The Old Ones" a lot and in the Core Rules is never very clear on who or what they are.  But it is not a stretch to think that those Old Ones and the Lovecraftian Old Ones have a connection.  


Oddly enough these things feel right at home in a Basic game.  If one goes back to the Masters and Immortals sets with the original idea that the Known World is our world millions of years ago this tracks nicely with some Lovecraftian mythology of our world.

I have talked about Demons in Basic/Mystara already, but AS&SH offers us "The Usual Suspects" and then some.  While Labyrinth Lord has always been good about opening the "Advanced" monsters to the Basic world, the monsters of AS&SH are of a different sort.

Maybe more so than the classes these require a bit more conversion.  Here is a monster we are all familiar with (and one I am doing something with later), drawing from the same sources to give us three or four different stat-blocks. 




Well. Not that different I guess. They are left to right, top to bottom, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, AS&SH, OSE, and B/X RPG.

AS&SH looks like a "best of" stats, combining features from both Basic and Advanced. Bite damage does a bit more on the average and the XP value is higher.  But nothing I am going to call game-breaking.

So the AS&SH monsters can be dropped pretty much "as is" into a Basic-era game. 

Anyone that plays these games should have no trouble with this really.

Putting it all Together and then Putting it in the North
It's settled then, AS&SH is part of my "Basic World" and where to put it is easy.
In the Known World of Mystara, there is already a Hyboria. It is one of the features of both D&D (Mystara) and AD&D (Hyperboria, Oerth) just as Blackmoor is (Mystara, Oerth). but Blackmoor is a topic for another day.

While none of the maps can be reconciled with each other to make one perfect Hyperboria, the concepts certainly can. This is something I have been considering since I first got the 1st Edition Boxed set.
I know that my family of witches, the Winters, come from the Hyperborean area.  Likely closer to more civilized areas, but not too civilized.  This became the basis for my Winter Witch book. 

BASSH is Born
So take what I love from AS&SH, mix in what I love from Basic and I have Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or BASSH.  Yeah. This will be fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: X1 The Isle of Dread (BECMI Edition)

When I kicked off BECMI Month I mentioned that I was going to try to do BECMI versions of some regular features.  Here is one I was really looking forward too.

With the possible exception of B2 Keep on the Borderlands, no other adventure help so many new DMs as much as the Expert Set's The Isle of Dread.  In fact it had so much appeal that the module was available to purchase separately AND it was included with both the B/X Expert Set and BECMI Expert Set.  No surprise really since the module contained so much information.

For this review and overview I am considering my original print version of X1 along with some copies I managed to pick up from somewhere, the PDF version on DriveThruRPG and the Goodman Games Original Adventures Reincarnated hardcover version which features both the B/X and BECMI versions as well as a new 5th Edition D&D version.

The Isle of Dread is notable since it is the only B/X adventure to get reprinted in the newer TSR BECMI-era trade dress.

While my focus this week is on the D&D Expert set from 1983, I am also going to talk about my experiences with this from the D&D Expert Set of 1981.  The copies of the module do differ in layout, but they are largely the same in terms of content.  In fact I have not discovered many differences at all.

Yeah. I am a fan.

X1 The Isle of Dread
For this review I am considering the print version that came with my D&D Expert set, one purchase separate of the set and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.
The Ilse of Dread by David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay.  32 pages, color covers with blue maps. B&W interior art and maps.

The adventure that was to complete the new 1981 Basic and Expert Sets was written by the two main authors of those sets, David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay.  The Basic set would include the adventure module B2 Keep on the Borderlands written by Gygax himself. But the Expert set did not have an adventure until Cook and Moldvay wrote it.  Both drew on their love of pulp fiction and it shows.  Additionally, parts of the world created by Moldvay with his then writing partner of Lawrence Schick became the starting ground for the Known World, this world would later expand more until we got Mystara, but that is a topic for another post/review.
The adventure was so well received that when the expert set was rereleased in 1983 under Frank Mentzer editing, TSR included the Isle of Dread again with a new cover.

