Monday, November 30, 2015

Retro- Review and Commentary On U3 The Final Enemy For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

U3 The Final Enemy is a rip roaring conclusion to the Sinster Secret of Salt Marsh U series of modules. These modules are dark and pulpy sort of weirdness that you just don't find in today's modules. But there's more to the waters of U3 The Final Enemy.

U3 The Final Enemy is the last in the U series of adventure module for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons; it represents the last of the trinity of adventures in this series.  It has a lot to offer in terms of page count and gritty sword and sorcery content. That's one of the secrets of the U series that they have a totally different feel to one another in terms of goals and getting the adventures into the deep end of the events surrounding Saltmarsh.

This module has a totally different tone to many other AD&D first edition modules, not only is there the back drop of the events of the Secrets of Saltmarsh but now with the events of Danger At Dunwater at the PC's backs events are reaching the height of their apex in Saltmarsh's bloody waters. This adventure is for PC's of levels three through five and make no mistake one miss step and your party will be shark bait. Wiki has a pretty damn good break down of the plot from an outside the adventure's perspective; "After identifying the evil creatures, which have massed in force and viciously organized as a threat to the village of Saltmarsh, the player characters have the opportunity to thwart the creatures' plans and ensure the safety of the little town. The Final Enemy is an underwater quest to penetrate the lair of a species of fish-like monstrous humanoids called sahuagin."  Right off the bat U3 contains rules for underwater adventuring and combat; and the adventure has the gritty feel of a full blown military operation and investigation with the PC's not only looking into the strengths and weaknesses of the forces that have circled around them since U1 but lizardmen allies of the PC's are there to help move the adventure along. You might think that U3 is only for higher level PC's but that's where you'd be dead wrong there are several potions of water breathing scattered throughout U3 and a wand of polymorph to help the PC's get into their ultimate goal, the underwater lair of the Sahuagin.

There are several key factors with U3 The Final Enemy, this is one of the most Lovecraftian AD&D module of the U series involving a very alien and weird enemy in the form of the sahuagin which over the years I've converted into Deep Ones when running the U series with the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea retroclone rpg system. Not only are these creatures incredibly dangerous but the U series had a grim and nasty streak that suited the climate of this underwater adventure location.

Foolish PC's are going to get themselves slaughtered in the underwater environs of the monsters and there are several weird variations of the sahuagin to contend with including the iconic four armed version and several places in the adventure where running can ensure that your PC's are going to live. The adventuring climate of  The Final Enemy is one that dovetails very nicely into the back end of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill. The reason I say this is because L1 more of a mini-setting than an adventure, offering several adventure locations, events, and NPC's that can be dropped right into  The Final Enemy for even more expansion of the adventure.

The Final Enemy is gritty, action packed, and shows off several features that would come to dominate other modules in different ways. The idea of investigation over combat is one such conceit of U3 and that evil exists right under the PC's very feet in the communities. There are several cross references in U3 that tie the entire plethora of adventures of the U series together into a neat little whole of a mini campaign setting. Some notes about using this adventure series with the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea game. U3 presents a very unified and dangerous whole of an adventure. The 
sahuagin make excellent stand ins for Lovecraft's Deep Ones and they have wide variety of applications outside of this module and can be used to set up a cult within the environs of the Saltmarsh countryside.

After this particular adventure is done with a the PC's are ready to move on, there are several options that can be done to exploit the PC's involvement with the events of the U series and this includes taking the adventure elements and moving them around the countryside of Hyperborea add hock.
There is plenty of room to shift around the locations of the U series of adventures for Hyperborea, this is especially true of the Deep One infested areas of the map of that world. The technology levels, the grittiness, the Weird Tales style of backdrop of AS&SH all fit into the U series of adventure modules.
This very aspect of the Final Enemy is one of the things that allows the U series to blend into the background of the setting. It also makes this one of the must have adventures to convert over to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The weird pseudo historical setting of the U series enables it to be inserted into everything from LoFP to adding on and building upon several of the Lovecraftian principles of the modules .

U3 The Final Enemy has some incredibly evocative and iconic monsters, encounters, and strange NPC's that can still surprise jaded players of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This is one of the other strengths of the U series, that no matter how many times you play it there is more going on under the hood then most folks expect and its different every time. This makes U3 The Final Enemy a very well put together adventure that will have players coming back to the table again and again.

Free OSR Adventure Resource - An (un)Deathly Storm From Sacrosanct Games & Adapting It To The Lamentations Of The Flame Princess Rpg Systems or Your Old School Pseudo Historical Game Campaigns

An (un)Deathly Storm is a free pdf D&D style adventure that I stumbled across a few days ago, with a bit of work it can be turned into a touch stone for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign.Here's some of my thoughts on this adventure.


