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

Thursday, October 6, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Witchwar Legacy

The Witchwar Legacy
Switching worlds, editions, and even systems now.  

This adventure was released in 2010 and is a prelude to their Reign of Winter adventure path released in 2013.

I am not entirely sure to be honest, but I think this is the adventure that prompted Paizo to make the Reign of Winter adventure path. 

The Witchwar Legacy

PDF and Print 32 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This adventure is for characters level 17 and essentially is a MacGuffin hunt for the Torc of Kostchtchie. The characters can choose to aid Elvanna, the Witch Queen of Irrisen gain the Torc or the demon-lord Kostchtchie. 

It is a short adventure, essentially a single location with a lot of monsters and NPCs.

It is a quick one, to be honest for such a high-level adventure. If it wasn't so high level it would be a great introduction to the Reign of Winter series. 

I feel like it could be run in the afternoon, but I also think I would like to adjust the threats to make it a little lower level. I would also tweak it a bit to fit the Reign of Winter series. 

My Snow/Ice/Winter Witch?

Elvanna is fantastic, but she never shows up here. She is a good witch...well an evil witch, but she is great at that. The Reign of Winter also features Elvanna but in a different sort of role and she dies in the end...or at least could die. Plus she is so wrapped up in everything I would have to change the Reign of Winter to work for War of the Witch Queens.

Still, she is rather great and I really want to use her. BUT I am also covering the "Reign of Winter" campaign in a couple of days and that, well, changes things. Tune back in for that.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: FIGHTING FANTASY - Caverns of the Snow Witch

Snow Witch
Last night I covered an adventure that mentions the Ice Queen, but no more details than a mention. This works fine for me since I have a plethora of choices. Here is the first one I considered, but not my only one.

FIGHTING FANTASY - Caverns of the Snow Witch

PDF and Print. 45 pages. Color covers, black & white interiors.

This adventure has a solid pedigree.  It is based on Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy books from 1984.  This adventure is for the d20 system / D&D 3.0 system published in 2003. So nearly 20 apart, here I am nearly 20 years after that reviewing it. 

This adventure covers the same plot and situations from the Fighting Fantasy "choose your own adventure" book.  

The adventure is designed for one character or a small group of adventures.  Reading through it does follow the same plot lines as the Fighting Fantasy book. 

This adventure also features the Luck saves from the original book. It has some changes to the d20 ruleset. There are a few new monsters (including a Yeti!), some new spells, campaign notes, and some new NPCs.

There are a lot of location-based adventures, essentially a collection of encounters the PCs jump from one to the next. The advantage here is that it is easy to convert from d20 to what I am planning to use it with, Old-School Adventures.  

The Snow Witch in this adventure is a sorcerer/vampire which works great for d20/3.0. For my adventures, I would make her a proper witch. 

The adventure is fine, but I think I might be viewing it through what my "Nostalgia Goggles."  Am I reading a good adventure or am I reading something because it was enjoyable to me in the 1980s?

I guess in the end it doesn't matter, as long as I am having fun with it. 

Is She My Snow/Ice Witch?

Well, I guess I should really ask do I just need one? I have a few more choices but this one has some serious old-school street cred. My other Snow/Ice/Winter witches though are a little more interesting.

Still, this is a fun adventure and one I am looking forward to using.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Mail Call: Blue Rose Six of Cups

Getting a new book in the mail is always a joy. Getting one you helped create is even better!

I got my author's copy of Blue Rose Six of Cups.

Blue Rose Six of Cups

Blue Rose Six of Cups

The PDF has been available for a bit and now the print book can be ordered from Green Ronin's online store.

As I have said in the past I adore Blue Rose. I just love the world, the system, everything about it. It is such a refresher after decades of "grim dark" RPGs.

I am particularly happy with this one. It has a new character I am particularly fond of.  My homage to the Piasa Bird and places I used to frequent. Another distateful member of the less than pleasant Meacham family. But most of all it was a joy and an honor to write something for Aldea. 

The Storm of the Century

The project lead, Joseph D. Carriker, for this book posted in Green Ronin News a little about this book. In particular, he talked about the "Storm of the Century" theme.  This was not something I (or to my knowledge) any of the other authors tried to do. I was pretty much working in my silo just to get this done with my only contact being Joseph. Who, please allow me to add, was great to work with.

