Showing posts with label adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventures. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Shadow Week: The Shadows of 4e

It seems not many people like 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons these days.  While not surprising it is a bit disappointing. There was a solid game there and some fantastic lore built.  Creatively the authors were at the top of their design game even if the execution was a little short of the design goals.  Never the less I like to page through my 4e books as use the a lot of the fluff, and even a little bit of the crunch, for my 5e and Basic-era games. 


The following products helped define the Shadowfell, a region in the D&D Universe adjacent or part of the Plane of Shadow and connected to the Prime Material like the Feywild (Land of Faerie) is.  Essentially the Shadowfell would be that part of our world where TV shows like The Twilight Zone or Tales From the Darkside would have occurred.  So as you can imagine I was drawn to it rather quickly.

In every case I am reviewing the PDF and physical copy of the product.

H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules

The Keep on the Shadowfell was the first-ever adventure published for the D&D 4 game.  We are introduced to the game world and the rules via a quick-start set of rules included with the game.  Nearly everything you need to get started with the D&D 4 game is here.  The adventure itself is designed to invoke memories of another keep, the Keep on the Borderlands, but here ante has been raised.  The keep is not near some giant monstrous humanoid condo, but on the veil between the material plane and the mysterious Shadowfell.   There is a lot more going on and it can feel very combat heavy and even a touch predictable.  But that is fine for a 1st adventure.  Everyone is still too busy figuring out moves and markings and surges to worry whether or not rumor X or rumor Y turns out to be true.  

It is here we are introduced to the newest god of the D&D pantheon, the Raven Queen, and this adventure starts an epic quest between the forces of good and the forces of evil in the form of Orcus.  Eventually, in later adventures the players will learn that Orcus is trying to steal the Raven Queen's power and become a God.  So there are also, er...shadows of the Throne of Bloodstone series (1e) here and eventually Dead Gods (2e).  It is also here we are re-introduced to the Shadar-kai, a humanoid race that lives in the Shadowfell and how it has changed them. It changed them a lot actually since in 3e they were elves.  Here they are human.  In 5e they will become elves again.  

I ran this adventure using the 4e rules and then again years later converting it to 5e.  It ran fantastic each time.  I also wrote up a set of conversion for BECMI style D&D Basic. I have run it, but it looks like it should work well with that too.  I start the characters off at 5th level for that. 

If you can find a copy in print it is a fun introduction to the D&D 4 game. The PDF is free at DriveThruRPG so it only costs you a click. 

Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow (4e)

The Shadowfell is now a feature of the D&D 4 landscape and many products have discussed it including many of the adventures and Monster Manuals.  With the Player's Option book we get classes and races based on the shadow realms and how they can be used.

One of D&D4's greatest strengths was it's modularity.  Adding or subtracting material from the game was easier than ever before.  It is a feature that 5e adopted, though not as radically as 4e.  Adding more classes then never felt like a bloat since you could limit the number of classes or races or any other feature.  The Player's Option books were that in execution. Heroes of Shadow introduces the Assassin class, the Blackguard Paladin option, the Vampire class, the Binder option for Warlocks, and additions to other classes such as clerics (death domain),  warlocks (gloom pact for hexblades), and the Necromancy and Nethermancy schools for wizards.  Since classes are so detailed this covers the majority of the book.

The Vampire class should be mentioned since it is different.  The idea behind it is that no matter what a person was before this, they are now a vampire and they can progress in power as a vampire.  Not for everyone, I am sure but there was an elegance to it that can't be denied. It also worked quite well to be honest.

There are some new races of course. The Revenant is back from the dead with the power of the Raven Queen with them. The Shade has traded some of their mortality for Shadow stuff.  This is the best version of the Shade since 1st ed. The Vryloka are living vampires, one of my favorites in 4e, and variations on Dwarves, Elves/Eladrin, Halflings and Humans.

There are new Paragon Paths for many classes and Epic Level Destinies.  A handful of new feats and some new equipment. 

It is a fun set of options that really had the feel of the shadow-soaked 4e world down. 

Plenty of great ideas for a 5e game using the same classes (all have 5e counterparts) or as fluff for other versions of the game. 

The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (4e)

Gloomwrought is a large city located in the Shadowfell. This product came in a box with a 128-page Campaign Guide, a 32-page Encounter book, a poster map of Gloomwrought, monster counters, and a 30-card deck of Despair cards.  The Despair cards were a nice feature since they could add to the mood of "gloom, despair, and agony on me."  While the cards had mechanical effects, the vast bulk of this product is fluff.  The crunch amounts to some NPCs and encounters, all easily converted. There are a couple of monsters, but they analogs in every other version of D&D. 

Gloomwrought gets the most ink here and that is fine. The city is something of a crossroads in the Shadowfell and it is likely where characters will end up.  

One of the nice things about the D&D4 Shadowfell line being done is it is now easier to go back and include something like Gloomwrought in the HPE series of adventures that had come out three years prior.  In fact, it is entirely possible to make ALL your D&D 4 experiences live and act within the Shadowfell if one chooses.  I find this personally satisfying since my 2nd Ed AD&D experiences are largely molded by my chosen campaign world of Ravenloft. 