Its been a long while since I cracked open my copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Magic and Rules book. There haven't been many changes in my gaming habits really, I've simply become far more vocal about them on this blog. I don't have a ton of money to spend on gaming really, mostly I've come to adapt, twist and use a wide variety of resources that are really are low cost and on the cheap. This isn't a marketing ploy to get you to buy my book, or back my Kickstarter. Economics has over the years forced me to create and write my own adventures, monsters, etc. This is one of the reasons why I've stuck with OD&D, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess has struck a cord with me. I can use it for a wide variety of horror/dark fantastic adventures and the players come back to the table time and again.

Recently I was looking into a precursors adventure for either Death, Frost, Doom, or Better Then Any Man to run at the table. I needed something fast, interesting, and potentially deadly that could be dropped into my version of the dark fantastic Europe of peusdo historical Lamentations. For Better Then Any Man this might mean a dungeon in the adventure itself such as the Abandoned Farmhouse or Goblin Hill. Hmm that might not work that well. What about an unlikely adventure location that get's used and reused all of the time. In this case a German Inn right in the middle of the action. This sandbox is set in the ruins and aftermath of Karlstalt as the Swedish army coming through on its way for conquest against the Roman Catholic forces. Yes this adventure uses actual history as its backdrop using Catholic against Protestant forces.    Sacrosanct Games has a free adventure that could work very well as a Dario Agentio style zombie romp foreshadowing the events of Better Then Any Man called An (un)Deathly Storm. The plot is easy to run and fits the time table for Better Then Any Man.

For Death, Death, Frost, Doom, I simply made the main 'villain' of An (Un) Deathly Storm a survivor of another adventuring party. The fact that the stats are mostly standard Advanced Dungeons and Dragons isn't a problem for the experienced dungeon master here. There's a chart in the back of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Grind House Referee's Guide that can easily help you convert over the material from the (Un)Deathly Storm into Lamentations. After a night or two of going through this one page adventure then drop your party of adventurers straight into Death, Frost, Doom.

Death, Frost, Doom has the feel of a high octane dark fantastic pulp adventure romp and given the time and energy if the PC's survive can be a mini campaign unto itself. This is one of the strong points of Lamentations of the Flame Princess that against the ever changing horror adventure elements strong willed survivor PC's can win with a bit of luck and careful play. The (un)Deathly Storm adds in a new wrinkle to jump start a dark fantastic game and get the skulls rolling at your gaming table.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Retro - Review and Commentary On U2 Danger At Dunwater Adventure For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

There are adventures you never forget and adventures that during play come to bite you in the behind. Danger At Dunwater is a surprisingly well written but sparse adventure that plays like clock work and one that frustrates the hack and slash player and makes the party investigate the goings on of the Lizardmen they heard about in the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh U1.

Danger At Dunwater is the second in the "U' trilogies of adventures and pits the characters into the aftermath of  The Sinister Secret Of Saltmash adventure and meshes right into the front and back adventure plots U1 quite nicely.  Danger At Dunwater was designed for 6-10 characters of level 1-4 and it can be a mean little adventure. The PC's  must track down Lizardmen to their lair, to stop them from massing for an assault on the town of Saltmarsh.
But of course not all is as it seems, when you dive below the surface of Danger At Dunwater, the real enemies begin to reveal themselves for who they really are.

There's a bit of investigation, wilderness adventure and a fair amount of dungeon crawling in U2. There's also a creepy Lovecraft vibe running through the action in this adventure and yet I've had more then one hack and slash player complain of the lack of combat because they had to use their brains to figure the ins and outs of the goings on in Saltmarsh. Danger at Dunwater by Dave J Browne and Don Turnbull (TSR, Inc., 1982) is an adventure that builds on the events of Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh and then twists things around for the PC's.

Because of  the set up of the alchemist's mansion in U1& some of the items that the PC's have found and because I was running Sinister Secrets of Salt Marsh with the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg I inserted the map from Forgotten Fane of The Coiled Goddess adventure into the ongoing plot of the U series to keep the action going for the next leg of the campaign. I know that its an old trick but it worked and provided a much needed hook to keep the action moving along later. The action centers around the fact that the Lizardmen have been buying pretty advanced weapons for what authorities feel is the slaughter of Saltmarsh and its surroundings. Adventures from around this time were made to a pretty high standard and you've got NPC's and even the monsters with their own motives, personalities, and goals. They're not their to simply be slaughtered.

The town of Saltmarsh itself plays one of the central rolls in Danger At Dunwater and the dungeon master is supposed to flesh this town  adventure setting out for themselves. Now over the years I've heard of friends and other dungeon masters taking the town from The Secret of Bone Hill by 
Lenard Lakofka   using it as Saltmarsh and its environs. The adventure in and around the fishing port of Restenford which fits squarely into the plot and details of Danger At Dunwater. There's a very nice little thread about combining these two classics together on Dragon's Foot. Can it be done and should it be? Well in my humble opinion, yes its easily accomplished and yes it does work. The process really enriches the events of the U series of adventures and gives the events of The Secrets of Bone Hill a resonance with players that helps to build a mini campaign in the regions of Greyhawk. It also feeds into the flavors of both Dunsany and Moorcok that the U1 and U2 seem to echo with. The U series really has the British sense of the gritty fantasy that would later come to hallmark the UK series of TSR modules. They're distinct in some ways, they have a far different feel then other TSR modules from the time.