Here is what he had to say about the storm.

One of the things I asked of our authors was to send me proposals for their adventures and gazetteers. In short order, it became apparent that (perhaps inspired by the elemental association of Cups with water) no less than three of the stories feature a massive coastal storm. Rather than require some of the authors to change their ideas, I thought I could include them all to highlight one of the interesting ways to use generally unrelated adventures.

Finding a common thread to run between adventures is an awesome way of building a sort of “accidental” campaign. The tumultuous weather plays a role in all three of the stories, and they are not written as being interrelated. An enterprising Narrator might, however, come up with some connecting concepts to help tie them together. Perhaps these are all part of a single, major storm system of some kind, a sort of terrifying storm of the century to strike the southern coast of Aldis? Or, perhaps there is something (or someone…) nefarious at work, hurling storm after storm into the world.

I do love this idea and the thought of a great storm coming to the southern coast of Aldis is too good to pass up. 

Personally, I think this is one of Blue Rose's greatest strengths when compared to D&D.  D&D can do a lot of great things. But it is largely still a game about and centered around combat.  In Blue Rose, you could make an adventure where the central focus was protecting a small coastal town from the coming storm. Not by fighting some demonic force or elemental, but as the Sovereign's Finest playing the role the National Guard does here. Organizing relief efforts, building sandbag walls, and figuring out what to do. Fantastic role-playing opportunity.  

So my darkfiend Dorgogz is not the cause of this massive storm, but rather he is here because of it. 

The adventures are leveled from 1 to 8 (mine for example is level 2-4). A new adventure, say levels 8-10 called "The Storm of the Century" would be this giant coastal storm.  Hmm...I am getting some ideas here.  With this sort of build-up, one could see that there is something connected and nefarious here. 

Can't wait to try out the other adventures in this book. They look great.

100 Days of Halloween: A Witch's Desire - Adventure for Old-School Essentials

A Witch's Desire - Adventure for Old-School Essentials
Honestly, I could not pass this one up. It is a low-level adventure featuring a witch, it is quick and it is for Old-School Essentials.  So yeah, I had to grab it.  But how does it play?  Let's look into it.

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

A Witch's Desire - Adventure for Old-School Essentials

PDF and PoD. 27 pages. Color covers and interior art.

The designed levels for this are 1 to 3, but I find that it works well as an "interlude" adventure, that is as the characters are moving from one major adventure to the other.  Not to say that this can't be a major adventure, it can. But for me, I wanted to feel more like the characters "wandered into a dream" sort of deal. 

To start with, and what helps fuel this notion of an interlude, are some rules for travel.  While the PCs are moving from their last adventure to this one using these rules helps give this one it's own feel. Yes they can be used elsewhere and adapted. Adding to this is the section after the travel and before the adventure proper, and that is the influence the witch has on the lands near her. I have been using something similar for my War of the Witch Queens based on the old superstition of Hex Signs, but the rules here are more explicit in their application.

 The adventure is a "straightforward" mission to get some water for the Witch of the Wilds they meet at the start of the adventure. I say "straightforward" because obviously, it isn't.  They are plenty of hazards along the way and foes to fight. The adventure is scaleable so that is also quite good. 

There are no stats for the witch herself, nor should there be. The PCs should not be fighting her.

This adventure is set in the Forever Winter setting. Honestly a name like screams to be used.  Also, there is mention of the Ice Queen and her rivalry with the Witch of the Wilds.  The Ice Queen is not mentioned much here save for a sidebar, but the potential is great.  So great in fact that I have an idea of how to work the Ice Queen (also a witch in my world naturally) into my War of the Witch Queens.  I'll discuss her tomorrow. It is likely that their A Wintry Death adventures could be used in conjunction with this one, but I am pretty pleased with it as is to be honest.

While the art is wonderful for this it does make you think the Witch of the Wild could be something of an evil-ish character, certainly otherworldly.  While reading through this I kept asking myself, what if this witch was good and just really needed the character's help?

Suddenly all I could think of was Ginny Di's character Morelia the Wood Witch.  She would need the water for her potions obviously. Changes the whole tenor of the adventure.   Not that I have any problems coming up with witches. It would also change the nature of the relationship between the Witch of the Wilds and the Ice Queen. They are still rivals, but now it is different.

