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

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.



Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review: Reimagined: Fanfic Role-Playing Game

Ok, now this is a fun one. At least it made me smile.

Reimagined: Fanfic Role-Playing Game

Reimagined is a "fanfic RPG" in which you take some other world and run with it.
If you have ever read (or written) fanfic or have a personal "head-canon" (or even know what that is) then this might be the game for you.

The author, Katarzyna Kuczyńska, comes in with some solid street cred, just different than what I have seen in the past.  This is a good thing.

The game is for two players using the X-Card system (a system I was not very familiar with).
You decide on the fandom, what level of romance you want (Gen, Lime, Lemon and Smut), what sort of story you want (lots listed) and who the charaters are and what the themes are.

Now you and the other player work out your do's and don't (or yeses and noes) and move on the storyline.
You have some tables you can roll on with a d6 (which makes it a game and not a series of collaborative storytelling).  The tables will depend on the tone of your game and type of story.

The players go back and forth being the "actor" and the "director".   I think with some tweaking it could be modified to accommodate more people and thus more characters.  This is one of those games where people that really know each other is where it would work the best.

There is also an example of play given and some examples of the worksheets filled out.   I love the example card shown of "Captain Carol and the God of Thunder" a Superhero story with Lemon (aka steamy) levels of Romance and tension.  On the Noes are "Children being hurt", "torture" and "alcohol" ok, fine and on the "yeses" are Dragons!


Images for illustrative purposes only...

Among our themes are "Superheroes Showing off", "Passionate Foreplay" and "Space Battles" you know...I am enjoying this one more and more.
The main storyline, "Heroes team up to save an alien planet using their powers and spaceship."

Seriously, how does that not sound like fun?


Seriously off the top of my head, I came up with about 30 fandoms this would work with.  Even some I wish I hadn't (gives the Mallfoy-Granger shippers some side eye).

I'd have to try it out. You need the right group to do this game with, but I think it would be fun. This is a very different sort of game for me and I want to try it out.

The PDF is full-color at 39 pages.  There are also extra sheets included.

All for $3.00. That's pretty good really.

Plays Well With Others: BlackStar

Of course, this got me thinking.  If this works well like this, maybe I could use the Story generation functions of this game in my other games.  Sit down as a Session 0 to determine what we all want to do out of a series.  IF that series is media-tie in, say like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, or anything, then it might be a good starting point.

So.  Let me try it with BlackStar.

BlackStar is part of the Star Trek Fandom, but it also has heavy doses of Cthulhu.
It's going to be Dark, but Gen.  Sorry, there won't be time for romance among the stars for this crew, I'll save all of that for the Captain and the Thunder God above.

It is an Alternate Universe and partial crossover. 
The only character I know right now is Captain Valerie Beaumont.  BUT she is not in charge of the ship.  She was supposed to be, but it has been taken over by NPC Commodore Taggart.  He is the project leader and a complete dick.  So that will make up some of the interpersonal dynamics.

I want to cover the themes of "Horror in/of Space", "We are not alone", "Science as a Candle in the Dark" and "Adventure! ...but don't go insane."

I am saying yes to Monsters, Insanity, Death, and Visions of Hell.
I am saying no to Vampires, Klingons (sorry!) and no to Deltan and Betazeds.  Not because I don't like them, I love them, but empaths will have a really bad time here.

These are the voyages...
Yeah.  This sounds like fun.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Plays Well With Others: B/X Gangbusters

Yesterday I reviewed the new B/X Gangbusters game and talked about its potential due to its Basic-era roots.  I stand behind that and a recent dive into some of my favorite Basic-era games supports this.  So let's see how well Gangbusters, B/X edition Plays Well With Others.



Realms of Crawling Chaos
Both are built on similar B/X designs.  Realms of Crawling Chaos adds Lovecraftian Horrors to your B/X Gangbusters games.  Both also support the same era of play, more or less, and have similar offerings in terms of playing normal humans. In fact, adding Realms of Crawling Chaos can add an edge to your "Educated" characters they might not normally have. 