Use with BECMI or 5e

If you look back at my "sunk costs" posts I have been building this idea of running the HPE series with either BECMI or 5e from a 4e conversion.  These books could work rather well with those ideas.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Review: M1 Into the Maelstrom (BECMI)

In some ways, I do wish I had read M1 before I had picked up M3.  I had picked both modules up around 10-13 years ago while looking for a good epic level adventure for my kids then D&D 3.x game.  They were into the epic levels of D&D 3, with the lowest level at 24 and the highest at 29.  They were on this huge campaign against what they thought was the machinations of Tiamat.  M1 was very good choice since I love the idea of flying ships (D&D should be FANTASTIC after all) but the base plot didn't work for the adventure in mind.  M3, along with some other material, worked rather perfectly.  Plus I can't deny that the Carnifex played a huge role.  So M3 went on the table and M1 went back on the shelves.

Until that is Bruce Heard began producing material for Calidar.

M1 Into the Maelstrom is really a fantastic adventure for the D&D Master's Set that realizes that set's potential.  It is also a great lead-in to not just the Immortals Set coming up, but also the future of the Mystara-line and even pre-sages Spelljammer and the adventures of the 90s.   Additionally, and somewhat forgotten, this book introduces us to our first named Immortals and introduces demons to BECMI.  

There is a lot going on here.  Let's get into it.


For this review, I am going to consider my original print module and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  There is a Print on Demand version as well, but I do not have it.

By Bruce and Beatrice Heard.  32 pages, color covers, black & white interior. Cover art by Jeff Easley, interior art by Valerie Valusek and maps by Dave "Diesel" LaForce.
Into the Maelstrom deals with the machinations of three Immortals, Koryis (Law), Vanya (Neutral) and Alphaks (Chaos), and are featured on the cover.  Alphaks is our focus here.  He is the focus of the next few adventures and is one of the "Big Bads" of the later BECMI and Mystara lines.  He was the ancient Emperor of Alphatia AND he is the first demon we see by the name demon in any BECMI book to my knowledge.  He is a "Roaring Demon" or what 1st Edition calls a Type VI or Balor demon.  We won't learn more about them till the Immortal set, but here they are. Demons in Basic D&D.

Our adventure starts in the Known World. We bring back King Ericall of Norwold and he needs the characters to investigate the source of some poisonous winds coming from the north between Norwold and the Island Empire of Alphatia (to the east).  The poisonous fog/winds are the result of Alphaks trying to reenter the world via a two-way portal from the Sphere of Death (call back to Death's Ride!)

The three immortals are essentially playing a game. Alphaks wants into the world, Koryis doesn't want him in and Vanya is going to side with the winner.  As the adventure progresses each immortal will earn points for the actions, successes and/or failures of the PCs.  The DM keeps track.  The PCs can also gain curses or boons as the adventure continues.

So another new addition is the "Sea Machine" or water-based battles as an addition to the War Machine.  Pretty nice bonus add if you ask me.

The first part of the adventure goes pretty normal. That is until the seagoing vessels encounter the titular maelstrom.  The PCs are sucked into the swirling vortex of death and spit out into a starry void with air they can breathe!  How's that for adventure?

Here this becomes a proto-Spelljamming adventure, there are several locations (Islands) that the PCs can stop at, but each has their own unique set of hazards.  

The PCs must navigate, in all senses of the word, the machinations of these three immortals.  There is even a giant battle with a navy of the dead controlled by Alphaks.

In addition to the new monster stats (the Roaring Demon), there are PC/NPC stats in back for characters to use in the adventure.

So for the first time, we get a BECMI adventure into the other planes.  Here the characters get a chance to travel the outer planes via a flying ship and even dip a toe into the Astral plane.  
Depending on the outcome the characters can also be set on the path to Immortality.

This adventure is "bigger on the inside" as has been described.  There is a lot here that can be expanded on to a near-infinite degree.  With a ship that can transverse the planes a good argument could be made about even returning to the Known World and Norwold.  

Let's also take a moment and talk about Diesel LaForce's maps.




These things are works of art really. I am not sure how as a DM you can look at them and NOT want to run this adventure.  "Dimensional Guide to the Star Kingdoms?" Hell yeah!

Into the Maelstrom, along with the other modules in the M series work not just as a Master's level set of adventures, but also our introduction to plane hopping and dealing with immortals in the D&D game.  Compared to the same treatments in AD&D, such as the H Series, the M series is more subtle in it's approach.  The H series is largely about kicking in doors, killing monsters and taking their stuff.  Only in the H series, the doors are planes, the monsters are gods and demons and their stuff are artifacts.


Going back to the beginning, if I had known more about the arc (let's call it the "Norwold Saga") then all of these adventures do tie into all the others in a nice, dare I say it, Adventure Path.  Maybe that is something that WotC could do to reintroduce Mystara is give us this for 5e rules.

Keep in mind that this "Adventure Path" or even meta plot was alive and well in the mid-80s. Long before the 90s that this sort of gaming is most associated with.  I might have to explore this idea further.