Witch of the Wilds VS Morelia the Wood Witch

Note: I just noticed that Morelia's familiar Crimini is a cat with white fur and gold eyes. Much like the art for the Witch of the Wilds. Maybe Morelia polymorphs Crimini to act as the scary Witch of the Wild? She then hides in the background so that the PCs she is hiring don't know she really is about as dangerous as a bunny. A lot like Balok in the classic Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver."  Instead of tranya she offers them tea of course. Yeah, I like this idea. 

In either case, the Witch of this adventure would need to be a potential ally for the characters in my game.  I can't actually see Morelia getting mad with them anyway. And I really want to use Morelia. I just don't think I can pull off the voice Ginny Di uses for her!

In any case a fun adventure with a lot of ideas for use in my home campaign. The PDF version comes with separate maps. The PDF also features layers so you can turn on the background image for readability. That's worth an extra star in my book to be honest. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: When Comes the Witching Hour

When Comes the Witching Hour
Another adventure from casl Entertainment featuring the "Witch Queen" which may or may not be Iggwilv. 

When Comes the Witching Hour

PDF and Print. 80 Pages. Color covers. Black & White art.

This adventure is designed for levels 9 to 12 for the OSRIC game, which is the clone of AD&D 1st Edition.

I grabbed this adventure back in February after reviewing The Witch-Queen's Lament, a later, but lower-level adventure.

There is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink commentary on how to fit this adventure into the World of Greyhawk. But it is also fully usable in any world. 

The adventure is overtly the search for a missing princess. What makes this different is the missing princess is likely in the Dungeons of the Mad Archmage and might have something to do with the Queen of Witches.

Now. Before I get too much further let me point out what this adventure can do. Obviously, there are the fans of the World of Greayhawk who can use this to expand on their game worlds. You can grab nearly any other version of the Castle or Dungeons of the Mad Arch Mage.  It is really a nice piece that could fit into a lot of campaigns. 

The adventure is a wonderful romp through some of the storied locations of the World of Greyhawk, if in a thinly veiled manner. Also, anything that involves Iggwilv or the Witch Queen is a must-buy in my mind.

The adventure covers the first half of the book. The last half has new monsters including many unique demons, new magic items, pre-gen characters, and finally the maps. Note. The print version maps are a little difficult to read. I have the PDF so I printed them out.

One other nitpick. There are no page numbers printed on each page. 

When Come the Witching Hour

--

For Use in War of the Witch Queens

This one is so on brand for my War of the Witch Queens that I am shocked how well it works for me. It covers several bases for me. For starters, it is OSRIC thus satisfying my need to involve all sorts of OSR rule sets. It is set in Greyhawk which satisfies my desire to involve many of the game worlds as I can. And most of all it features the machinations of not just "A" Witch Queen, but "THE" Witch Queen. I mean really. If I have any complaints about this adventure it is I didn't write it myself.

For Use in NIGHT SHIFT

While I love to use some of these adventures for NIGHT SHIFT not everything will fit. This is a perfect example, while I love the idea of this adventure it would not be good for NIGHT SHIFT. This adventure is too deeply tied to the World of D&D and especially Greyhawk.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Sunday, October 2, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Coven

The Coven
Tonight I am starting my deep dive into a bunch of witch-related adventures, many of which I would like to use with my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

The adventures will come from the various versions of D&D and the retro-clones in the OSR. They all have or feature witches in them.  Sometimes these witches are the antagonists, other times they are allies or even friends. The point is to show this rise in witch-related activity.  The players would see this rise but only later learn the reason is that the High Witch Queen had been murdered and now the witches are running wild.

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

The Coven

PDF. 45 pages. Black & White cover and B&W and color interior art.

This is a 0-level or 1st-level "adventure". In fact the adventure covers creating a coven of new "witches" (1st level magic-users).  There are a lot of random tables to help generate these characters including their background, patrons, enemies, and more for these witches. You also generate the lands and homes of these witches and their enemies.

This book is designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but that is close enough to B/X that you can use that or OSE instead. 

I say "adventure" in quotes because there is not an adventure here. There is a setup for future adventures and there are plenty of ideas here to create your own. But no "going to point A to point B and kill monster X."

What it might lack (and I don't think it is lacking) in structure it makes up for in style and detail.

For Use in War of the Witch Queens

I would use this as a session zero for a future run of WotWQ (right now my characters are around 3rd level) but this would be a fun start.