So rather then spoil the adventure plot lines of the U series I wanted to take a moment to really address some of the reasons why I keep using AS&SH for running the U series. The level of the PC's for the
FORGOTTEN FANE of the COILED GODDESS is  four to six characters of 5th through 7th level.  By running the PC's through the U adventure series the adventurers are ready to tackle the hazards and weirdness of the Forgotten Fane. They're not going to balk at some of the hazards of this module. The sea themes of  Danger At Dunwater and Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, speak of far off lands, tales of old sailors, and the lore of lost islands. This is exactly the sort of vibe that the Coiled Serpent goes for. By simply changing out the real enemy of the U series for Lovecraft's Deep Ones you have a deeper tie in for AS&SH. Something very simple that makes all of the difference in the world. This module could also easily be adapted with a bit of conversion work into Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The gritty feel of the adventure, how it handles magic and some of its low level adventure elements are ideally suited for LoFP's no nonsense approach to OSR adventure gaming. The amount of treasure should also be adjusted for both retroclone systems. Sometimes with these adventures less is more.

 For myself once the events of Danger At Dunwater are wrapped up the party is ready to advance to U3 The Final Enemy and we'll go over that one sometime in the next day or so. If you haven't gotten in on Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea's adventures now is deffinately the time to do so. Jeffery Talanian has a sale going on,"For my gaming pals out there, my small press RPG outfit, North Wind Adventures, is having a 15% off sale on all in-print adventure modules. Stop by my website, and enter code BLACKFRIDAY15."

Danger At Dunwater is another high mark in a series of modules that helped to define a certain era in TSR. Do I think its worth playing and DMing still? Yes I do in spades.

Commentary on The Alpha Blue Kickstarter Play Test By Venger Satanis For Your Old School Space Opera & Science Fantasy Campaigns

So if your like me then you've probably been following the goings on of Venger Satanis's latest ventures in this case the evolution of his Alpha Blue Kickstarter. Well he's been doing a bit of test gaming with some of his friends in his retro gonzo interstellar space brothel. And the results look really impressive to say the least.

I don't know what it is about Alpha Blue but on a number of levels this place as adventure location appeals to me. Maybe because he's named it after The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue which is one of the early Eighties exploitative wave of porn films. Don't check that particular film out unless of course your a completest. But I digress from the excellent product that Alpha Blue appears to be shaping up to. This is the Blue Flamingo a ship that appears to be straight out of a Seventies space opera. 

Love the design of the ship and the details of it. You can see more below in the play test that Venger ran.

The Blue Flamingo is only a small part of the Alpha Blue experience, besides the space hookers, questionable morals, weird experiences there are some fantastic maps that have been revealed on the play test table. Monkey Blood Designs does some incredible work and I love what I'm seeing here.

Tim Virnig recent post about Alpha Blue was very interesting and peaked my attention span;
"This Saturday I am excited to play a beta-test run by +Venger Satanis using his new Alpha Blue setting.  Venger said he put together a bunch of new random tables that are taking GONZO to a new level. " The pictures that I saw from the play test did not disappoint. Alpha Blue is  as big as a city, so there's no shortage of wild escapades, interesting characters, lucrative opportunities, and naked throbbing pleasure.  Plus, there will be plenty of scenario seeds fleshed out for planet-side shenanigans.  And after seeing some of the photos I can honestly see the potential of this product as part of an on going campaign.

I can see Alpha Blue being a major jump off point for many OSR retrolclone games such as White Star or even X plorers rpg, or Hulks and Horrors
The backdrop of Alpha Blue makes it easily insertable into your favorite setting even as a back door into the interstellar landscape. Described as a '
Now decommissioned mental asylum, Alpha Blue is something akin to an interstellar whore house or "love boat", drifting from planet to planet, acquiring new talent, clients, and security.  It's as big as a city, so there's no shortage of wild escapades, interesting characters, lucrative opportunities, and naked throbbing pleasure. " its easy to see how this floating palace of flesh and sin could be a prime point for sci fi action, and to separate your PC's from their hard earned coin.

So here's some of the stats on the maps and diagrams  for both the Blue Flamingo and Alpha Blue itself according to Monkey Blood Designs "
Venger has used then in action, and they are now available to Kickstarter backers from the KS update.
Available in 600dpi files that will plot BIG.... that spaces tation will plot at 300dpi to 34"W x 44"H"

Workflow notes:
The background trace was built in Visio.
This was plotted to suit 17" x 22" paper size.
Inkwork was traced on the lightbox.
Inkwork was then scanned at 17" x 22" size
Scan was pulled into Photoshop where coloration and effects were added."

