Showing posts with label Isles of Avalon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isles of Avalon. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Islands, Hyperborea, and Party Like it's 1979

Sort of an overview, sort of me doing more mental gymnastics. 

Note: This one got away from the original thesis, so I cut chunks out for another post later. 

Some light reading material

I have been thinking about a few things this week, namely my 1979 Campaign and my Isles of Avalon one. I flirted briefly with combining them and then realized quickly that by doing so I would lose everything that made the 1979 Campaign special. So I might have ideas that work for that, but I think I need to keep it as it is for now.  One day I'll play it. 

Isles of Avalon is less of a campaign and more of a campaign location. I have a lot of ideas for it. Too many to be honest. But two things in it are prominent. 1.) It has to include an Island nation of Necromancers. 2.) It has* to be run under AD&D 1st Edition.

How are those connected and what does it have to do with today?  Well, I was going over the materials for the IoA idea and began merging the two projects. I quickly realized that I would lose what made the 1979 Campaign idea special to me (moving from a hybrid Holmes Basic/AD&D to pure AD&D) and I also thought maybe I am not wed to the idea of IoA as a pure AD&D 1st edition setting.

I love AD&D 1st Edition. Really I do warts and all. I do want to do a lot more with it in my personal gaming even if it is never seen by you, my reader. After all I never really talked much about the AD&D 2nd Edition games I was playing in here.

But these last two weeks (and most of October) have given me some moments to pause and think. The question remains "What is it I want out of this really?"

The AD&D First Edition Experience

This one is key. I want something like AD&D 1st ed. Which will prompt many to say "then play AD&D 1st Ed, dumbass!" Which is very, very valid. But I also have all these other games that I want to try and I played AD&D 1st ed, for over a decade. I love it, but it sometimes feels like moving back in with your parents or hooking up with your ex-girlfriend.  So. What are my options?

Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy

This one is great, but it isn't really AD&D is it. Plus this is the system I am using for War of the Witch Queens and it is really great for that.


I have been reminded this week of how much fun Hyperborea is. It is much closer to AD&D. The game is tied very closely to the world and it is a world I enjoy, but some pieces of it don't fit with my idea of what I want to do for my various campaigns. One thing is certain, the ethos of Hyperborea will inform what I do with my Isle of Avalon.

Castles & Crusades

I do love Castles & Crusades and it does provide the AD&D 1st experience I want. Plus I LOVE all the Codex books on world religions and myths. It doesn't quite have the same feeling to it as Hyperborea though.  On the continuum of gritty to light it goes Hyperborea, then OSE-Adv, then C&C. With the endpoints as DCC on the gritty and Hero's Journey First Edition on the light. Still, though I do love this game a lot and I really want to do a lot more with it. 

Special Note: The 1979 Campaign

This one is a special case. The purpose here is to recreate a certain style of play that I would have done in the Fall or early Winter of 1979.  I will only use materials that would have been available then or is closely related.  Rules are a mix of Holmes Basic (not B/X) and AD&D, in particular the AD&D Monster Manual.


Why all these mental gymnastics? I am aware that my kids are getting older and moving on. My oldest is a professional pastry chef now. My youngest is in college and spends all their time writing code. They don't have time for dad and his elf-game anymore. Well...they do still play D&D, just with their own groups of friends. My time to get some games on with them is limited and I want to maximize what I can.

So. Let's see what I can cook up here. I know...get to the point already.

Vampire Queen
Isles of Avalon

While I love this name, people who have seen it online and not bothered to read the posts (if you are reading this then that is obviously not you!) were confused with the Arthurian Isle of Avalon and felt they were informing on something. Thanks, but I wrote tons about that in Ghosts of Albion. Still, though, I might tweak the name to be Isles of Avalon Hill to honor its origins. 

So before I put together a campaign (and this would be a sandbox or hex crawl) and try to figure out what rules to use, I think I need to work out some details.

1. This archipelago of islands is old. Really, really old. An empire rose here, grew to greatness, fell into decadence, finally to infighting and decay, and then to dust and forgotten legends.  

2. There is an island of Necromancer kings. This was one of the key notions. Of all the islands, this one is the one that still yearns for the "old times." I think I am coming around to the idea that there is someone called "The Necromancer." Feels ominous. 