While the adventure centers around the eponymous island, there is a lot to this book that is above and beyond the adventure itself.

Part 1: Introduction
Here we get the basics of the world we are in and what this adventure was designed for.  Don't expect complicated plots here, this is a sandbox for new DM's wanting to try out adventuring in the Wilderness.   Here we also get our first look at our world.
"Map C-1" is such an unassuming name.  Though I will argue I have never read any map in such detail as I did with this one.  I don't even pour over maps of my beloved Chicago as much. 
Each country is given a brief, I mean really brief, description. Hardly more than a paragraph. But in those scant words were the seeds of a lifetime of adventure.
The biggest criticism, of course, you have such a hodge-podge of cultures and climes in a 1,200 x 1,000 miles square.  So if I put Chicago in Glanrti then the Kingdom of Ostland would be Halifax, and the Isle of Dread is about where the Bahamas are.  That's not a lot of land really.  But hey, I've made it work for me.
Seriously we are 2.5 pages in and I can already point to about 30 years of gaming.  What is in the rest of this book?

Part 2: The Isle of Dread
Here we get our plot hook for adventuring on the Isle of Dread.  A letter from pirate captain Rory Barbarosa. It is designed to get the characters to the island.  When really all I have ever needed was "hey there are dinosaurs on that island. wanna check it out?"  And it has always worked.  Plus it's a great excuse to use all those old plastic dinosaurs.
There is the trip to the island, which in my cases always became an adventure all on its own.
Once you get to the island only the lower South East peninsula has been detailed with the Village of Tanaroa, which comes straight out of the 1930s King Kong movie.  This was also the origin of one of my favorite NPCs ever, Bone Man, a village priest, and later warlock.  I even got some original art done of him for my Warlock book from none other than Jeff Dee himself.
Outside of the giant, Kong-style walls, there is the rest of the island. Here we run into not just some of the best D&D Expert set monsters, but some of the best monsters in the history of D&D.  The Rakasta, cat people with war-claws (and the 1982 Cat People was just around the corner!), the Phanatons, flying squirel-monkeys (had more than one player want to play them as a race!), the Aranea, and most of all the Kopru!

There is a meme floating around social media around the time of this review about being an adult suck because no one ever asks you what your favorite dinosaur is.  Well, my kids love this because they know mine, and it is a total cheat since it is not really a dinosaur, but something older, the Dimetrodon.  So the Dimetrodon Peril was the encounter *I* remember the best, not the "Deranged Ankylosaurus."  An animal high on "loco weed?"  No thanks, I grew up in the Mid-west that is not adventure material, that is something everyone saw once or twice.

The 8 or so pages in the center are all dedicated to some of the best maps in D&D up to Ravenloft.

Part 3: The Central Plateau
Seriously. There is so much going on here that it always takes me a couple session to get through it all and I have NEVER had a party investigate the entire central part of the island.  The Village of Mantru always gets a good investigation though.

Part 4: Taboo Island
The base of the Kopru.  These were my first crazy fish-men and I wanted to use them in place of the Kuo-toa in the D-Series, but I later relented.  I still kind of wish I had done it though.

Part 5: New Monsters
One of the best features of the BECMI-era modules, and this is no exception, are all the new monsters.  The above-mentioned ones, plus more dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures.  Sadly, no giant ape.  I did create some Sea-dragons for this and used them.

This adventure has not only stood the test of time, it has stood the test of editions.  Much like B2 Keep on the Borderlands I think I have run this for every single edition of *D&D since 1981. Most recently for D&D 5th edition and it still works great.   Plus every time I have run it there is something new to find and there is something new that the players do.
It is really no surprise that it was used for both iterations of the Expert Set.

Maybe second only to B2 and B1 in terms of numbers of players, but The Isle of Dread lasts as one of the best Basic-era adventures out there. In today's frame of mind, the adventure is equal parts Pirates of the Caribean, King Kong, and Jurassic Park. It is a heady cauldron of tropes, ideas, and just plain crazy fun.