Given how Alpha Blue is such a draw as a location I can see this being added into an existing campaign to help flesh out some of the more interesting bits of interstellar adventure with a Venger Satanis twist. Venger has a proven track record with the gonzo and this should be a pretty damn interesting, sleazy, and twisted book. He's got a proven track record delivering the goods time and again. His influences are pretty well evident in even this small reveal of Alpha Blue. I really do envy the play testers. Some of the influences also reveal some of the possible OSR lead ins that he's got going to be putting into the background of Alpha Blue
;these include;" classic sci-fi TV and film inspiration to see me through... such as Blake's 7, (vintage) Doctor Who and Star Trek, Star Wars, Ice Pirates, Heavy Metal, Thundarr the Barbarian, Starchaser: the Legend of Orin, Flash Gordon, Blade Runner, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Dune, and dozens more. This makes Alpha Blue a perfect lead in for other old school or retro adventures. Alpha Blue could be used as a recovery place for those adventurers who venture into Carcosa via Lamentations of the Flame Princess.There might be a  few facilities of Alpha Blue that could easy the insanity that runs through your PC's minds and what's left of their souls after they get scrapped off of the landscape of Carcosa.

I can't wait to see how he's going to pull this one off and the ripples across the OSR with his latest creations.  Space brothels really are an untapped resource for both space fantasies and space opera adventures this product has the potential to be a really fun and weird OSR resource. He's also done a series of commercials for the  Crimson Dragon Slayer rpg  that are a hoot.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Retro - Review and Commentary On U1 The Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh Adventure For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

Desolate and abandoned, the evil alchemist's mansion stands alone on the cliff, looking out towards the sea. Mysterious lights and ghostly hauntings have kept away the people of Saltmarsh, despite rumors of fabulous forgotten treasure. What is its sinister secret?
So reads the back sleeve of UK1 of the Sinister Secret of Saltmash, written by Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull  this is the start of the U series of modules for its underwater adventure and one of the first  modules that I cut my teeth on in an AD&D adventure. "The module details a mysterious abandoned mansion at the edge of a town called Saltmarsh, and the secrets contained therein", I love how Wiki sort of details the plot of the module in a backhanded way but essentially its right. This is the first of the U1 series and they have a very different feel to the later Advanced Dungeons and Dragons  modules, some folks prefer the hands on style of the series because of weird atmosphere and different approach to its sorcerous elements. Magic is prevalent but not a replacement for the high fantasy setting. The adventure concerns the ghostly ship that has been terrorizing the town of Saltmarsh and haunted mansion of an evil alchemist.

Salt Mash is one of those adventures that folks either love or hate with a passion personally the 'U' series had a much more Earthly yet dream like horror movie feel to it. There have been many times I've run this bad boy and its always been interesting. The adventure elements of Saltmash are one part haunted mansion and one part fun house ride once again Wiki has a pretty good overview of the basic plot; "The first part is set in the town of Saltmarsh and deals with unraveling the secret of the haunted house that lies on the edge of town. The abandoned, dilapidated mansion of an evil alchemist has been the subject of rumors about hauntings and treasure."  Make no mistake this is a module that is intended to play around with the PC's perceptions and exceptions this is one of the reasons why its set out for five to ten players of first through third level.

This is one of those modules where the  PC's that were proved with the adventure came with magic items, this became a very entertaining way of making and expanding upon the fact that my players thought these PC's had been adventuring for quite sometime and there for had weapons. Shrugs, players often seem to fill in the details that they want in the back stories in a wide brush strokes for their PC's. All part of the charm of the old school. The Sinister Secret of Saltmash actually requires a good detail of investigation and for the PC's to keep their wits about them. There are several adventure details that can easily kill an inexperienced party of adventurers. PC's get to explore a damn dangerous haunted mansion and expand into several underwater locations.

U1 is the type of an adventure that they don't usual do any more. Part investigation and part adventuring with a large dash of sword and sorcery thrown into the mix of U1. But even today this adventure plays pretty damn well. Part of U1's strength is that it will handle both a smaller group of players or that includes a large number of 1st level players. There is very little that can break the sense of adventure in Sinister Secret of Saltmash. The town itself is easily
which the DM can design from the guidelines provided.

"The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is the first installment in a series of three modules designed and developed in the United Kingdom, for beginning adventures with AD&D rules" and according to Wiki this is one of those modules that can easily keep up with the demands of today's players. The module U1 is one of those adventures that can easily be translated over into a retroclone system like Astonishing Swordsmen and of Hyperborea in which the town of Saltmash was a casualty of the Green Death and its never quite recovered from the plague. The adventure is one that suits the over ridding feeling of dread in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This module leaves the guidelines for the creation of the town up to the DM giving a bit more latitude to customize to create the adventure to the needs of their players.

Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh isn't perfect but it has a certain something with its haunted mansion that echoes another time bringing the PC's face to face with a variety of mysteries that require some thinking outside of the narrative to figure out what's going on, besides who could resist playing around in a haunted mansion that belonged to an alchemist for rumored treasure. Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an excellent introduction for low level adventurers and a module that deserves to be taken out once in a while for a spin. It has many of the classic elements of AD&D built into the back end of the adventure.