Of course, at this point, you might ask why not just play Call of Cthulhu or d20 Call of  Cthulhu.  The answer, of course, is to be able to play this as a B/X game.

Amazing Adventures
AA is a Pulp-era game based in and on the 1930s; so about a decade later.  But there is still a lot in this game that would be helpful to the Gangbusters player or Judge. Not to belabor it, but the are equipment lists here that have different items that the GB Basic book.  The Amazing Adventures classes also give the GB Judge some go ideas for playing Powered Characters.

Basic Psionics Handbook
Moving further afield we have Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.   While psionics have a "complicated" relationship to Fantasy games, they seem to work just fine in semi-modern ones.  In particular, a psionic wild talent would fit well into a GB game.  Let's not forget that the 1920s was also the time of Harry Houdini and his magic shows.  In real life he was a debunker of claims of the supernatural, but who knows what he was doing in YOUR world.

This along with Realms of the Crawling Chaos gives you a Lovecraftian style game that is less "Call of Cthulhu" and more "Cast a Deadly Spell".
I want to try this with a hard-boiled private eye that used to be a boxer and has seen a little too much magic.  I'll have to name him Robert Howard Lovecraft.

Starships & Spacemen 2e
Moving even further out from Psionics we have another one from Goblinnoid Games, Starships & Spacemen.  How does this one work?  Glad you asked!  One of my favorite Star Trek Episodes is "A Piece of the Action" where the crew of the Enterprise beam down to Sigma Iota II to investigate the crash of the Horizon from 100 years earlier.  They discover that the Iotians, a very creative and intelligent humanoid race, have recreated Chicago from the 1920s based on the book "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties", which had been published in (their version of) 1992.  The Iotians recreated their entire civilization based on this book.  At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Dr. McCoy misplaced his communicator.  Kirk and Spock state they will analyze the technology and that by the time they come back they could be the Federation.



There was an attempt to do a sequel to this by Michael Piller for TNG and some comics.  For me though, it was a throw-away section in the FASA TNG Officer's Manual that when the Federation came back to Sigma Iota II that they found a fully functional Federation style Space Station waiting for them.  Frankly, I would use that in a heartbeat for my own BlackStar games.  Maybe even adopt Piller's idea that this was a Federation, with the morality of the Chicago gangs.
It sounds like a lot of fun really.  I'd steal more ideas from FASA Trek for this too, including the interim uniforms they were using for the Enterprise-C era.   I will have to come back to this.

There is a lot more you could do with Gangbusters and the vast library of Basic-era B/X compatible material out there.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review & PWWO: Maximum Mayhem Adventures

Mark Taormino of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons is in the final week of his latest creation, Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.

I thought today might be a great time to discuss his previous adventures.


#1 Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s. There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed. Example, in one of the first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants and their hell hound pets. This is "room 1". It is downhill from there. It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.

This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you. It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead-in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in. Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement. The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants. In truth, my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.

Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair. Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail! There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever. In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon. Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead. Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.) Each room is unique and feels like it belongs. Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading but in the playing. So I played it. It rocked.

Now the game is designed for OSRIC but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D. I played it with 5th Edition D&D. I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack. I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel. I worked out well enough. We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1

#2 Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Let's play a game of what if. What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s? What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxploitation?
You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote. The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring. What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it. It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers. But it doesn't end there. In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure. In a different setting, the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome. Also there is so many references to pop culture, espeically sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites. Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game. The one issue I have with it (and very minor) is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes. I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them. I thought they were hilarious to be honest. Loved the Pinball Wizard! If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure. Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys that grew up in the 80s too.

