Tuesday, February 20, 2018

'Something Wrong', 'Something's Amiss' - A Twisted Arthurian OSR Campaign Commentary





Once again the underbelly of pop culture suggestions another avenue of adding in the gonzo into the backbone of a very different Lion & Dragon retroclone  campaign. I've been wracking my brains to add some of the OSR weirdness into the Lion & Dragon mix. Then I slipped in Army of Darkness into the blu ray. Army of Darkness is a horror  comedy classic from 1992 and its  turning twenty five & its pure Arthurian old school gonzo gold.


The film actually has elements of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court with Ash Williams  taking the place of a Yankee engineer from Connecticut named Hank Morgan. But for Lion & Dragon elements are far more pronounced with the action of the film taking place around 1300 A.D. on an alternative Earth. The Deadites are perfectly presented demonically possessed chaos undead who are spread by the Necronomicon Ex Mortis's influence. There are several other options available to the dungeon master.
In fact the actual ideas within 
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court 
could be used to port over some of the interesting elements of the book into a Lion & Dragon campaign or adventure.
  1. The PC's could be time displaced which gives the DM ample opportunity to add adventure elements as needed. 
  2. A demonic threat of chaos which might be not well known to the inhabitants of the land. This leads to the idea of the quest being a part of the adventure path itself lending a more mythological quality to the whole.
  3. The use of Morgana Le Fey as antagonist with Sir Mordred taking the central part of murderer of Arthur once again places the PC's front & center.
  4. Merlin is a dangerous element of the occult who sends Hank Morgan back to his own time via a suspended animation spell.
    On the whole it reminds me of Poul Anderson's Three Hearts & Three Lions in the fact that the hero has no real power over his destiny. He is a pawn send off by the cosmic forces of universe to deal with the greater evil only to return him to his own time once the evil is vanquished. 
  5. The Arthurian  wasteland is in full effect because of the inadequacy of the local leaders & the possible influence of the real grail.
    "In the Arthurian Grail material, the Wasteland's condition is usually tied to the impotence of its leader. Often the infirmity is preceded by some form of the Dolorous Stroke, in which the king is injured tragically for his sins but kept alive by the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King has been ."

Both Army of Darkness & 
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court 
play fast & loose with their Arthurian elements whist adding in modern technology. But even with comedic elements these pieces of pop culture still allow the epic hero to have his due. This same formula could be applied to the PC's. But can we warp this formula a bit for Lion & Dragon. The central lynch pin that holds all of this together that has to go is the Necronomicon Ex Mortis & instead we get a false Grail. B2 The Keep of The Borderland By Gary Gygax contains a great basic adventure outline that could be used as  a template for a whole campaign segment in this vein. Imagine if the film Army of Darkness was the merest echo of a campaign centered around the Keep of the Borderland module. Necromancers similar to the ones found in Clark Ashton Smith's Empire of Necromancers have been messing around the ruins of several classic cities on the edges of the France & Spain empire borders in the 1300s. There are rumors that the 'Holy Grail' has been found.


There is reason to believe that a dangerous demonic life forces has been let loose into the world & is taking over the corpses of  warriors & soldiers from recent battle fields. A coven of chaos worshiping necromancers has moved into the area & taken over 'the caves of chaos' resting place of the "grail". Here one of the many 'cauldrons of resurrection'  has been hidden centuries ago by Elven forces.  The PC's have been called from many different times to deal with this ancient hate of old. This cauldron summons 1d6 semi free willed undead from the depths of Hell each day under the 'command' of the necromancers. Once this number reaches a hundred or more the spell of the necromancers will be broken & a champion among the undead will rise. This cauldron was in fact one of the many artifacts of mass destruction of  the Elves back in the time before the pre Biblical flood.



Destroying the cauldron will restore the land & vanquish the evil infecting it. The power of  real 'Holy Grail' might in fact be responsible for bringing the party into conflict with the forces of Chaos.




This sort of a campaign even using time displaced PC's is going to be a bit of an investigative &  more then a little PC violence towards the foul forces of the 'damned'. Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos is going to be full focus for this sort of a mini campaign.  Even if the PC's manage to save the keep, wipe out the necromancers, close the portal Hell via the cauldron, & cleanse the land one of the bastards of chaos could escape enabling the damned to crawl back onto Earth. This might set things up for a full blown 'End Times' situation extending the campaign for more.