Free OSR Adventure Resource - The Lost Lady From Sacrosanct Games For Your Old School Campaigns

So before we begin I've been reading on G+ & Facebook about my review, actual play and adaption of the Palace of The Silver Princess Thanks all of that but part of the problem is just dropping your party of adventurers into the middle of dark fairy tale weirdness is that sometimes you need a mid point adventure that can introduce your adventurers to some of the conventions of the dark fairy tale. Don't worry there are several options out there that can help to do exactly this. The Lost Lady is an old school one page adventure design that can easily introduce your players into the deep end of the forest or fairy tale as you see fit as the DM.
Grab It Right HERE

This adventure features several adventure elements that can help to flesh out a brief introduction into a dark or even a Gothic dark fantasy adventure. There are some quick monsters encounters that could be spill over from from a nearby adventure location to this adventure to work as stop gap from your current campaign and into a transition adventure with your PC's taking part in the events of The Lost Lady. I don't want to go too much into the adventure but there are several key reasons why I chose this adventure to write about. Right from the Drivethrurpg blurb:

* Meant to be one-off sessions whenever something comes up that you can't do your main campaign
* generic in listed stats to be compatible with most versions of the most popular RPG with little conversion needed.
* a quick, low prep adventure for whenever the desire to game grabs you
But is this a good adventure for a sort introduction  fodder into a dark fairy tale style of campaign? In a word yes but there are a few things that need to happen.
A. The monsters need to be spun in a slightly different style, think Bryan Ford here and less Monster Manual. B. Adjust the monsters so they fore shadow the monsters your party of adventurers will later encounter. C. They can't too deadly or your player's greed will not over come their sense of preservation for their PC's. This is something that alot of dungeon masters forget about; players somehow always feel connected to their player characters and they don't like having them killed off. Even if its by their own hands,no especially by their own hands. This is a conceit that seems to escape many new school players who venture down the dark paths of the old school. Anyhow,  The Lost Lady  is very well laid out, doesn't spare any fluff on extranious stuff. You get the whole adventure plot line in a quick nut shell and then you get several options for your table. These details make this thing go off like clock work making this a great adventure to run with Advance Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition. This adventure is one that I've also used as fast filller or a mid point stop gap for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The background of this adventure became part of some of the victims of the Green Death. Read the adventure then you'll under stand. By twisting the monsters and NPC stats this adventure became a part of a Lamentations of the Flame Princess encounter fore shadowing both the events of Tales of The Scarecrow & Lamentations of the Ginger Bread Princess. The survivors of all of these were later on drawn into A Red And Pleasantland but that's a story for another day. Grab this one and get going onto a jump off point into a twisted fairy tale campaign of your own design.

Friday, November 27, 2015

1d6 Dangerous Random Weird Western Encounters Table For Your Old School Campaigns

There are times when out in the badlands and wastes of the trails that worlds intersect with each other; dimensional intersections, gate ways to ancient Hells, and all manner of other worldly hi jinks can cross the paths of adventurers, outlaws, cowpokes and ordinary folks out on the trails. Here are six weird encounters of dangerous aspect to confound and terrorize your players
1d6 Dangerous Random Weird Western Encounters Table
  1. 1d8 horned demon warriors out to retrieve the a herd of sky going demonic Stench cows belonging to a minor demon lord. They will see if they can snare an innocent soul or two to take back into the Abyss! 
  2. A red dragon on the hunt for a lone traveler or an easy mark for prey; he's on the hunt for a thief who has stolen a piece of artwork from his lair down near the Mexican Texas border. He will offer a small portion of Aztec gold coins for information leading to the capture of this desperado. 
  3. A very pissed off dust devil that has been gated into this world from the Elemental plane of Air and wants to go home right now. It will attack anything that comes across it. 
  4. A ghost of an Indian brave who is looking for his brothers and sisters; actually this is a spirit fragment enslaved by  nearby lich for luring would be heroes to their doom. '
  5. A tribe of 1d6 scavenger ogres warriors and adventurers who fight at third level fighters  and are quite dangerous if crossed they are crossed. They ride mutant horses and use large caliber match lock rifles. 
  6. A tribe of 1d6 mutant morlocks on horse back armed with black powder rifles, side arms, and dark glasses on mutant horse back. They are looking for slave stock and trouble, they're also hungry and very dangerous.

Review & Commentary On The Free OSR Adventure Resource - OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure For Advanced Dungeons and Dragons First Edition or Your Old School Campaigns

I'm familiar with the Oliver Brothers OSR work and some of their material from around the web, they've been mentioned on Dragon's Foot and in a few places in old school circles. They're on my 'ones to watch' list of writers and designers for OSR materials. A bit of prefacing for this adventure I've been on the look out for several adventures that I can adapt and twist into Nineteen twenties and thirties style pulp adventures using an AD&D style system. With this in mind this bad boy clocks in at a great forty two pages of oriental adventure set in the ancient China of the mythological past. This adventure is for PC's levels six to eight and they do mean this. There are several key points in this module where players are going to have to do some very high end investigation work and figuring out of clue and tricks, what's going on with the legends, mythology, and more of the island.
The blurb from Dragon's foot reads something like this;