In the meantime, M1 Into the Maelstorm stands out as not only a great adventure, but a groundbreaking one in many ways.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: M3 Twilight Calling (BECMI)

If there is an "Alpha and Omega" to my D&D games with my kids then the title could be held by Gary Gygax, but most likely the titleholder would really be Tom Moldvay.

It has been his adventures that my family have enjoyed the most.

X1 Isle of Dread (w/ David Cook)

His Basic set rules are what really got me deep into D&D, maybe even more so than Holmes. 

So it is really not such a surprise that when I began to look for a "Big Finale" sort of adventure my attention would turn to the Master Series.  

While I initially thought that Bruce Heard's M1 Into the Maelstrom would be my choice (and it is still a fine choice, for something else I have in mind) it was quickly replaced when I discovered Tom Moldvay's M3 Twilight Calling

Twilight Calling is actually rather perfect.  It is a high-level adventure that feels like a high-level adventure. The main focus of the adventure is around a rising power among the Immortals, Alphaks the Dark.  He wants to release the ancient Carnifex race (more on them in a bit) who are sealed away in an extra-planar pocket dimension.  He can't do this himself, only Lawful creatures can enter the realms protecting it and thus break the seals.  The adventure begins all the way back in the "Broken Lands" of the D&D Expert Set (both B/X and BECMI) but soon the characters go on an extra planar romp through the "Seven Realms" to the final location, Carnifex Castle.

The Carnifex
Carnifex are an evil species akin to both lizards and dinosaurs.  We get a good insight to Moldvay's Pulp sensibilities here where evil lizard men with alien brains and cold-blooded evil are the bad guys.  For me, it works. Works much better than orcs or even drow.   They are described as lizard-like humanoids.
Not much more than that.  So given the adventures I had been taking the kids through a thought occurred to me.  What if the Carnifex are the progenitors of all the reptilian races of the D&D?  Lizardmen, troglodytes, Yuan-Ti, and others.  We learn very, very little about them in this adventure.
We know that Carnifex means "butcher" in Latin. It also translates also into executioner, hangman, tormenter, murderer, scoundrel, and villain. So yeah, these are not supposed to be nice guys. 
This all made me think about the Silurians from Doctor Who. An ancient race related to the dinosaurs.  This also made me think of the "Dinosauroid" or the "Dino Sapiens" that scientists have imagined as a humanoid descendent of the Troodon.


If you are thinking of a Sleestak you are not alone. 

This is fantastic really.  But for my Dragonslayers' game has no context for Alphaks the Dark.  And the Carnifex really could be anything.  So.  How do I take this adventure and make it work for my group?

Enter The Dragon. Well The Dragon #38 to be exact.

Dawn & Twilight: Dragon 38 (1980) and M3 Twilight Calling

Dragon 38, still called The Dragon then, was one of those issues that are just full of great ideas.  I had a copy on my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, but I knew about it beforehand for the famous Gygax From the Sorcerer's Scroll article "Good Isn't Stupid, Paladins & Rangers."  I played a lot of Paladins back then so this was a must read.  BUT that article pales in comparison to what the rest of the issue gave me.
In the same article it is mentioned that dwarf women have beards.  Great. But I said dwarf witches do not. In fact that is the surest way to be called a witch in dwarven culture, if you can't grow a beard.
There is a story from Gardner Fox, a comic by Darlene that is better looking than most of the comics in Dragon before or since. But three articles in particular grabbed my attention.

Tesseracts by Allen Wells gave me some wonderful ideas for when I ran Baba Yaga's Hut and other crazy adventures.  It gave me the frame of reference of how I wanted to run M3.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: The mighty dragon by Len Lakofka gave me the hook I was looking for, though not in the way I am sure he thought it would.  Len's article is a great one and it gives us out very first look at the Yellow, Orange, and Brown dragons.  Brown dragons, of course, would later appear in the Mater Rules as the Chaotic counterpart to the Gold Dragon.  I did a version of my own Orange dragon (really more of a Pumpkin Dragon) in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   The Yellow Dragon then was a new one. And it fit perfectly into a hole I had.  In M3 there are different color realms that all correspond to the color of a chromatic dragon; Green, Red, Black, Blue, White, and then Yellow.  But no Yellow dragon.  Until Len gave me one. He also has updated stats for Tiamat and Bahamut.
This got me thinking.  What if Aphaks was not just some rogue would-be immortal?  What if he/she were a third Dragon god?  The Master's set has four dragon rulers. The Forgotten Realms has more than two as well (IIRC). Or how about even a better idea.  What if Aphaks was Apsu, Tiamat's "dead" consort? The Carnifex could have been his creations.  The ancient evil enemy of the Dragonborn?

The Seven Magical Planets by Tom Moldvay can read a proto version of M3.  This article leans more on the alchemical aspects of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. They do not line up as well with the M3 sequence, so I might change them a bit.  If I go with Babylonian/Summerian ideas then I would rename the planets to their Summerian names. Mercury with Nabu (Nebo), Venus with the goddess Ishtar, Mars with Nergal, Jupiter with Marduk, Saturn with Ninurta (Ninib), for the classical planets (and suggested by Moldvay in the article) and Sin/Nanna for the Moon and Utu/Shamash for the Sun.
I am not sure if the alchemical correspondences still line up. In the end it might not matter all the much as long as the feel is right.  This is a D&D game, not a Hermetic study on Alchemical principles. 