Other Editions of D&D
The Isle of Dread is so popular that it got routinely updated to whatever was the popular version of D&D at the time.

D&D 3.x
Paizo, back when they were publishing Dragon and Dungeon magazines published Dungeon #114 which brought the Isle to 3rd Edition D&D and the World of Greyhawk.
The adventure Torrents of Dread by Greg Vaughan is a must-have for any fan of the original Isle of Dread.
They would later feature it again in issues #139, #142 and #145.



D&D 4
Mystara or Oerth? Where is the Isle of Dread?  D&D 4th Edition Manual of the Planes lets you have it both ways!  The Isle is part of the Feywilde and it can come in and out of other realities.  It's a pretty cool idea really.


D&D 5
There are a couple of ways to play the Isle of Dread using the new D&D 5th edition rules.
There is the Classic Modules Today: X1 The Isle of Dread 5e.  This is just conversion notes and monster stats. You still need the full adventure in order to play it.

The other is the fantastic Goodman Games Original Adventures Reincarnated #2 The Isle of Dread.


The book is a massive 328 pages and retails for just under $50.  So it is a big one.  Color covers and predominantly black & white interiors.  If you have any of the other Good Games Original Adventures you will know what you are getting here.  The first 10 pages deal with the history and background of the adventure. An article and an interview from David "Zeb" Cook. An article from Lawerence Schick on his and Tom Moldvay's creation of the Known World. As well as some other retrospectives.
The next 34 pages reprint the original 1981 version from the B/X Expert boxed set.
The next 38 pages reprint the 1983 version from the BECMI Expert boxed set.
It's great to see them both side by side though if I am being 100% fair the reduction in font size for the faithful reproductions is hard on these 50+-year-old eyes.

Now the material we spent all this money on.   The 5e update.
The 5th edition conversion is a complete rewrite of the adventure and covers 246 pages.  That seems like a lot, but a lot of material has been added including 90+ monsters, new magic items, 5 new spells, 15 NPCs, player handouts, and maps.

There is also an appendix for further adventures on the island. I have mentioned above how much potential this adventure has, this only supports my claim.

Regardless of which version you have (or how many) this is one of those adventures that succeeds both as a learning tool for new DMs and as a fantastic sandbox adventure that you can go back too time and time again.

Plays Well with Others
The Isle of Dread is also one of those adventures that just lends itself so well to all sorts of games.  I mention the "King Kong" feel to it, but there is also a strong "Lost World" of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and "Pellucidar" from Edgar Rice Burroughs.  There is even a tiny bit of "Godzilla" and Monster Island here, the adventure remains very pulpy. This means that the setting can be used with a ton of different games and nothing at all about the island needs to change.

Dinosaurs? Of course! Weird fish people? The more the merrier! Pirates? Always! Strange Cults? Everyday!

I have already talked about how well you can use this adventure with two "D&D derived" games, the Pulpy exploits of Amazing Adventures.


and the equally pulpy, though the more dark fantasy of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.


Running this in either would only require the barest minimum of conversion.  In fact, using the Goodman Games version gives you a leg up for using it with Amazing Adventures since the SIEGE game (that powers AA and Castles & Crusades) is very similar to both AD&D and D&D5.

Of course, you can save your self some effort and use the brand new Amazing Adventures for 5e.


No. It is not out just yet.

But what else can you do?  Lots really.

Thanks to X1's solid pulp roots anything from around that time is also fair game.  No pun intended.


Hollow Earth Expedition and Leagues of Adventure are two Ubiquity powered RPGS.  Hollow Earth should really capture the minds and hearts of any Mystara fan since it is also a hollow world.  Leagues of Adventure is a pulpy Victorian age game.  Both though draw on the same sources that Cook and Moldvay did for the Isle of Dread.
The adventure would need to be tweaked a little to use with either of these games, but because their source materials are largely the same appropriate substitutes can be found in either game.