Rumors abound about the mysterious island that appears in the lake. Rumors about fabulous hidden treasure and deadly mist dragons. An adventure for character levels 6-8

This adventure follows the legends and mythologies of the White Snake but done in such a way as to accent the AD&D properties of that legend which has now become an adventure location of some pretty damn challenging obstacles. The brothers put their own spins on many of the traditional Chinese mythological elements and this module is also a bit of advertisement for their own campaign setting called Cannon fire. Since I've never played nor even seen Cannon fire I can only judge the module based upon its own merits.
The Oliver brothers apparently visited the Hangzhou, China province back in 2009 and really grew to love the legends of the White Snake. The basic legend according to Wiki; goes something like this:
"Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals, disguises himself as a man selling tangyuan at the Broken Bridge (斷橋) near the West Lake in Hangzhou. A boy called Xu Xian (simplified Chinese: 许仙; traditional Chinese: 許仙; pinyin: Xǔ Xiān; Jyutping: Heoi2 Sin1) buys some tangyuan from Lü Dongbin without knowing that they are actually immortality pills. He does not feel hungry for the next three days after eating them, so he goes back to ask why. Lü Dongbin laughs and carries Xu Xian to the bridge, where he flips him upside-down and causes him to vomit the tangyuan into the lake.
In the lake, there is a white snake spirit who has been practising Taoist magical arts in the hope of becoming an immortal after centuries of training and cultivation. She eats the pills and gains 500 years' worth of magical powers. She therefore feels grateful to Xu Xian and their fates become intertwined. There is another terrapin (or tortoise) spirit also training in the lake who did not manage to consume any of the pills; he is very jealous of the white snake. One day, the white snake sees a beggar on the bridge who has caught a green snake and wants to dig out the snake's gall and sell it. The white snake transforms into a woman and buys the green snake from the beggar, thus saving the green snake's life. The green snake is grateful to the white snake and she regards the white snake as an elder sister."  You can read more about it right HERE
 This module draws very heavily from the original Advanced Dungeons And Dragons book Oriental Adventures
I did a cross comparison with my copy of Oriental adventures first edition and it does work very well for that campaign style and the elements fit quite well, but this would not be my first choice to run this adventure. I'll explain why but first let me go over the some of the elements of OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure that I like.
On the plus side this adventure has some really well done NPCs, interesting locations, really need adventure set pieces for full scale investigation by the PC's, nasty hazards, and well done interludes. The brothers weave the action in and out of the legend with a flare for the dramatic incorporating the elements of AD&D in clever and more then slightly interesting ways. There's some wonky with the text and layout of the pdf, the lettering isn't quite right in place and there's a slight bit of run off. Now rather then completely give way what's going on in this adventure I'm going to run off again and talk about running this with other retroclone systems. Because of the slightly higher then normal level for OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure

The first thing that springs to mind is Mad Monks of Kwantoom by Kabuki Kaiser  which OB3 fits right into rather nicely. The design elements, legendary story and high legendary weirdness fit right into the backdrop especially when coupled with the Labyrinth Lord system and the advanced companion.  Because of the very nature of this adventure it can be dropped into any existing campaign in which the adventurers are traveling in an Orientalist setting. There's a very dangerous and dark fairytale like atmosphere that could work well with an advanced party of Lamentations of the Flame Princess group of adventurers who become ship wrecked upon the isle and its environs. I would use the island and its environs as an isolated other worldly adventure location and use some of the conversion materials that are in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee's Guide.

Other suggestions for running this adventure also come in the form of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or OSRIC. Personally, I'd use this adventure with AS&SH as a sort of Old Earth Chinese version of  an adventure setting that has drifted on the dimensional winds into the environs of Hyperborea. The PC's are definitely going to have to be advanced and of level enough to play ball with some of the adventure elements of OB3 The Legend of the White Snake. With a bit of heavy modification this adventure would suit the game quite nicely I think as a off beat but highly dangerous adventure.

All in all I do think that OB3 The Legend of the White Snake is well worth the download and is very well done for a high dangerous, weirdly mythological and weird Chinese legendary adventure with high level of play ability and old school gaming utility.

Retro - Review & Commentary On S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth For Your Old School Advanced Dungeons And Dragons First Edition Game Campaigns

I've been concentrating on Thanks Giving and hoping that yours was excellent dear reader, but to tell you the truth around the turkey and fixings I was quietly thinking about lost worlds and pulp AD&D style gaming. Maybe it was the post Thanksgiving meal  nap or desert but I began to dream about Drelzna, the vampiric daughter of long-deceased archmage Iggwilv. One of the biggest modules that had an impact on me was S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

"In the Yatil Mountains south of Perrenland there is rumored to be a magical hoard of unsurpassed value, a treasure of such fame that scores of adventurers have perished in search of it. Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage — if you live."
Cover blurb for The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

This was one hell of a module and introduced some of the new major players in the form of monsters, demon lords and more with its thirty two page booklet. It features on of my all time favorite Erol Otus covers which echoes the pulp Weird Tales stories that seem to populate Appendix N."The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is a revised and expanded version of The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth, a tournament adventure that Gygax wrote for WinterCon V, a gaming convention sponsored by the Metro Detroit Gamers (MDG) in 1976" but the module we all know and love was revamped for our hot little hands back in eighty two. This whole adventure revolves around the players investigating rumors of treasure, having a number of encounters some of which are very deadly, before they get to a two level dungeon and then they face down Drelzna, the vampiric daughter of long-deceased archmage Iggwilv. This is a deadly module and its meant for PC's of six to ten levels and make no mistake they mean it.  This module is set squarely within the world of Greyhawk and brought the PC's face to face with some really weird and wonderful wilderness encounters.