So where does this leave me?

Well, long ago Tiamat reigned.  She battled with the gods over her creations, the dragons.  Her blood was spilled and from that the Dragonborn were created including their god Marduk. Gilgamesh in this world view was the first Dragonborn King.  Enkidu was "like an animal" or human.

When the Dragonborn came into this world they encountered the evil Carnifex. They had been old even when the Dragonborn where new. They harkened back to a deep time of the world when it was a hotter place and populated by reptilian beasts and eldritch horrors. Their wars were long and bloody and they could only defeat them by sealing them up in a demi-plane of imprisonment.   I posted about this in my Dragonborn in Oerth

I have an evil, or at least corrupt, god, Apsu, who is murdered by his own children.  His former consort, Tiamat then gives birth to dragons to fight the gods that killed Apsu.  But maybe he is not dead in the same sense that humans consider.  Maybe he is now in the realm of death (like Aphaks the Dark). This helps explain the undead encountered in M3 (and there is a lot) and why he would want the Carnifex loose.  Destroy the world your children made by letting their ancient enemy out.  It's a good plan really. 

I might need to find a copy of Dragon #38 just to have really.  I'll have to check my FLGS.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: CM2 Death's Ride (BECMI)

Ah.  Death's Ride.  I have such fond memories of this adventure.

CM2 Death's Ride: Retrospective
Death's Ride is one of a few adventures I have had the privilege to both play in and to run. While overtly for the D&D Basic rules, Companion set, it can be run (and we did) under AD&D. Though some of the special features were lost I think.

I bought this module and gave it to my DM to run back in the day and I ran it using the 3.x version of the D&D rules and then again most recently using the 5th Edition rules.

The Barony of Two Lakes Vale gave us ample room to move about and try different things, but then it was the NPCs that captured my attention the most. Ulslime, Wazor, and Korbundar lived on in my games for many more years with both Ulsime and Korbundar even threatening my players in the 3rd Ed. game. One, and I am not sure if he was an NPC in the game or one my DM made up, went on to torture my characters for many more adventures after this.

The Death Portal was an interesting bit of necromantic trickery to get the players something to focus on and the new monsters were a lot of fun (the Death Leech nearly took out my characters back in the 80s.)

But before I wax too much more into nostalgia, let's review this adventure proper.

CM2 Death's Ride: Review
by Garry Spiegle, art by Jeff Easley, 32 pages, color covers, black & white interior art.
I am reviewing both the DriveThruRPG PDF and my original copy from 1984.

Death's Ride is one of our first Companion level adventures.  The code for this series in CM, since C was already taken.  Both CM1 Test of the Warlords (with it's Warduke-like cover) and CM2 Death's Ride were designed to be introductions to Companion level play. Both were supposedly designed to work with each other, both being set in Norwold.  However, they really don't work together other than this thin thread of Norwold.  That does not detract from its enjoyment.

The basic premise is this.

The adventurers, already powerful and famous in their own right, are summoned to the Barony of Twolakes Vale by King Ericall of Norwold (Background on King Ericall is given in Companion adventure CM1.) The local baron, Sir Maltus Fharo, has sent no taxes, caravans, or messages in several months. A small body of troops sent by the king to investigate has not returned. At this time, Ericall doesn't have the resources to send a large body of troops, so he is asking the characters to go to the barony, find out what's wrong, and if possible, restore contact. The king gives the characters a royal warrant and permission to act in his name.

The problem is much worse than the King suspects. A gateway to the “Sphere of Death” has been opened in Two Lakes Vale. It's up to the characters to determine who or what opened the gate. They must also close the gate forever. The characters should not actually enter the Sphere of Death in this adventure; their goal is to close the gate. Twolakes Vale holds only an inflow portal from the sphere. Consider any character who actually reaches the Sphere of Death as killed (or at least removed from the campaign until other characters can launch a formal rescue operation).

Here they will encounter death, destruction and our three main Antagonists. Wazor an "Atlantean Mage", Ulslime a cleric of "Death" and our cover boy Korbundar the huge blue dragon.  No, the skeleton riding him does not appear anywhere in this adventure. Nor does the lake of fire.

By the way. Which one do you think is Wazor and which one is Ulslime?
The adventure proceeds on a location-based adventure.  The characters move from location to location in the Twolakes Vale, which is described well except for where it is exactly in Norwold, finding clues, fighting enemies. Until the final confrontation and destruction of the artifact (the "deathstone") opening the Sphere of Death. Of course, you need another artifact to do that.

The NPCs are very detailed and out trio of bad-guys are so much fun that both Ulslime and Korbundar were made into semi-permanent NPCs of note in my games.    It got to the point where my kids would be like "Is that Korbundar!!" anytime a blue dragon was used in a game.