Instead on 1st level magic-users I would use my witches, with a random table to also help choose their tradition.  

For Use in NIGHT SHIFT

So this is set up for LotFP, but with some tooling, I could make it work for a modern-age NIGHT SHIFT game. Certainly something for Ordinary World or even Generation HEX.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

New Release Tuesday: Blue Rose Six of Cups

I have been waiting a bit to share this one with you all.  I have an adventure in the newest Blue Rose RPG book, Six of Cups!

Blue Rose: Six of Cups

Yes, that is my name at the bottom. 

I am quite excited about this really. There are a lot of great adventures here from a lot of great authors/designers.  Working with Green Ronin was a joy really. I am honored to have been able to contribute even just a small part to the World of Aldea.

My adventure, appropriately named "Witching Weather" deals with the birth of five children all of who have some sort of magical power and the forces of darkness that are closing in around them.

In addition to the adventure, I was given the privilege to add a bit more detail to the City of Garnet. 

I have seen the world of Blue Rose described as "fantasy Seatle" which may or may not be true, but Garnet as I have written it is "Fantasy Alton, IL."  Alton is a blue-collar riverside town with some great history, some unexpectedly good restaurants, and the shadow of the Piasa Bird everywhere you go.  Vyon Bloodwing, one of the adversaries of the adventure, is my homage to the Piasa Bird.  

So grab this book. It has my adventure in it and a bunch of other great adventures and guides to lesser-traveled places in Aldea.  When you are walking along the "Riverwalk" or "Restaurant Row" in Garnet please don't forget to raise your drink, be it a hearty stout or an equally strong tea, to both the Sovereign and the famous Admiral Celeste Vorcolio. Both the pride and joy of Garnet.  

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Review: The Traveller Adventure (1983)

The Traveller Adventure
The Traveller Adventure is the companion piece to The Traveller Book I reviewed earlier.

I always wanted this book. It would have looked so great next to my Traveller Book. But more importantly it would have given me some more ideas of what to do with Traveller.  At least Traveller was better for me than Star Frontiers, which tended to be D&D in Space.

I did pick this up on DriveThruRPG as a PDF almost as soon as it came out. 

This book (well. the cover) was my first experience with the Vargr.

The Traveller Adventure (1983)

For this review, I am using the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  154 pages, color cover, black and white interior art with red ink accents.

This book is a collection of connected adventures which today would be called an Adventure Path.  See I told you Traveller was ahead of its time. 

The conceit of the adventures is the player characters are all members of the merchant vessel, the March Harrier, where they befriend a Vargr (a fantastic way to introduce an alien species btw) and leads them on a series of adventures.  Additionally, we (or me rather, it could have shown up earlier in another book) were introduced to the Spinward Marches, the frontier of the Imperium.  Even someone only tangentially familiar with Traveller has heard of the Spinward Marches.

So yeah already a lot in this book.

The book begins with all this information as well as background on the Aramis Subsector and some Referee notes.  These notes include details on the overall plot and what all the major NPCs want. There are even some Pre-Gen characters to use.  Seriously. This thing is so much better than I expected it to be.

There are about a dozen and a half or so adventures here of various sizes and types.  Each moves the plot forward in a different way and each can have an effect on the other.  They did not appear to be overtly linear to me, so there is a lot freedom of how these can be used.

There are also deck plans for the March Harrier and a bit on using Vargr as player characters.

There is just so much information here and just so much of value that I am really kicking myself for not getting this back then.  It really would have changed my Traveller experience.

Reading through this now I also really get an appreciation for how deep and rich the Traveller lore is.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Review: The Witch-Queen's Lament (OSRIC Adventure)

The Witch-Queen's Lament
A couple of weeks back I noticed a posting in one of the Greyhawk groups on Facebook about a new adventure. It was called The Witch-Queen's Lament so you know it immediately had my attention. The adventure was designed for OSRIC and had an old-school module look and feel to it.  I didn't know much about it to be honest, but I was sure I was going to get it.  I went over the publisher's website, casl Entertainment, and bought a copy of the PDF and perfect bound softcover.  While I was predisposed to like it, getting the PDF made me quite excited for it.

The Witch-Queen’s Lament

An adventure for character levels 6-9 (70,002 total experience points) for OSRIC or compatible games. PDF and softcover available, 95 pages.