Editorial: Seriously Mystara fans, check out Hollow Earth Expedition. There is a ton of great ideas for Hollow World here.

But what about my own beloved Victorian Era?  I am so glad you asked!



Games like Gaslight and Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death already cleave close to the D&D rules used in the Isle of Dread.  These games just put more "dread" into them.  Both also take place in the late Victorian era so the pulpy spirit of adventure is already getting started.

Ghosts of Albion, my favorite child, takes place in the early Victorian era, and travel in the world is not as easy as it is in the 1880-1890s, but that still is not a problem. Ghosts' higher magic system is also a benefit here.

If you want to go even darker then there is the classic.


Call of Cthulhu's DNA is found deep in the introns of the Isle of Dread.  How do you convert this?  One simple change.  The Kopru used to be human.  Rory Barbarosa is not lost, he has been changed and even all these years later he is still alive as something else.
Hell. That's a good enough idea to use in any game!
While I personally think that everyone who plays any version of D&D should also play Call of Cthulhu, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e is a great substitute.  Grab the 5e version of the Isle of Dread and no conversions are needed.

Monster Hunting
While monster hunting can be achieved with, well, every single game out there, my "Monster Naturalist" game is a little different.  You don't kill the monsters, you need to bring them back alive.
It is also not a stretch to say that my Monster Naturalist game idea got its start here with this island and its menageries.  But it found it's true form in Blue Rose.


The idea is a simple one.  The Isle of Dread is about to erupt in a huge volcano.  Not terribly original I know, in fact that is the point I am stealing from any number of pulpy-feeling movies.

The inhabitants have all been relocated to nearby islands all that is left are the dinosaurs and other strange creatures.  And that's where you, Sovereign’s Finest, come in.  Efforts to save some of these creatures are underway and it is your job to get them off the island before the volcano destroys it.  Easy enough idea and you have plenty of time. That is, as long as nothing goes wrong.

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy is a different game in which hunting and killing monsters is never the point.  Sure, evil monsters can be dispatched with no pause, but these are dinosaurs and the Queen feels that efforts should be made to rescue as many as can.  Of course, she does not want the lives of her Finest to be in jeopardy so great care is taken.  What the Queen and her advisors don't know about is the Kopru, are they trying to benefit from this disaster?  And the pirates, are they taking the animals (and maybe even the people) to be sold?  These will be the problems the envoys will need to solve.  Oh, and the volcano is starting to shake. A lot.

One day I need to run a campaign centered around the island and its neighbors.  I certainly have enough to keep me busy.

Links

Friday, April 17, 2020

PWWO: Calidar, Part 2

A while back I a did a "Plays Well With Others" for Calidar. It's pretty to do, there are a lot of great ideas and it has a system that lends itself well to easy conversion.  After doing a series of reviews I thought another go at another PWWO.

The Reviews
For this PWWO I think I am going to focus mostly on Calidar On Wings of Darkness and related products.  In particular the various magic schools featured in Caldwen.

Given the various conversion guides and the rules presented in the books, mathematical style conversions are less of an issue, the big factor is more how do I replicate the same feel of Calidar in a different game while still preserving what I liked about the original game.

Calidar and "New" D&D


These are the easiest of course.  The level limits for both D&D 5 and Pathfinder are a set 20. So follow along with the rules for 20 levels.  D&D 5 and Pathfinder characters tend to be more powerful than their same-level counterparts in older editions.  Cantrips really boost what a Wizard can do every round even at the lowest levels.  Plus the addition of cantrips can become an interesting element to the wizard school. 1st level wizards/magic-users have a lot more they can do.

Retro-Clones


These conversions are handled by various current products and upcoming products from Calidar.  Plus these mimic the games played by most of the people involved with the Calidar lines.