The other issue with this adventure, and one that was lost on me until recently, is that is doesn't really fully feel like something from the Companion Set.  It has been described, by most notably by Jonathan Becker at B/X Blackrazor, that this adventure really runs like a high-level Expert set adventure.  A wilderness hex with various points within the hex that need to be investigated.
There are some of the new monsters in the adventure, but when I played it and ran through it we substituted the monsters from AD&D/D&D3 as the case required.  There are Wrestling Ratings to the monsters and a chance to raise an army, but nothing about domains or ruling kingdoms.
Of course, this would all come later on in the CM adventures, so I guess that is not too big of a deal.

Calling it a "High-level dungeon crawl" or "High-level Expert Set Adventure" is fair, but it leaves out a lot of what made this particular adventure so much fun. I still have my original copy of this and it holds up well.   So despite the criticisms of it as a "Companion Adventure", it is still a very fun "D&D Adventure" and one that holds up.

CM2 Death's Ride: Refit
I have no idea how much I paid for my copy of Death's Ride when it first came out. How much were modules back then? $5? $8?  Whatever it was I certainly got my money's worth. (the consensus online is $6.)

Back in 1985-5 when I went through as a player we used AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Seemed like the logical thing to do.  We stuck it on the end of this huge campaign that also included H4.



When I would later run it again in college it became part of my big "Ravenloft is From Mystara" deal and I ran it under AD&D 2nd Ed.   It usually became the gateway characters used to leave Ravenloft and come back into their normal world.


Now I am setting up to run it again, this time using the 5th Edition Rules.

For that, I joined the Classic Modules Today group and did the 5th edition conversion.


I had a great time not only converting the adventure and creatures, but getting a chance to re-do Wazor, Ulslime, and Korbundar as 5th edition characters.  It was a struggle I have to admit not to include *my* versions of them and instead play them by the book.

In the conversion guide I mention where I would place the adventure in the Forgotten Realms (something we all did) and how it could connect to others.  For me I saw this as a nice Coda to the Out of the Abyss adventure.



Characters will complete Out of the Abyss at roughly the same level characters would need to be to start Death’s Ride. The adventure can be seen as either as some last-ditch effort by Orcus to open a portal in the Realms in which to invade or as a means of flooding the area with undead.

This flows from both my using Death's Ride as part of an Orcus/Realms take-over (Module H4) and my connections to Ravenloft as a portal.

I might not have know the Companion Set very well, but there is at least one Companion level adventure I do know.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: X6 Quagmire (BECMI)

Not just a review today, but I want to spend some time today with an adventure that fueled my imaginations...or at least I thought it did.  I also want to talk about what my plans are for it now.

So come with me to Quagmire. Its a journey of half-remembered ideas, Lizardmen characters, Dragonborn, and special guest appearances by Ulslime and Mary Pickford.

Somewhere back in Jr. High or High School before I ever saw this adventure I had watched a movie. Likely on a local channel or maybe an old tape or laserdisc (my dad loved laserdisc!).  The move was Sparrows (1926) and it starred Mary Pickford.  To me the movie was a horror film. 

Pickford played Molly and she was the protector of a bunch of orphans being exploited by this old man named Grimes.   Ah, Grimes, you evil bastard.

Not since the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had I seen a character eviler in his disregard of children (my mom ran a Day Care, in my mind the evilest thing was to hate or harm a child).  He left a lasting impression to be sure.

In my mind, the dichotomous battle was set. Old, evil, Grimes versus the young, pure Molly.  And so help me if I didn't like Grimes better.  I really wanted the kids to rise up and just beat the living shit out that guy and his wife.  But they never did, worse, Molly keeps looking up to the sky like she is getting some private communique. Like that is going to help.

I think about this movie fairly often, to be honest.  Many things I wrote after I watched it will bubble back up in things I write today.  I still used swamps as my ultimate hideout of evil (but that could also be in part to the Legion of Doom).

Quagmire: Retrospective

Around 1984-85 I was at my Favorite Local Game Store, which then was Waldenbooks in nearby Springfield, IL.  I was looking over the new adventures they had there.  One was CM2 Death's Ride, which is getting a full review next week, the other was X6 Quagmire.  I read the back of the module and it sounded interesting. It dealt with a city, dangerous swamp and monsters.  All great stuff. But I bought CM2 death's Ride instead. I also gathered from reading White Dwarf #70 that the reviewer liked Quagmire, so it had to be pretty good.

Somewhere along the line I also learned there was a sinking tower (really a city, but it looked like a tower) and lizard men (seemed natural).  So I added it to my own version of the Known World.   A sinking tower, in a swamp called Quagmire.  I took the evil cleric Ulslime and made him into a Death Master (from Len Lakofka) and made him master of the tower.  He looked and acted an awful lot like Grimes from Sparrows.  I must have seen at least more of the insides of the adventure because "Ulslime" became "Magnus Ulslime." I combined two characters, one from CM2 and one from X6.


For decades THAT was my Quagmire.  It fit the cover art, it tied it in with CM2 Death's Ride and a bunch of other things going on in my Known World at the time.  It worked.

Imagine my surprise when I finally got the POD version of Quagmire from DriveThruRPG.