This adventure is "compliant" (I think "compatible" is the word they want, it is "compliant" with the OGL) with OSRIC.  This really means it can (read should) be used with AD&D 1st Edition.  It will work with other games too, but more on that.

This adventure is designed for Tournament play. That is why we have the 70,002 XP value on it and there is a tournament scoring sheet.  IF you wish to play this adventure with tournament rules and scoring my advice is do not change anything about it.  I have run a few tournament adventures with scoring and this one feels like it put together well. My concern would only be can you fit it into the four-hour time slot?  I am 100% certain that author Carlos A.S. Lising has and has done so many times.  I am not sure *I* could do it.  That all being said I want to look at this from the point of view of a campaign, and my War of the Witch Queens campaign in particular. 

So let's start back at the beginning.  This adventure was the official Tourneyment adventure for GrogCon 2021.  Looking over their catalog it looks like they have run a few adventures at other old-school cons as well.  This bodes well.  The adventure was written by Carlos A.S. Lising, with cover and interior art by Daniel Govar, and cartography from Glynn Seal.  Carlos A.S. Lising is a huge fan of module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth which is also one of my favorites. This makes me optimistic for this adventure.

Now when this was announced for sale there was a little bit of wailing from the usual suspects in regard to the module code, G2, on the cover.  With many complaining that this was not really G2.  Sorry but the TSR G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl is over 40 years old now and neither TSR nor Gygax owned the letter G.  I am sure the G, in this case, stood for "GrogCon."  If this bugs you, be like Elsa and let it go.

On to the adventure proper.  We learn right away that the eponymous Witch-Queen is none other than "Natasha the Dark" aka Tasha, aka Tashanna, aka Zyblina, aka Iggwilv herself!  Ok. You now have my undivided attention.  We get a bit of backstory on Natasha the Dark including her becoming a Daughter of Baba Yaga, and her sisters Vasilisa (Elena) the Fair and Anya the Plain.  Anya is going to be our focus here since she has gone missing with Natasha's matryoshka doll. This was no ordinary doll, this nesting doll held a bit of Natasha's soul/life force and has kept her immortal for centuries.  Natasha, it a bit uncharacteristic token of love, gave the newly enchanted doll to Anya for safe-keeping, knowing her sister would love it and cherish it. The side effect has been that as long as Anya has the doll she will also be immortal, just stuck in the form of a 12-year-old girl.

The doll, and Anya, has now been stolen and IggwilvNatasha needs you all to get it back.

As far as adventure hooks goes this one is a good one.  The doll is in the hands of an evil Wizard named Andrei Anazinov who knows it is special and knows Anya has never aged. He trying to discover its secrets.  So get the doll before the wizard figures out Natasha's immortality.  The adventure overtly makes it about saving Natasha's immortality, but as you read it the real reason is also uncovered, the ancient Witch Queen still loves her little sister. Undoing the immortality would be bad for Natasha, but it is also likely she has many safeguards in place.  It would however kill Anya outright.

I don't want to go too much deeper than this in case potential players read this.  It is a MacGuffin search, but a fun one and a chance to interact with one of the more notorious characters in D&D lore.

Comments on the Adventure

A few comments.  I can completely understand why Natasha wants the doll and Anya back.  I even understand why she wants good adventurers to do it.  I am not sure why someone of Natasha's caliber would a. let the adventurers know who she is and b. what the doll is.  It seems to me that good or evil the party might want to hide or destroy the doll to stop an evil witch queen.  When I run this I am going to need another reason.

The maps are great. I am glad I have to PDF to print them out on my own.

There are some cool new monsters (a must in any adventure) and magic items.  There is even a pronunciation guide. 

New Monsters

One nitpick. None of the pages have page numbers on them. Seems a touch odd, but I can deal.

Sixteen pages are given over to the 8 pre-gen characters.  So that is nice.  There are also tournament scoring sheets.

Adapting for War of the Witch Queens

I bought this adventure with idea of adapting it over to my War of the Witch Queen campaign.  This is not the first "Witch Queen" adventure I have bought, nor will it be my last I am sure.   The fact that it includes Natasha/Iggwilv just makes it more perfect to be honest.

War of the Witch Queens

So here are my changes.