Calidar and Glantri


Let's address the obvious mix here.  Bruce Heard is fairly well known for his work on the Mystara lines and Glantri in particular.  You can use details from one mage school for the other, they are roughly compatible in style, and it makes either product a little more robust.  You do lose a little of the unique feel of Calidar this way if you set it all in Glantri.  Though what I have been doing is considering setting the caldera on the north pole.  The whole area is hidden away from the rest of the world.  Still playing with this idea.


I am using the "Mystoerth" map for this. I made a globe, and see there is some room up on top. Enough for Calidar?  I have not done the math yet, but it looks right.   I still to play around with it.

That is if my next idea doesn't take over.

Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade


This idea has grabbed my imagination.  Calidar has a great early Renaissance feel to it.  So somewhere between Dark Ages Mage and Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade is a perfect time.  In this case I would use Calidar as is, but the game system would be White Wolf's Mage.
What I have not decided yet is if the various schools represent Spheres (which means Mages would need to attend to multiple schools) or Traditions (which would make the rivalries more intense).
So everyone in "How to Train Your Wizard" would be part of the Euthatoi.   I think just to have some fun I would keep the Verbena out of it unless I work in the Glantri Wokani.

There is a lot I would love to do with that idea.  D&D backdrop, Calidar setting, Mage/White Wolf rules.  The possibilities are staggering, to be honest.

Conversion though is a bigger issue.  The Calidar system is pretty flexible, but it is level-based to a large degree. Mage uses the White Wolf Storyteller system which is a dice pool system. So the conversion books won't be much help here save to figure out some guidelines.  Still maybe if I can dig up a copy of Monte Cook's d20 World of Darkness it might give me some ideas.

WitchCraft


Nothing specific yet.  But if I can convert Mage I can convert this a lot easier.

Most likely I would combine a lot of these ideas to make the schools in Calidar a little less D&D and little more Scholomance if possible.

Blue Rose AGE


Ah.  Now here is something that would be a lot of fun.
I would need to make some changes to what kinds of magics could be taught at the schools, but AGE is level-based and so should convert well.  Green Ronin already did some of the heavy lifting for me with their converting for Fantasy AGE.

The bottom line is that Calidar gives me a great magic school that I really want to drop anywhere.

Plus it gives a Fantasy-era Breakbills and an excuse to do this:



And any excuse to put more Brakebills into my games is a good one.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Plays Well With Others: Old-School Essentials

By its very nature Old-School Essentials is easily combined with anything that supports B/X style play.   So it naturally Plays Well With Others
Mechanics are largely easy, what about tone and style?  Well, that is what I am going to chat about today.


OSE & B/X
This is the obvious mix. So obvious in fact that there is not a lot to say that isn't painfully obvious.  So instead I am going to admire how nice those two black covers look together.   A nice addition to what I tend to call Black Book or Black Box Basic (also because like a Black Box, I throw things in and get things out and don't really care how or why it works as long as it does).


Obviously, any adventure designed for B/X or even BECMI will work with OSE.  At least up to level 14.

OSE & Maximum Mayhem Adventures
Mark Taormino's collection of crazy gonzo adventures run from levels 1 to 14.  Are you thinking what I am thinking?  Well, today is the flip-side of a PWWO on Maximum Mayhem Adventures I did a while back.  If you want to know more about those adventures, hit that link. 


While the adventures are overtly and specifically designed for OSRIC/AD&D1, I have had a great time running these under B/X style rules.  I also find that none of the deadliness is lost here.  If anything the fun factor is increased.

OSE & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea


Another popular choice of mine for PWWO.  For this, I would use the Advanced Fantasy options of OSE.  AS&SH can be trimmed down to "Basic" style play easily enough.  So the two games can meet in the middle, system-wise.  Style-wise there is more to overcome.  AS&SH is a "Black Sabbath" album.  Deep, rich with darker tones and cold nights.  OSE is a "Yes" album. Ætheric, it is journey of expected highs but also surprising depths.  The demi-humans of OSE-AF bolster the newer classes of AS&SH.  IT might not be a mix that all people like, but it does appeal to me.