The actual module is...well...different than my ideas of what it was.  That is neither good nor bad, but it does color how I choose to use it.

Quagmire: Review
Quagmire is a 32-page adventure module written by Merle M. Rasmussen, of Top Secret fame, for the Expert Set.  Character levels 4-10.  Color covers and some maps, black & white interiors. Art by Steve Peregrine (cover) and Jeffrey Butler (interior).
For this review, I am considering the PDF and POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

Quagmire focuses on a city that used to be by the seashore but is now sinking into the sea.  The city is actually a large spiral tower that looks like a whelk shell.  The city leaders are moving the entire populace from their city to a nearby, identical one.  The PCs have been hired to clear out the wilderness area of lizardmen and goblins and help them get to the new city.

The module expands the Known World to now include the Serpent Penisula, which is just west of the Isle of Dread.   If the Isle of Dread is Jamaica or the Bahamas then the Serpent Penisula is Florida and Cuba.  All I need to do is add a "Bermuda Triangle."

This expansion of the Known World detail is the best part of the adventure.  This area would later be expanded on in future products and The Voyage of the Princess Ark feature in Dragon magazine.
Additionally, the city design itself is very interesting. Something very appealing about it to be honest and a giant tower as a city is the sort of thing I love to see in my games.

The adventure itself sadly a little lack-luster. The ending is a little anti-climatic and the wilderness encounters seem to be strung together to provide the characters something to do.
There are a lot of great parts to this adventure and there is plenty of potential, I am not sure the adventure itself lives up to all of that.  Still, the parts are good and there is no end of ideas for other swamp-based adventures or even the spiral cities.

The adventure, like all adventures of this time period, features new monsters and some new magic items.  There are also some pre-rolled characters.

The POD (Print on Demand) version is very clean and easy to read. There is some of the "fuzziness" I associate with a POD of a scanned product, but much less than some of the others I have purchased.  In fact, this might be one of the better scans I have seen.  At the time of this review, the POD is only $4.99 for both the POD and the PDF.  That is a fantastic price really.

So while the adventure is a little lacking, the material that comes with it is great and the PDF/POD is great.

Quagmire: Refit
So Quagmire the actual module and Quagmire how I *used* it are fairly different.  That's fine really, but what can I do with it now?

Well, one thing I have been wanting to do is add Dragonborn somewhere to Mystara/The Known World.  I have not given it a ton of thought, so I posted out to some Mystara groups on social media.
Now, of course, I got the one expected response, "Dragonborn don't belong in Mystara!"
Well. They do in mine.
The next responses seemed to be evenly split between Davina and the Serpent Peninsula. Both ideas have their merits.  I was all set on doing Davina. It's far enough away to be remote, but still close enough to be accessible.  But I was thinking about my kids' current game in Mystara, the Second Campaign, they just left the Isle of Dread and are headed south. It has taken them a long time to get this far; Davina might be too far still.

It also appears that the Serpent Penisula also has a lot of Lizardmen.  This is great for two reasons.
1. Lizardmen are the ancient enemies of the Dragonborn in my games.  Their relationship is like that of orcs and humans.
2. Anyone who tells me that Dragonborn doesn't belong as a PC race in D&D I remind them that Lizardmen were once accepted as a playable race in Holmes basic.  Maybe not explicitly, but certainly in practice.  Even Gygax himself said that this was fine when comparing D&D to AD&D.

So. If Lizardmen can be there, so can Dragonborn.
Dragonborn look different, but they are not really all that different from dwarves in combat.  They have a limited breath weapon that would do 1d6 for a while or save for half.  I'll play around with it.

I could still make them from Davina, but have an outpost or a colony on the Serpent Penisula.
I would change the people of Quagmire to Dragonborn.  That would be an interesting twist really, especially if the PCs get a letter asking for help and they expect humans or elves.  I might also swap out the mermen for Kopru, just so I can give those crazy fish people some more action.

Yeah.  This sounds great, to be honest.  BUT the events of the adventure were retconned to have taken place over 500 years ago.  Ok.  That still works.  The Dragonborn are in their new city of Thanopolis/Tanakumba, the Kopru are in the underwater city, and Quagmire?  Ah.  The city never sank all the way and now my necromancer/Death Master Magnus Ulslime is the master of that city and it is full of undead and surrounded by mud-men and mongrel-men, the victims of his magical experiments.  And maybe even an army of children digging in the nearby flooded mines to recover ancient Dragonborn treasures.  Just so I can work Grimes into the mix as well.  Maybe a name change to Magnus Ulgrimes should be in order. I never liked the Ulslime name, but I had used it too long to drop it back then.

It looks like I managed to get everything I wanted into a neat package! Sweet, and tomorrow is my birthday!

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

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Review: B7 Rahasia (BECMI Special)

"You soon are lead to an elven maid, whose veiled grace and beauty outshines all others present as the sun outshines the stars-she is Rahasia.
"Will you aid me?" she asks."

Module B7 Rahasia

B7 Rahasia is an adventure for the BECMI version of the Basic rules.  Since module B5 the Basic modules all featured the new BECMI trade dress, but B7 Rahasia is an older adventure with some solid history in the D&D game.  But I am getting to the middle of the story.