#3 Villains of the Undercity
What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins. Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed. Where did they go? What did they do? Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over. You would get Villains of the Undercity! This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day. While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight. Well...sorta. There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this adventure, anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love. There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too. This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers. I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay. Just really a lot of fun.
Like the B and A series it takes so much nostalgia from, this is an introductory module.  But just because it says character levels 1-3 it is still expecting some experienced players or very experienced players with somewhat fuzzy memories!  Like the MM modules, this one is action and combat. Yes, there are some puzzles to solve and everything is deadly.

#4 Vault of the Dwarven King
Another what if scenario for you.  What if the dwarves of Moria were completely crazy for Indiana Jones?  Well, you might get something like Vault of the Dwarven King.  There is the aforementioned vault, part of a vast underground dwarven city.  There is a giant monster that's on fire.  There are also mine-cars, goblin moonshiners, blue trolls and dwarf tossing.
There is a thin coating of silliness over a really fun and REALLY deadly adventure here. All to reclaim the lost dwarven artifact, the Fireheart.  But does it belong to the dwarves or the goblins?  Will you even live long enough to find out?
Like the adventures that came before it, it is an unapologetic romp down memory lane.  This adventure though, maybe more so than any of the others might be more accessible to anyone that didn't grow up in the 80s.  The biggest nostalgia pull is, of course, the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular, Fellowship of the Ring, but that is only one (though very loud) note.  There is enough going on here to keep every player on their toes and their characters running.   This one is also the most classically "fantasy" than the others which also draw on sci-fi, horror and crazy humor.

#5 Palace of the Dragon's Princess
Palace of the Dragon's Princess might be my second favorite adventure in this whole series right after Hanging Coffins.  The premise is very similar to the classic Palace of the Silver Princess.   In this case, the Princess is trapped by a green dragon and you must go rescue her.  Sound easy?  You obviously have not paid any attention to the other four adventures in this series.
This one has a lot of background information, more so than the others.  We know a lot more about Princess Francessca than we do about Lady Neeblack the Vampire Queen (Could Lady Neeblack be Princess Francessa's dead mother??!!?).  There is a knight, a dragon and Torgo. Yup, a nice riff on MST3k with Torgo and the Master.  But is the princess REALLY in danger?  That will be up to the Gamemaster to decide.  There is a lot going on here and because of the backstory a lot more that a crafty DM can add.  I am a touch disappointed there were no three-headed creatures like the Ubues, but that is fine. They were silly enough then.
Like the Vault of the Dwarven King this one is more classically fantasy and it is also one best ones in the series to "run straight".  Meaning you could strip out some of the silliness and have a pretty deadly, serious adventure if you wanted.
In any case, this is one is a lot of fun and a worthy addition to the line of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons.

So check out Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.  It looks like "Willy Wonka in Hell" so you know it will be fun.

Plays Well With Others
The Maximum Mayhem Adventures are designed with 1st Edition/OSRIC in mind.  But If you organize them in level like this.


I can't help but notice a solid campaign of levels 1 to 14.
Just like B/X D&D.


With some tweaks, mostly to the monsters and alignment, you could have a solid set of adventures for the B/X line of D&D.  Sure they are a bit tough and have some out-there elements, but nothing that B/X couldn't deal with with the right DM.

I have not tried this yet.  I have played these adventures using D&D 5th edition, but I can't see why it would not work.


Plus the boxes look nice together.
Isn't this how we all played back then anyway?  Mixing our AD&D and BD&D all the time.  I think I first went through the A-Series using the Expert set anyway.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PWWO: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I got my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd Edition book as part of the Kickstarter, so I have had it for a while now.  In the time I have been reading through it I came up with at least three (or four depending on my mood) completely separate games/campaigns I want to do with it and only one is the Default setting.

So let's talk a little about those while I see what I also have on my shelves to use.

Since it is an "Retro Clone" of sorts and an OSR game it naturally lends itself well to mixing an matching.  I mentioned in my review yesterday that I feel it is a good blend of both B/X D&D and AD&D.  Maybe leaning towards more to the AD&D side of the equation.