3. There is a small island that is home to the Vampire Queen. The Vampire Queen is a reoccurring character in my games. One of her influences is the classic Palace of the Vampire Queen from Wee Warriors, then Pacesetter, now Precis Intermedia.  Wee Warriors and Precis Intermedia also have the Misty Isles, which is another model for my own Isles.  The Vampire Queen lives on a remote island here. 

4. There is the "Big Island" that still has active wizards. The Empire is gone, but there are still wizards that come here for the same reasons there was an empire here. The connection to magical energies here is the strongest. Whether it is a confluence of ley lines, built on the remains of a long-dead but highly magical creature, a magical meteorite hit here, or some combination of all the above.  The only remaining edifice of those times is a place called the Citadel of Conjurers (or at least my original notions of what that place was when I read it in Dragon #91).

Not looking for grand plots. Not looking for world-changing apocalypses. Just a place to do some hex crawling.

Either Castles & Crusades or Hyperborea would fit this fine.

I am leaning more towards Hyperborea for this, but I really, really want to play some Castles & Crusades.

Anyway, random thoughts on a cold Chicago day.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Isles of Avalon

The Isles of Avalon
One of the reasons I do the long projects here like 100 Days of Halloween or BECMI Month or even shorter week-long deep dives into topics is to take a topic and explore it as deeply as I can. Some topics just need longer to figure out than a one-off blog post. Another reason is to recharge my creative batteries.

So I am fresh off October and last night I feverishly got nearly 10,000 words into a project. Nothing I am ready for the public eye yet, but it felt good to be full of such raw creativity again.

Another little project that grew out my October is this idea of The Isles of Avalon. In truth, it has been there ever since I first picked up Clark Ashton Smith and thought I needed an Empire of Necromancers. But it was rereading my Complete Book of Necromancers and the Avalon Hill game Wizards that the idea became something I want to pursue in depth. 

I do not have all the details yet, but I do know the following.

It is an Archipelago of Islands

There is one large island, the main one, and many smaller islands around it / near it. Right now my mental model is something like the Hawaiian Islands only not tropical. I need some cold places, so another model are the British Isles. Since I am re-reading Tolkien's Unfinished Tales I can't help but add some Númenor into my mental mix.

It is Old

This place needs to have risen to its height ages ago and now fallen into decay. There are still people here and still living their lives, and there are still wizards galore here. But one of the consequences of this is the islands still feel like they are in some sort of lost past. For me to get this feeling I want everything to look like 1970s art. More specifically I am thinking something along the lines of the album art Roger Dean used to do for Yes and Uriah Heep. In fact, those two groups, in particular, would also provide the soundtrack for this endeavor.  This is not the NWOBHM of the 80s I typically do. This needs to sound and feel different to me. 

Another feeling I want is not just that this place is old, but nature has reclaimed it. So there are, or more to point were, mighty citadels here that are now abandoned and nature has moved back in. What strange magics are here? Are there wizards still sleeping in long-forgotten chambers? Do the experiments of long-dead necromancers still haunt the dungeons?  Again with the Yes album cover idea I want this place to look beautiful and feel dangerous. 

It is Advanced D&D

I am pretty well-known for my love for Basic-era D&D. B/X is my jam.  BUT I want a 1970s feel here, and B/X and BECMI are quintessentially 80s.  Now I could very easily merge this with my "1979 Campaign Idea." Indeed, parts of that plan work well in this one, in particular using Warlocks & Warriors as an add-on to module B1.

Though I won't rule out using something like Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old-School Essentials Advanced.  Especially since I have some new OSE-Advanced books coming from the last Kickstarter and there is a Labyrinth Lord 2nd Edition on the way.

Mix and Match

As usual, I am going to look for existing material to use with it and hopefully things that were published before 1980.  

Again why use other stuff when I can easily create my own? Simple I enjoy doing it. I like to see what pieces I can put together from various other products. That way it feels familiar and new all at the same time. 