Back in 1979 Tracy and Laura Hickman wanted to play AD&D but needed money to be able to buy the Dungeon Master's Guide. So like so many after them they wrote an adventure to sell so the could afford to pick up the DMG.   That adventure was Rahasia.

Later the Hickmans would go to work for TSR and here they would give us what is arguably one of the greatest adventures of all time, Ravenloft, but before that, they republished Rahasia in 1983 under the RPGA banner.  In fact, RPGA 1 Rahasia and it's sequel RPGA 2 Black Opal Eye were the first two RPGA adventures for the new BECMI Basic game.

Rahasia is for levels 1-2 and then Black Opal Eye for levels 2-3.


These currently go for a lot of money on eBay now.  RPGA2 Black Opal Eye is available on DriveThruRPG, but the RPGA1 version of Rahasia is not.

Rahasia would get a third printing again in 1984 as the new adventure module B7 Rahasia.
This new version was a combination of the two earlier editions.

For this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my original print copy from 1984.

Module B7 Rahasia
Tracy and Laura Hickman. 32 Pages, color cover, black & white interior.
Cover art by Jeff Easley. Interior art by Jeff Easley and Tim Truman
Maps by Diesel & D.C. Sutherland Ill

This adventure is a primary example of what has been called "the Hickman Revolution" and while it was independent of the design of the BECMI rules, it does dovetail into the rules and feel rather well.  The Hickman Revolution can best be explained with the original requirements the Hickmans set for themselves in their adventures.
  1. A player objective more worthwhile than simply pillaging and killing.
  2. An intriguing story that is intricately woven into the play itself.
  3. Dungeons with some sort of architectural sense.
  4. An attainable and honorable end within one or two sessions playing time.
Another very strong point is an NPC/Antagonist that is more than just a mindless monster.  This can be seen in Dragonlance and can be seen in its ultimate form in Count Strahd from Ravenloft.

These all exist in one form or another in this adventure.  We have an evil cleric known as the Rahib, but is he really our "Big Bad" of this tale?  No. But again I jump ahead.

The plot begins as a simple one.  The characters agree to help an elven maid named Rahasia defeat a great evil that has come to her lands. This evil, the Rahib, has captured two elf maidens (Sylva and Merisa), Rahasia's father, and her fiancee. So the characters have to rescue the Prince this time!  He has also taken control over a group of elven cleric/monks (essentially) known as the Siswa.

This is an important bit, so I am going to interrupt myself here.  The Siswa are all mind-controlled, normally these are the elves that guard the temple, so they really should not be killed.  In the Hickman Revolution simply killing things is never the way to go.  This is true here.  The characters need to find ways to incapacitate the Siswa, but not kill them.

Defeating the Rahib is fine, and getting to him is the first half of the adventure.  The second half is discovering the REAL Big Bads.  You might have seen them on the cover.

Part 2, or the part that was covered in Black Opal Eye, deals with the real villains of this piece.  Here we learn that the Rahib had made a deal with the spirits of three dead witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena.  These witches have now taken over the bodies of the elf maids and want to get Rahasia for Trilena.  They can accomplish this with the Black Opal Eye. When all three witches are freed they are much more powerful, so getting them before they can get Rahasia is the goal. Failing that any female character with a Charisma of 15 or higher is the target.

There are some traps, some false leads and some clues in the form of wine bottles.  But all in all a very effective adventure with some nice twists.  More importantly, it also gives us three (well four I guess) memorable NPCs.  While the Rahib can be defeated, and ultimately forgotten about, the witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena, are far more interesting and really should come back again in a future adventure.

There are maps, pre-rolled characters to use, and of course an elven princess who will be in your debt.

The adventure also features something that the "new" BECMI modules all would feature, new monsters.
Here we get the haunt, the water weird (an AD&D import), and the bone golem who will not see an AD&D rendition until Ravenloft.

Ravenloft Connections
I have often stated that I feel that Barovia, the lands of the mists featured in the Ravenloft adventure and line, came from the B/X & BECMI world of Mystara.  Here is another connection.  First, the idea of body-snatching undead witches is a strong horror trope.  I am sure there are dozens of horror movies made before 1979 that feature this.  I am sure I have seen at least a dozen or more of these myself.


Plus like Ravenloft, Rahasia was written by the Hickmans. Even in the 5e era the Curse of Strahd adventure for 5e lists Rahasia as an influence.  Plus there are some other solid connections.  Like finding the same wines in Rahasia's Wizard tower and in Ravenloft Curse of Strahd.



For 5th Edition
Thanks to the efforts of the Classic Modules Today group there is a conversion guide for B7 Rahasia.  Classic Modules Today: B7 Rahasia (5e) is 10 pages and includes all the various stats you need to covert this adventure over to 5th Editon D&D.  In truth the conversions are very straight forward but it is nice to have them all in one place.  Plus for $1.95 it is really worth it.  Given the Ravenloft connections, I could see this as an adventure for 1-3 level characters in Curse of Strahd very easily.  You need the complete B7 module, that is not included here and there is no adventure information other than the stats. The Bone Golem and the witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena get full stat blocks.