The plot of the module is classic TSR and revolves around several key points of Greyhawk history and has an atmosphere that weaves its own legends and mythology of the adventure's setting whist maintaining a feel that the PC's are both a part of the legends and at the edge of something very, very, dangerous. Here's the plot break down according to Wiki with some (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD);

"The introduction, with instructions that the Dungeon Master read it aloud to the players, outlines that there is a treasure in the Yatil Mountains south of the Greyhawk realm of Perrenland. The player characters must investigate rumors of a lost treasure that scores of adventurers have perished attempting to find.[2] The treasure is a remnant of the wealth amassed by the archmage Iggwilv,[2] former ruler of Perrenland, prior to her presumed death at the hands of the demon Graz'zt, whom she had "imprisoned and forced into servitude."[3]:2 The players must first traverse a wilderness area with 20 numbered encounters before arriving at the caverns. The encounters have names such as "Border Patrol" (encounter 1) and "Hill Giants" (encounter 10). After the wilderness are two lettered encounters: the "Gnome Vale", which includes a map for their lair, and "The Craggy Dells", where humans and orcs are capturing hippogriffs to sell.
Next, the player characters reach the caverns. They consist of the "Lesser Caverns" with 22 encounters, and the "Greater Caverns" with 20 encounters, each with its own map. The lesser caverns include encounters such as "Stinking Cave" (encounter 5) which contains four trolls and "Underground Lake" (encounter 14). The greater caverns include encounters such as "Uneven-Floored Cavern" (encounter 5) where the player characters face an umber hulk and "Canyon of Centaurs" (encounter 9). The 20th and final encounter is titled "The Inner Sphere". Here, a "woman sleeps on an alabaster slab." She is "armored from toe to neck in gold chased plate mail."[3]:29 The woman is actually Drelzna, a fighter/vampire and the daughter of Iggwilv. After defeating Drelzna, the players are rewarded with treasure, and the adventure ends"

This module for me was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons sword & sorcery at its finest, it introduced a ton of new demon lords, incredible new monsters and brought us face to face with some incredibly complex and dangerous dungeons. There is a weird tales, dark fairy tale feel to S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth as if we the dungeon masters and players were playing our parts in something that had legends had already played out long ago. The former servants of archmage Iggwilv are now pursuing their own agendas some of which later on came to bite my players in the behinds as wholly separate adventures. And now here's where this review is going to dive into other terrority. Recently I've run S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth with Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. It was a very interesting experience, the monsters, treasure, etc are all there but switching around many of the Greyhawk references were interesting. The module gave Hyperborea or my version of it a much more troubled history. With major demon lords, horrors, and other things crawling through the dungeon levels of S4, the environs are very dangerous indeed. We lost several PC's along the way to two of the wilderness encounters, a dungeon trap, the behir (one of my all time favorite monsters), the Derro claimed one lusty barbarian, and the players not only returned to the table but insisted on bringing another old PC to convert over to take on this beast of a module.

There are a great deal of iconic elements to AD&D players and this module highlights several of them in spades and then wraps the PC's into those for the kill deep in the story line of the adventure.

The Lost Caverns proved several things to me at once, that the PC's were suddenly caught off guard at the levels of the dungeons of S4, the wilderness encounters made the players very, very, nervous and that Gygaxian naturalism is in flux in certain wilderness encounters. Please bare in mind that these games because this module takes up a very long time of real world play. Also this was before many of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea modules were out. The players thought that the contents of S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth were the end of the world for their PC's. A fact that many of the demonic entities, Derro, and other horrors of S4 are powerful enough to reinforce this fact. S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth has its own internal logic and horror that highlights many sword and sorcery tropes in ways that the players are pull on and use themselves.

My advice to dungeon masters who are going to S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth with retroclone systems is to make sure that the PC's are robust enough in levels and stats to have a snowball's chance in Hell of getting through this module. The traps, monsters etc. are deadly enough to cause me to recheck several player's PC's and stats before beginning to play in the environs of S4. For me the big draw of this adventure is the entire package, the thirty page monster and treasure book with all of its wonderful little old school goodies including monsters, treasure, etc. but for me it was the adventure itself that wove a web of its own mythology and history that as a dungeon master you could build on to create your own branching campaigns into deeper old school campaign building.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

New Magic/Relic Item - Dr. Xavier's Eye Drops For Your Old School Campaigns

Dr James  Xavier was a brilliant scientist of his Earth who used a highly dangerous mutagen formula for altering the structure and capabilities of the human eye. This allows one to see well beyond the human capacity for human vision. The serum alters and refines the structure of the eye allowing one to see beyond the "visible" spectrum into the ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths and beyond.The drops must be used three times per day & there is a twenty percent chance of them reverting the user's vision to normal or if a save vs poison isn't made they could go permanently blind. The drops are worth 65,000 to 80,000 gold pieces due the expensive ingredients used in the preparation and manufacture of the formula.