I am not running this as a tournament since I am going to be using OSE-Advanced Fantasy for it. There will be some more tweaks for the rules, but I think it is going to work out just fantastic really.

Natasha/Iggwilv is not going to let the adventurers know who she is or why she wants the doll back.  I am going to have her disguise herself as Elena the Fair and "Elena" will be hiring them to rescue her sister Anya. This way she feels she is not lying about her mission.  In the end, Anya will out "Elena" as Iggwilv, but the terms of their agreement will remain.  Maybe Vasilisa the Beautiful will show up to take Anya.  I have Elena and Vasilisa as two separate characters. 

I love the whole Russian feel to all of this, but I am going to take out Andrei Anazinov and replace him with Kelek.  Kelek has had some dealings with Iggwilv already and he is the "big bad" of the War of the Witch Queens.  I need an adventure to get him in front of the PCs instead of making him a behind the shadows guy.  Andrei is a 14th level wizard. I made Kelek a 15th level magic-user/necromancer.  Also in my games Kelek is looking for ways to make himself ever young, he thinks Anya (not the doll) is the answer.  Kelek is a misanthrope, so kidnapping and experimenting on a little kid is kinda on-brand for him So this all fits.  

Plus I have these great minis to use

There might be other little tweaks along the way. More winter wolves and worgs to be sure. I am certainly going to steal ideas from the newer 5e versions of Iggwilv and Kelek and I am also going to steal ideas from the Pathfinder Witch War series.

The Witch Queens at War

There are more adventures on the casl Entertainment website. Including one, C11 - When Comes the Witching Hour, that looks like it could be Iggwilv on the cover.  So I am going to need to check that one out as well.  Just watched this video and yup, looks like it is! I have to go get it now.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

ENnies Voting is now Open

The annual ENnies awards is now open for voting and as usual, there are a lot of great choices to vote for, or at the very least shop for.

I might get into my picks later on (have to see how long voting is) but for today I want to focus on one particular book and maybe convince you to consider voting for it.

Up for Best Adventure and Best Cartography is Halls of the Blood King for Old-School Essentials

Halls of the Blood King

I reviewed Halls of the Blood King last month and frankly, I loved it.  So it is great seeing it get some official recognition.  It would be even great if it wins.

It has some serious competition, in particular from the Alien RPG adventure.  But keep in mind that OSE is still largely a one-man operation of Gavin Norman.  Alien and Free League is a more traditional publisher.  So to say that OSE and Blood King are punching well above their weight class is not hyperbole. 

So, if you can make the time, give HotBK a vote for both Best Adventure and Best Cartography.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Review: Old-School Essentials Adventures

One of my fondest memories of gaming has to be the Summer of 1982 playing this weird-ass hybrid of AD&D first ed and D&D Moldvay/Cook B/X. I think I played every weekend to be honest.

While a lot of games have come really close to this feel, the one that now comes the closest has to be Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old-School Essentials Adventures

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE.  I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online.  I went back to them and you know what?  They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG.

Both books are 48-page, full-color books. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps.  The books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes
The Incandescent Grottoes
by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme. 

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG *could be* like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then.  What do I mean?  Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to. 

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure.  There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end!  Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough.  There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld. 

A bit about the name.  I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t."  I am sure this is intentional.

Halls of the Blood King
Halls of the Blood King
by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score.  And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish.  I mean that in the most positive way. 

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.  

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft.  I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here.  This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier.   For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  This would work out well since I am using OSE for that.  The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now!  But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life.  While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Elf Lair Games / NIGHT SHIFT at GaryCon XIII

I will admit it.  I kinda take GaryCon for granted.  It's a fun con and it usually happens around my kid's spring breaks and it is only about an hour-long drive.  We can go there, play some games and sleep in our own beds afterward.

 Well, leave it to this pandemic to let me know what got once it is gone!

This year I, along with the rest of Elf Lair Games, will be running some NIGHT SHIFT games for Ethereal Gary Con XIII

Gary Con

This year I am running NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars along with Elf Lair Games founder Jason Vey and Derek Stoelting (one of our long-time collaborators from our Eden Studios days).

Registration for badges is ongoing, event registration has begun for some badge holders and will open up next week.

Here are the games we are running.

SPECTOR DETECTORS!