OSE & the B/X OSR
There are so many products out there that support B/X style play these days and there is no way I could cover even all the ones in my own collection.
But here are few.


Does B/X or OSE *need* psionics? Likely no.  Is it better with it? I think so!  Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook is a great book and a fun psionic system.  One he could redo for OSE if he wanted.  But like all things psionics, it's a choice.  As it is now it is a perfect fit.


The same is true for any number of Monster books.  I mentioned that OSE would easily support Monsters 2 and Monsters 3 books with no issue.  Hell. With all the OGC sources a Monsters 2 and 3 could be made that mimic the monsters in Fiend Folio and Monster Manual 2.




OSE is not the only Basic-game in town.  Blueholme cleaves closer to Holmes Basic, but it's 1-20 levels provide a little more play (though those last 6 levels are not as fun as the first 6) and Labyrinth Lord provides the same.  LL has their Advanced versions too if you are planning an "Advanced Fantasy" style game.  This takes it in a slightly different direction, but ultimately (for me anyway) it makes it possible to play a "cleaner" version of the D&D/AD&D hybrid we used to play in the early 80s.  Purity is for water, not games.


OSE & BX Companion


Eventually, someone will ask for an OSE Companion book.  Taking OSE to level 36 or Immortals.  Well, you can wait for one or use the one we are all using now.

A while back I posted How I commit heresy with Adventurer Conqueror King. I can do the same thing with OSE.  Johnathan Becker's magnum opus is as much of a love letter to BX as OSE is.  While B/X Companion doesn't work as well with say Labyrinth Lord of Basic Fantasy (the main Basic clones at the time) it does work great with OSE.

Basic-Era Witches


I'd be remiss if I didn't point this out.  In fact, while working on this post and taking these pictures I am once again hit with the idea of how well this would all work out for my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

So OSE has been giving me no end of pleasure and I don't see that stopping anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: B1 In Search of the Unknown

I want to look back at some of my favorite classic adventures both from TSR and others.  I'll give a review, though most everyone knows what is in these adventures by now, I'll also talk about how I have used them in the past and I'll also talk about what other games I have used them with or would like too.  So there is a little bit of Plays Well With Others in this too.

Why do classic adventures? Easy, I love these adventures.  I have written hundreds of my own adventures, some I have even published, but these are the adventures that everyone knows and we all have a history with.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
In Search of the Unknown was not the first adventure ever created, it was not even the first TSR adventure ever created.  It was though one of the very first adventures I ever encountered and one of the first I ever ran.

This is my "go-to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game.  It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I also have the DriveThruRPG Print on Demand copy and it is very nice.



It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot. This module is simple, easy to use and can be adapted to any campaign world and even any game. It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

The adventure is a great case of both teaching tool for learning DMs (we were all new to this once) and DIY Dungeon.  Some areas are detailed, but many are not, leaving room for the neophyte DM to record what monsters and treasure were in each room.  There are also a plethora of cliche spawning Dungeon tropes, that were just getting started here.  Magic mouths, one-way secret doors, a mysterious creator of the dungeon, or in this case, two, and strange magical artifacts.

This adventure was the perfect learning tool for me at the time since my own version of D&D was a mix of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.   This "Basic" introductory module was released before the Basic game, but it moves elegantly between Basic and Advanced that begs you to mix and match your rules systems.  Author Mike Carr even gives some guidelines on how to use this adventure with AD&D.


Note how the using this adventure with AD&D is absent from the later printings.


The module is pretty typical for the time. 32 pages of b/w art and text. Detached cover with blue maps printed on the inside of the cover. The first 6 pages are dedicated to running the adventure and how to run this one in particular.

I have used this adventure to start every new campaign I have ever run in D&D, regardless of the edition.  The dungeon crawl here is so primal that it calls out to you. A true In Search of the Unknown indeed.   The one thing I never did, however, was to investigate more about who Rogahn and Zelligar were and why they left their lair of Castle Quasquenton.