The eye drops became central to the lives of the inhabitants of Earth once Xavier peered into the center of the universe and saw the unblinking eye of Azathoth. The eye of the great Outer God peered into the soul of Dr. Xavier and the Earth was found wanting. Dr. Xavier went mad and committed suicide but he left behind a legacy of research and scientific inquiry that would later help to be the Earth's salvation. Strange holes and dimensional anomalies began to appear world wide. Horrid invisible things began to rip people apart and some of these entities were just outside of normal reality.

This was a desperate time for humanity until the Pentagon's science & special weapons division remembered  Dr. James Xavier's body of work. The experiments began in earnest and the results were horrific. Seventy to eighty percent madness and suicide within three weeks of using the rarefied drops. The use of these drops requires a will of iron and nerves of steel. A wisdom roll is needed to stave off the worst of the mental effects as depression and mental strain begins to set in. Teams of soldiers and warriors were sent in with the 'Watchers' guarding their backs. Highly dangerous and experimental energy weapons were developed as a result of studying the invaders and production of the drops remained high.

The alien invaders were seemingly beaten back but the horrid truth was finally revealed. These invaders were actually only the advanced scouts marking the way for the return of their masters. This Earth was lost to an invasion of incalculable violence, insanity, and a twisted Apocalypse. But the genie was out of the bottle and Xavier's eye drops can be found throughout the multiverse. It takes a highly specialized laboratory of incredibly high standards to produce the drops. But there are several highly illegal ventures that still do and a few cults who use them as sacred sacraments for their worshipers. When found there are enough drops for a course of several months turning and twisting the eyes, perceptions and minds of those who use them.
'Watchers' advance as thieves on the experience tables as the drops ravages not only their eyes mutating and changing them but expands their minds in weird and twisted ways. In Mutant Future terms the PC gains not only increased sense, but also ultravision, xray vision, and thermal vision. Users must roll on the chart below twice for further effects. Wisdom rolls are needed every two weeks to not go mad from some of the insane and forbidden things the user has seen. The user must wear special wrap around glasses or they will be at a -5 on all rolls requiring visual input and stimulus.

1d10 Random Effects Under 
The Influence of Dr. Xavier's Drops Table
  1. The user gains the abilities of a crystal ball but none of the safeties they can peer into the near by astral plane for 60 feet but there is a 5% chance of something horrid noticing them. 
  2. The PC gains the abilities of a Vision spell five times per day and the physical toll does three points of sub dual damage to them 
  3. The user gains the abilities of a wizard's eye spell but also gains a madding vision of a possible alternative Hellish reality as well. Something has noticed him! There is a 4% chance it might be coming for him. 
  4. The PC gains the ability to see  any invisible creature or object within 60 feet of her and gains a +3 on any check for traps or hidden doors roll. 
  5. You gain the abilities of a spell of true seeing five times per day but there is a sense of paranoia that something is watching you. 
  6. You gain the ability to see into people's hearts and souls. You can tell if someone is possessed or being ridden by a supernatural entity. There is a 60% chance of these entities seeing you because of your pervading sight. 
  7. You gain the ability to see invisible creatures or objects normally, sees through illusions, and sees the true form of polymorphed, changed, or transmuted things. Further, the subject can focus its vision to see into the Ethereal Plane (but not into extra dimensional spaces). The range of true seeing conferred is 120 feet but these actions cause you great physical discomfort and your at a -5 on all of your rolls. 
  8. You can see the nearby planes of the newly dead and the prisons of ghosts within a 120 foot radius, they may notice you 30% chance and begin to haunt you.
  9. Your eyes perceive the world as energy emissions and light. You can see the patterns of magick and can undermine these patterns up to the fourth level. As a user you can make a dexterity check to foul up the delicate natures of magic spells and rituals in a 10 foot radius of you but your now more sensitive to the effects of magic and gain migraines from its use within a 40 foot radius of your location. 
  10. You gain the ability to see the true nature of the motives of people and can see the the webs of lies, deceptions, and self delusions of those around you. There is a 30% chance of being able to follow these twisted and convoluted threads to their sources. You have a 20% chance of knowing some minor but dire secret of a person of power or influence. This ability has turned you into a jaded and heartless person though.

This post was inspired by and a homage to X The Man With The X Ray Eyes, it is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to act as a violation of the copyright and trademarks of the holders for this classic film. None of the rpg makers or producers mentioned in this blog post are responsible for the contents of this blog. This my own creation and is not condoned by them in any way.