Spector Detectors! is my game.  Here are some details.
You are the SPECTOR DETECTORS! The hottest ghost hunting channel on FaceTube! Or at least you will be, one day. Right now you are busy checking out every reported haunted house in the tri-county area. Your team knows that the ghosts are fake, with a little bit of technological know-how and some good-sounding esoterica. You hope your next assignment, the historic Willow Crest Manor, will be your ticket to internet fame, glory, and plenty of advertising impressions.

Let’s Get Detecting!

This introductory NIGHT SHIFT game is run by RPG co-designer Tim Brannan.

Event Number 1026
Saturday at 2:00 PM (Central Time)
Hosts Timothy S. Brannan (1749)
Room 04 - Fate of the Norns Room
Duration 3 hours
Here are all the other games running as well.

Blood of the new moon

Blood in crescent city

dancing in the ruins

I wish I could play them all, to be honest.  It has been YEARS since Derek, Jason and I have thrown dice together at a Con.  

Elf Lair Games

NIGHT SHIFT should appeal to fans of old-school games and modern supernatural/paranormal fiction fans.   Essentially if you like the work we all have done of previous games (Buffy, AFMBE, Ghosts, AA, and more) then you should enjoy this.

I'll post when the games are ready for registration.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Boxing Day: The World of Mayhem Campaign

A couple of weeks ago I posted about getting my 7th adventure from Mark Taormino's Dark Wizard GamesDread Swamp of the Banshee.  It is a great bit of fun and I can't wait to run it.  

I also know exactly what I want to do with them.


The World of Mayhem Campaign and I am going to run it using B/X rules, likely OSE Advanced Rules

OSE Advanced gives me the B/X rules I adore along with some of the rules from the Advanced era I want AND some additional options that were not available to me in either.   


Organizing the adventures from the lowest level to the highest you get a great spread from levels 1 to 14, perfect B/X and OSE levels.


I have talked about this in the past with the first five adventures, but the newer three only support this plan even more.

Arranged like this:

It makes solid coverage of levels 1 to 14.  If anything an adventure for levels 2 to 5  might be good.

With the addition of their Monsters of Mayhem #1, it makes for a full campaign.

I know the feel of these adventures is very much in the spirit of 1st Edition AD&D as well as the OSRIC rule set.  But for me, my "gonzo" gaming years were with B/X.  The rules of B/X were much looser than Advanced and these adventures really need a lighter hand on the rules.

I am thinking of also adding some material from Pacesetter's B/X RPG rules, in particular some of the classes.  Plus the B/X RPG rules play well with OSE, so that is reason enough to use them.  Plus I enjoy combining Palace of the Vampire Queen: Castle Blood from Pacesetter with Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen for a full saga of the Vampire Queen.


I have now run Vampire Queen for Basic, 1st Edition, and 5th Edition versions of D&D.  I think Basic was my favorite experience. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mail Call: Dread Swamp of the Banshee

Mark Taormino has done it again (8 times the charm!) and I got my new adventure in the mail today.


Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee came in the mail today.  I have had the PDF for a little bit now and I am really looking forward to running this one!

If you enjoyed the previous adventures in this series, like I have, then you know what to expect here. 



If you love the old-school style modules but want something that is just "a little more" then I highly recommend these.

One day my plan is to run these all with some flavor of B/X since the adventures top out at 14th level.  Though the adventures are very much in the 1st Ed D&D vein and not really "Basic", it's what I want to do with them. 

Maybe when the Advanced books for Old-School Essentials come in I'll revisit this idea.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D. 


There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin.  So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules.  This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of HorrorsS2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit.  The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more. 

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn.  The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10.   I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure. 

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters.  The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon.  The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain.   A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and  Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there. 

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza.  She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out.  Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more.  Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual.  There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above.  Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D.   This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.  

This was classic AD&D at the end of its 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.

If you want to play it for 5th Edition D&D then the team over at Classic Modules Today has made a 5e conversion

There are also maps you can print out with DM's notes.

And other realistic maps also for printing

The Sequels

The first true sequel to this adventure was WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (though no WG1-3 were made*). This was published the same year and dealt with a Temple of Tharizdun. It was designed to be played right after S4 and used the same wilderness map.  The adventure fits in well enough. I justified in my games by saying that Iggwilv, like Tsojcanth before her, chose this area due to its arcane and eldritch properties.  The adventure also has a wealth of information on the World of Greyhawk and Tharizdun.  All of these will be explored later in Gary Gygax's novel series about Gord the Rogue

S4 and WG4 would also get a review in White Dwarf #44 and both get 9/10 from Jim Bambra. He calls them the last of the Golden Age adventures.