War of the Witch Queens
For me this is also a great starting module for my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  Three dead witches combing back from the grave to possess the bodies of three others?  If it can be done once, it can be done again and I have some great long term NPCs to harass my characters with.  Plus the mere fact that they came back now points to the upheaval in the Occult world that this War is having.
It also makes for a solid case for this game to be run using the BECMI rules.
Now there is a thought...

Other Posts & Links

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mail Call: Return to the Unknown

Mail call last night!  These were waiting for me when I got home.


In particular, I am happy to get a copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown, the spiritual sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown.


The module is pretty big at 68 pages and works great as a sequel to the original B1.

It is also a GREAT fit for Pacesetter's own B/X RPG rules.



Can't wait to run it.

Links



Friday, February 7, 2020

BlackStar: The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

I am a Trekkie, and I have always preferred "Trekkie" over "Trekker" as well.  No negative connotations for me, I embrace them.

To that end, I am a fan of both "Axanar" and "Discovery" even if they are competing and incompatible with versions of the war with the Klingon Empire. 


In Discovery the war takes place around 2256-2257.
In the Axanar and FASA Trek RPG continuity, this is known as the Four Years War and takes place between 2247 and 2250.
(Note the Enterprise NCC 1701 launches in 2245, so that tracks with Discovery but off a bit for Axanar.)

Once you start digging more and more with Disco, Axanar, and FASA it becomes obvious that the continuities will never line up even by my normal desire to handwave some details in favor of others.

I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery, I also happen to like Star Trek Axanar maybe just a little bit better. Mainly for all the same reasons spelled out here: Star Trek Discovery vs Axanar Choose Your Klingon War.



I do want a universe where Adm. Ramirez gets to say, "For myself I have but one fear: destroying the dream of the Federation. Compared to such a loss I DO NOT FEAR THE KLINGON EMPIRE!

Hey, I said I was a Trekkie.

BUT I also want a universe with Anson Mount's Captain Pike and Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham.

How do I have my cake and eat it too?

So I am going to steal a page from myself.
Back when I was playtesting the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space RPG I converted a bunch of Angel and Ghosts of Albion characters to DWAITAS characters (easy enough to do) and ran them all through The Ghost Tower of  Inverness. Only I called it the Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois.

Why does Inverness, IL need a Lighthouse??
In that adventure, the Soul Gen is replaced by the Time Beacon.  A lighthouse for time travelers.
I can replace the lighthouse and tower with the 23rd Century equivalent; a Starbase.

The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

Inverness Five.  During the Federation-Klingon War, this colony was the site of one of the bloodiest battles and the greatest defeat of the Federation.  Hundreds of thousands of souls were lost and many more were made homeless overnight.   Inverness was a colony of four inhabited worlds rich in dilithium.  To the Klingon Empire, the Inverness system is a sacred, if not holy place.

I'll take a page from Discovery and TNG and make Inverness like the Klingon monastery on Boreth.  Not just holy, but also the home of Time Crystals.   At the time of the war no one knew this.   The humans just knew that there were large deposits of dilithium.  The Klingons knew it was holy to Kahless.  The battle managed to disrupt the crystals, one of which was located in the science lab on the Inverness Station, and now the place is like the Bermuda Triangle in space.

In 2352 the Protector is sent the Inverness system, getting strange readings.  The system is unstable and both the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to stay out of the system.  The Federation considers it too dangerous and the Klingons want everyone to stay out.  Both sides treat it like something akin to a battlefield graveyard.

When the Protector shows up they should send an Away Team over to the station, the source of the readings, but "chronometric interference" makes it impossible to get a good lock.  So they are sent to what is basically the bottom of the station.  The team has to work its way to the science lab.
Here I basically will run a version of the Ghost Tower of Inverness.
In space, the Protector is fired upon by a Klingon D6 from Axanar's time.  Communications are ignored and channels to Federation Space are blocked.  They are then both attacked by a Klingon cruiser from Discovery's time.

Both teams end up having to battle with Klingons from Axanar, Discovery and even smooth ridged Klingons from the time between Enterprise and The Original Series.


So weird time dilations effects.  Battling anywhere from two to four different sorts of Klingons.  Starfleet chatter from nearly 100 years ago about the Klingon war and the Federation is getting it's ass kicked.

I need to figure out how to up the horror elements too.  After all, that is what makes this BlackStar and not just Star Trek.  I do know how it will end though.  Once the Away Team gets the Time Crystal aligned/sealed/destroyed/reversed to the polarity of the neutron flow, the battle will stop and the Protector will be hailed by the current era Klingons asking if they need assistance.  A reminder that at this time (2352) the Klingons and the Federation are allies.

This is my homage to not just Axanar and Discovery, but also Yesterday's Enterprise, the Bermuda Triangle and the chance to do the one thing that all old school Trekkies love, and that is to battle Klingons.

In the end, the players will not know if they had really gone back in time OR if they were battling ghosts of some sort.  Also, they might never find out which version of history, Axanar or Discovery, was the correct one since they all remember it both ways.

This one will be fun too.
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