I already have a few things in mind I will adapt for this and I am going to have fun doing it. So let's put on some Yes and come with me to these islands and let's visit for a while. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Complete Book of Necromancers

DMGR7 The Complete Book of Necromancers (2e)
Yesterday I reviewed the Wizard's Complete Class book and last week I covered the Death Master in Dragon Magazine #76, I thought this would be a good one for today.

In AD&D 1 the example of the Illusionist gave birth to the specialty wizards of AD&D 2nd Ed.  One of those specialty wizards was the Necromancer. Though, unlike the Illusionist, the Transmuter, or even the Evoker, the Necromancer got its own book.  

The Complete Book of Necromancers was one of those books that everyone seemed to want.  I remember picking it up back when it was first published. I paid $15 for it.  Later the cover price jumped to $18 and soon it became very rare. No idea why.  The aftermarket price jumped considerably and I ended up selling mine on eBay back in 2000 for $81. Not a bad deal really. I ended up re-buying again recently at Half-Price Books for $9.

DMGR7 The Complete Book of Necromancers

PDF and softcover book. 128 pages. Black & white interior art. For this review, I am considering my softcover edition and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Let's be honest, few classes have had the spotlight quite like Necromancers have had. There have been many attempts before and since. But when comes down to it, the 2nd Ed Complete Book of Necromancers is the gold standard that all other books on Necromancy are compared to. This book is packed. Even the font size is smaller than the other Class books for AD&D 2nd Ed. 


Our introduction informs us that this is a book for DMs to make memorable foes. Indeed throughout the book refers to the Necromancers as NPCs.  Even warnings are given about Necromancer PCs of higher than the 9th level. 

Chapter 1: Necromancers

Details "The Standard Necromancer" or even "The Masters of the Dark Art" with minimum ability scores and the rolling methods to gain them (with a table on page 10). Additionally, only humans can be necromancers. Role-playing wise I can see this. Elves would not be concerned with the spirits of the dead and if they wanted to speak to them then they have the books they wrote. Dwarves and Halflings are very much about the here and now. Mechanically though there is no reason to assume they can be, save that this is AD&D.

We get an extended Necromancer (Wizard) XP advancement table to level 30. There are also details about weapon and non-weapon proficiencies. New non-weapon proficiencies are also given.

There are also new Kits for the Necromancer. They are the Archetypal Necromancer, Anatomist, Deathslayer (killer of the undead), Philosopher, and Undead Master. Additionally, two kits from the Complete Book of Wizards and the Complete Sha'ir's Handbook are brought over for use here. They are the Witch and the Ghul Lord.

Chapter 2: Dark Gifts

Covers the powers of Necromancy. This starts with a discussion on Dual Classes characters (remember Human only) each combination is discussed such as Fighter/Necromancer, Thief/Necromancer, Cleric/Necromancer, and the Psionicist/Necromancer.  

Vile Pacts and Dark Gifts cover the powers Necromancers are likely to pick up as they gain the notice of dark powers. 

Despite all the recommendations above, up next is a section on Humanoid Necromancers like Drow and Githyanki. 

Chapter 3: The Price

Details the down-side of dealing with necromancy.  While the social stigma stuff might be a blessing to many necromancers, things like deformities and body afflictions are less welcome. 

Chapter 4: The Dark Art

This deals with the magic and the spells of Necromancy. A great section for any sort of AD&D 2nd ed DM really.  It discusses "Black" or "Criminal" Necromancy, "Gray" or Neutral Necromancy, and "Benign" or "White" Necromancy.

There are 25 new spells from levels 1 to 9 here. Many I note still live on in new editions. 

Chapter 5: Death Priests

Can't let wizards have all the fun. Besides, Necromancy is not just a school of arcane magic but a sphere of divine magic as well. Death Priests (Clerics) get the same treatment as did the Wizards above. Including an advancement table to level 30.  Here different gods/faiths are discussed that might be a home to a Death Priest. The obvious are the God of the Dead. But also the Goddess of Murder, God of Pestilence, God of Suffering, and the Lord of the Undead.

Chapter 6: The Priest Sphere

Cover the necromancy priest sphere and spells. Here we get 18 new priest spells of levels 1 to 7.

Chapter 7: Allies

Covers everything from Apprentices, Henchmen, Familiars (including Undead ones), and Undead minions. Undead minions get the most detail with various sorts of undead discussed. 