*The rumor is that WG1 was Village of Hommlet, WG2 Temple of Elemental Evil and WG3 was The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Tsojconth in the original.


Another sequel of sorts was The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Published much later in 1995 for 2nd Ed AD&D and written by Lisa Smedman, this adventure was labeled "S5" but it never appears in any of the classic reprints of the S Series adventures.  While the connection is little more than any of the other "S" series, there is the connection of Iggwilv, then Tasha as the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga.  Lisa Smedman would also work on Ravenloft and ShadowRun. Some Ravenloft monsters make their way into this adventure.


Yet again another sequel, this time for 3.5 D&D, was published in 2007.  Iggwilv's Legacy was published in Dungeon Magazine in October 2007 and appeared for free on Wizard's of the Coast website well into the 4e era. Sadly no longer available, it added another level to the caverns to explore, The Hollow of the Horn, the areas left behind by Tsojancth himself with the implication that even Iggwilv was afraid of these areas. The adventure and the additions were converted and updated to 3rd Edition.  I ran this version for my family at their first Gen Con in 2009.  Here we meet the half-demon  archmage Tsojcanth and his vile witch mother Vilhara.


The Reprints

As part of the much-loved S-series, the Lost Caverns of Tsojanth has been reprinted twice.  Both times bundled with the other three S-series adventures.

The first reprint was called Realms of Horror and it was all the S-series adventures combined into a loosely tied together "Super Module" that was all the rage in the late 80s.  All the maps were reprinted in a small booklet and personally, I found them harder to read.

The second reprint was the more faithful reprint from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons of Dread, in 2013. 


The Original Tournament Adventure

The original tournament adventure, the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (note the spelling) appeared at the Wintercon V game convention in 1976.  This would have been akin to a playtest version of AD&D.  Also Iggwilv is described as being dead, and male.

While the adventure does not feature the wilderness areas, the caverns seem to have a more mystical bent to them, with the center "nexus" described as the connection point between worlds to help explain all the new and weird monsters in it.  It would make sense, to be honest, and help explain why Tsojcanth and later Iggwilv possessed it. 

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth.

The era of 1976-1978 was an interesting time and lead to some interesting styles of play.  We had the Holmes Basic Set and the B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) adventure out and we had the AD&D Monster Manual.  This Holmes + Monster Manual actually became the game of choice for many.  I would later play this same hybrid of D&D/AD&D in 1979.
Likely as a way to replicate that Demos Sachlas/Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius recreated the original tournament adventure, along with some descriptions from the full 1982 S4 adventure and reformated it to fit the style of B1 to give us a "Holmes version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."  This adventure is a tight 16 pages with two more pages for maps.  It feels like a late 70s offering.  Reading through it I do get the feeling that B1 and S4 could be bookends of a classic 70s adventure series.  All it is missing a nice monochrome cover.  I might need to mock one up someday.

Greyhawk Online has a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 Tsojconth and the 1982 Tsojcanth.

If you want to buy your own Noble Knight Games has one on sale for only $7,195.50. If you are worried that is overpriced it does come with the original zip-lock bag. 

Playing in Hyperborea

Normally at this point in my Revisted posts I would talk about using this adventure with other games.  But instead, I think I just want to focus purely on Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

A while back I posted about HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron, a Hyborian Age reskinning of S4 from the Hyborian Age site dedicated to the d20 Conan RPG.  They have a lot of adventures including some reskinned ones on their Adventures in the Hyborian Age page.  But it is S4 that interests me today.

Combining this idea with the Holmes flavored Tsojconth above you could have a perfect game for AS&SH.  The idea came to me while reading Eric Fabiaschi's Swords & Stitchery blog.   He even pointed to me that he had done exactly this. 

The pulp sensibilities of Gygax's adventures comes through in S4 with vampires in lost temples, ancient eldritch forces, and strange creatures from beyond.  Pairing this with AS&SH and the Lost Caverns of Acheron turns it up to 11 as it were. 


With its history of magic, archmages, witch queens, vampires, and demons it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite adventures. Like B1, it is one I like to come back to again and again. 

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.