B/X D&D goes to 14th level, AS&SH goes to 12th.  So any adventure written for Basic or Expert D&D is in theory (and very much in practice) going to work for AS&SH.  I mean you will need to do something about the elves, dwarves, and halflings about.  But for the most part I make them Kelts and Picts respectively.  Sometimes I even throw in the odd elf or dwarf to keep things weird.  The feel of the two games is also very, very similar.  The four Basic human classes map exactly to the four main classes of AS&SH, with sub-classes essential being role-playing notes.

But you don't need to take my word for it alone.  Eric Fabiaschi over at Swords & Stitchery has been blogging about AS&SH for years.  In fact, he has been working through many of the classic TRS-era modules for use with AS&SH, both 1st and 2nd editions.
I read a lot about other's games online most times I think "wow, that looks fun!", sometimes I think "Er. OK, you do you, but I am happy WAY over here." But with Eric's I am most often going "Damn! Why didn't I think of that first!"

Speaking of which.


I recently ran Isle of Dread for my kids under 5e. It was fantastic, really. We had a great time and I got to relive some great moments of the adventure that I had back in the early 80s.  I could not help but think how awesome X1 would be with the AS&SH rules.  Go all pulp with dinosaurs, King Kong and creepy ass cults.
As you can imagine, Eric has covered this topic well on his blog too.  So instead of me trying to tell what you can do in a paragraph, check out his pages of ideas!

So I mentioned that I see AS&SH as 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.




Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy are both implementations of the Basic D&D rules, but expanded out.  Lots of great stuff in both systems.  Basic Fantasy, in particular, has an absolute trove of materials usuable with the core rules and easily for use in AS&SH. 
The same is true for Blueholme, the Holmes-inspired clone. 
While all three have significant overlap in monsters, there are some unique ones in each that make for a fuller picture.  In particular Blueholme has a few good choices.


I mentioned Realms of Crawling Chaos before. Both of these books cover some of the same Lovecraftian beasties, RoCC gives a little more detail on how to run a Lovecraftian-style "D&D" game.   Hyperborea is not so much about horror, it's more Howardian, but there is no reason why it can't be.  This is a good place to start.



If Crawling Chaos is good, then Call of Cthulhu is even better.  Again all these books cover the same ground and feature similar themes.  The d20 CoC book does have a section on how heroic characters (aka D&D characters) would respond to these monsters, as opposed to the normal people of the CoC proper rules.  Grabbing a copy of CoC is good for ANY gamer in my mind but for the AS&SH gamer/gamer master there are some great ideas on how to play the Lovecraftian, and Smith, side of the game more. In truth, all monsters get a boost thematically speaking with a read through of CoC.

That is great and fun, but what if I want to up the Howardian or Pulpy aspects of the game? Well for me I wanted to run a Pellucidar-like game.



Hollow Earth adventures is a pulp-style game using the Ubiquity system, so system conversion is different, but the themes are 100% compatible with AS&SH.  What about the lands UNDER Hyperborea, are their Lizard People? Snake Cults?  Dinosaurs? OF COURSE there is! 

Amazing Adventures and many of the works of Jason Vey to be honest (including his Wasted Lands house setting) work great with AS&SH.  Again, not a direct translation, though the SIEGE system is easier to convert to AS&SH, but thematic.  I actually ran a playtest of the "Red God" adventure under the AS&SH (1st Ed) rules.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is an amazingly flexible system and strikes all the notes that many games attempt.  I guess that's why the core book is 608 pages.

Mixing these I have decided that what really want to do is a Zothique game.  Based on all the Zothique tales from Clark Ashton Smith. 
There is an unofficial d20 supplement for Zothique that is good and can be easily converted to AS&SH.   Even James at Grognardia wanted to do a CAS game.

As I work on my game more with all the materials above I'll keep you all posted.
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