There is a great section on Secret Societies. I used this one quite a lot when I developed my Circle of Six Necromancer group.  A group of bad guys that I STILL use today (though only three are still active). 

Chapter 8: Tools of the Trade

Covers potions, poisons, various magical items (including some new), and necromantic lore. 

Chapter 9: The Campaign

Looking back I realize there is a lot in this chapter I *STILL* use. The first is Sahu the Island of the Necromancer Kings. Granted an Ilse of Necromancers is not 100% original and I could have easily got it from Clark Ashton Smith, but this one comes together nicely for AD&D 2nd and still works for me today. 

There are some adventure hooks connected to Sahu and some more connected to the various NPCS found at the end of this section.  That's is the other thing I still use. The NPCs here were quite memorable to me. 

Appendix 1: Common Spells for Necromancers: Lists of spells and their sources by Offensive and Defensive capability.

Appendix 2 and Appendix 3 Necromancy spells for Wizards (2) and Clerics (3).

Appendix 4 Index of Necromantic spells: Alphabetical listing.

There is so much here that would later find homes in the 3e Book of Vile Darkness and the 4e Heroes of Shadow.  And much that is still very useful today.  

I will come back to this one when I decide to work through more of my Isles of Avalon.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Board Game: Wizards (1982)

Wizards (1982)
I was reorganizing my shelves trying to find some room for some new books when I found this little gem hiding in my lower shelves.  I totally forgot I had this!

Wizards (1982)

Wizards is described as "Avalon Hill's game of fantasy adventure."  It is easy to see why they would want to make this game too.

1982 was some prime years for Fantasy RPGs and D&D in particular. 

There are board game elements to this as well as plenty of RPG elements.  For example you can choose what sort of wizard character (Order) you will play; Wizard, Sorcerer, or Druid. Each also has four levels (Ranks).

The first part of the game is setting up all the locations of the various islands on the hex grid sea map.

After that the various wizards race around the map to collect various gems for the High Druid. There are seven, six are needed to win.

While this is going on there are various Event and Task cards that send your wizard on quests, trap them or other hazards. These add time it takes to complete your missions but they can also raise your Wizard rank and make you more powerful. 

From the rule book. Here is what is needed to play and win.

  1. Join a Magical Order. Without that, you may not accept any Tasks or gain points of any kind.
  2. Acquire Tasks and complete them for points of Knowledge, Power and/or Perception.
  3. Fight the Evil Powers that take over the islands, making them inaccessible.
  4. Advance to Rank 4 in your Order. 
  5. When you are at Rank 4, collect all 6 Gems from the High Wizards.
  6. When you have the Gems, pass them to the High Druid Rüktal in the Center of the Sacred Circle to win the game.

The game uses two six-sided dice.  

Wizards (1982)

Hex map of the sea

Wizards 1982

Wizards 1982

Wizards 1982

Wizards 1982

Wizards 1982 Wizard Sheet

Wizards 1982 Play area

Wizards 1982

Wizards (contents)Wizards (contents)

I love the *idea* of this game, but while I enjoyed the set up I could not get anyone to play it here.  My wife does not care for board games with RPG elements and my kids would rather play D&D.

I am adopting some ideas from this game though for my own games, most notably the War of the Witch Queens, but certainly others as well.

Traveller Envy and the Avalon Isles

I have talked a bit about my Traveller Envy here in the past. To finally overcome this I am taking all the various board games I am going to cover this month and create a new area of my world; the Isles of Avalon. The origins here should be pretty obvious, I am going to base a lot of the mythology of the lands on England, Ireland, and the various islands around them. Also, I am drawing heavily from the Avalon Hill games, so much so that the currently unnamed main island has a place called Avalon Hill. It will be my world's Glastonbury Tor.  There is a volcano on one of the islands (this will be an archipelago) where a famous Warlock lives.  With a volcano I can also get representations of all the elements; Earth, Water, Air and Fire.

There will be a smaller island nearby that I am calling the Island of the Necromancers.

I will spend this month detailing this place further.

If I get nothing else out of these board games then I think I will be fine.