One thing that B1 did give me, in a roundabout way, was my very first witch NPC Marissia.  She is in the lower parts of Quasquenton and she is attempting to summon the spirit of her master Zelligar and her father Rogahn.




The adventure has stood the test of time and it is a great combination of flexible dungeon design.  Nearly anything can be put into this adventure to raise or lower the difficulty as needed.

DriveThruRPG and DMSGuild offer this as both a PDF and Print On Demand.






B1 Legacy of the Unknown
This adventure is billed as a "sequel" from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.  It furthers the mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar and what they were doing.  There is a druid in this adventure named "Melissia" which I thought was very fun and worked as some sort of relative (daughter may be) of my own "Marissia", a witch NPC I always included in my own runnings of B1 In Search of the Unknown.

You can get this adventure from DriveThruRPG (PDF only) or from Pacesetter's own store (Print and PDF). While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC, it would be a great fit for Pacesetter's own BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
The simplicity of B1 has made it an enduring adventure for over 40 years.  I have used it with every version of D&D I have ever played. But if you want everything at your fingertips for easy conversions I do recommend the Classic Modules Today conversion of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Goodman Games also offers their Original Adventures Reincarnated, with B1 and it's various printings going into their Into the Borderlands Hardcover. It features the original printings of the original module as a complete 5th edition update.
There is also a set of maps that can be printed out or used with virtual tabletops.

B1 and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Like many old-school adventures, one merely needs to turn up the horror aspect to give it a good run in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Though there is not much that needs to be done to change it.  There is a feeling that Rogahn and Zelligar were messing with the forces of chaos a little more than they should have been.  Make that Chaos now with a capital "C" and we are getting the adventure closer to what we might see in AS&SH.  The one thing that always struck me about Quasquenton is that it is all underground.  It's not a castle, not really, but a warren.  Eric Fabiaschi suggests that the complex had been built by one of the older Lovecraftian races and the adventurers Rogahn and Zelligar only found it later.  It seems to fit for me.
Also given that B1 is an odd admixture of proto-Basic D&D, OD&D, and AD&D, the feel is perfect for AS&SH.


B1 and Blue Rose
In this mix, the chaos elements run the other direction so to speak.  Here Rogahn and Zelligar stumble upon an element of Shadow while constructing their castle/lair.   Maybe it has something to do with what I call the "Chaos Stone", Room 45/XLV "Cavern of the Mystical Stone".  This is obviously some artifact of Shadow and it either drone Rogahn and Zelligar mad, killed them or caused them to kill each other, or destroyed them outright.  Maybe all the above.
When converting ANY D&D adventure to Blue Rose I take some points from Fantasy Age where I can. In particular the monsters.  Typically in Blue Rose, you would not see this concentration of monsters in one place, the Chaos Stone/Mystical Stone is drawing them near.   As Envoys of the Sovereign, it would the character's jobs to find out what is going on and how to stop it.   I would give more background to Rogahn and Zelligar and stat up Marrissia a little more.
While this is a good "first-level" adventure in D&D, the implication of Shadow here makes this a much more dangerous enterprise.

Step with care here Envoys. More than your life is at stake.


B1 and Army of Darkness
One of my favorite mixes, but not my top favorite (more on that one next time).  Army of Darkness allows for all sorts of crazy adventures.  For the same reasons that B1 works for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it works for this.  So imagine this, you have a party of Primative Screwheads, they are out in the woods. It starts to rain.  They find an entrance to a cave and boom, suddenly it is horror movie shenanigans. Monsters chasing you, weird-ass artifacts and cultists who are somehow still alive from the Middle Ages.  Have at least one archeologist to talk about how insane this all is and then go monster hunting and maybe, just maybe stop the forces of Chaos from ruling the world.  Use Dungeons & Zombies as your guide to covert D&D to Cinematic Unisystem.



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