This blog entry is not an attempt to violate the copyright & trademark of the Army of Darkness films nor the character of Ash Williams. Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court is public domain. The makers of the Lion & Dragon rpg or Dark Albion are in no way responsible for the content or opinions of this blog. The contents and ideas are trade marked & copyrighted to the author & Dark Corner Productions.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Barsoomian Evaporated Ocean Nightmares With Thuvia, Maid of Mars By Edgar Rice Burroughs For Your Old School Campaigns

"A forbidden love, a base betrayal,  a tale of political intrigue, &  blood thirsty combat all set against the tides of Barsoomian warfare amid the dead sea bottoms and ruined city of Mars. "


An email request for more campaign information from dungeon master Chris, so once again I dug through my notes to talk about the fourth of the Barsoom novel series  Thuvia, Maid of Mars & how it relates to the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg. Thuvia Maid of Mars features the son of  John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and Dejah Thoris of Helium as the principal protagonist of the novel.


Art by James Allen St. John
from Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, McClurg, 1920.


This is a  'Carthoris' novel focusing on his romance with Thuvia, princess of Ptarth who is promised to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol. The real backdrop here is the diplomatic tension between Helium and Ptarth which are both prominent Barsoomian city state/empires because of Thuvia's engagement to Kulan Tith which only death can break but this death can't be caused by a new suitor. This situation goes out the window when Thuvia, princess of Ptarth is kidnapped! Here's where things get interesting as we get lots of details about the Barsoomian fliers when an auto pilot device and navigation system gets tampered with &  Carthoris finds himself in the unexplored & undiscovered south of Barsoom in the ruins of ancient city state of  Aanthor.
Here we are given our first taste of the Green hordes of Torquas whom are among the most dangerous of Green Martian war clans. Of course  Thuvia, princess of Ptarth & Carthoris of Heluim are reunited but can they stop all out war between two of the most powerful city states on Barsoom? Well you'll just have to go read it for yourself.



Art for Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, McClurg, 1920.


For a Warrior of the Red Planet dungeon master this one of the most essential books in the ERB canon. Why?! Because its one of the Barsoomian novels that contains many of the details on Barsoomian psychic abilities! These abilities transcend life & death itself in the form of the psychic abilities of the inhabitants of the lost city state of
Lothar. "Lother is home of an ancient fair-skinned human race gifted with the ability to create lifelike phantasms from pure thought. They habitually use large numbers of phantom bowmen paired with real and phantom banths (Barsoomian lions) to defend themselves from the hordes of Torquas."
Mind bullets artwork from the Warriors of the Red Planet rpg & used without permission.

So these are high level Mentalists with the ability to telepathically & psychically  project their own reality of Barsoom's past onto the present. The people of
Lothar are the  text book PC class mentalists bar none! The illusionary bowmen come to life and defend their ruined city. So is there enough room to squeeze into the events of Thuvia, Maid of Mars  a party of adventurers?!
Hell yes there is! A Barsoomian princess of the realm is missing! Thuvia, princess of Ptarth has been kidnapped and every royal & bottom feeder tribe of adventurers is going to be looking for her!  There are lots of opportunities to screw over parties of adventurers who get themselves lost on Barsoom!

There are several things about 
Thuvia, Maid of Mars   to remember :
  1.  We get lots of details about the background of Barsoom including city ruins, dungeons, and other underworld details that are glanced over in the novel. 
  2. The wickedness of  Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol is only touched on & there's plenty of other secrets that this Jeddak could have hidden in the underworld. 
  3. Treasures, artifacts, etc. from the city state of
    Lothar are just waiting to be plucked out by worth adventurers. 
  4. We have lots of opportunities for mercenary adventurers to take full advantage of the racial division of Barsoom and make a killing because there is a vast Barsoomian underworld  just waiting to be exploited, the dwindling resources are just waiting to be fleshed out;
    "A million years before the narrative commences, Mars was a lush world with oceans. As the oceans receded, and the atmosphere grew thin, the planet has devolved into a landscape of partial barbarism;[13] living on an aging planet, with dwindling resources, the inhabitants of Barsoom have become hardened and warlike, fighting one another to survive.[14] Barsoomians distribute scarce water supplies via a worldwide system of canals, controlled by quarreling city-states. The thinning Martian atmosphere is artificially replenished from an "atmosphere plant." "
    Many of the elements here hint at deeper dungeons below the novel's surface.
  5. The Lotharians are another faction that exploits the mental powers of the Barsoomian psychic powers. Another faction that takes this to extreme is the Kaldanes who appear in the Chessmen of Mars. I don't think that these two Barsoomian psychic geo political entities get along since they both represent opposite ends of the spectrum. This is something that adventurers can exploit. 
  6. The women in ERB' s tales are power players. They've got more on their minds then mere biological imperatives and it doesn't involve our heroes. This is no more evident then with Thuvia whose more then capable of picking up a dagger or sword to murder anyone who gets in her way. Remember this book was written in 1916! 
  7. The Green hordes of Torquas are every bit as dangerous and fully horrid as any you'd find on Barsoom. These bastards give orcs a run for their money as one of my all time favorite bastard raider races! They also make excellent antagonists to throw at PC's. 
  8. A who lot of little details can be picked out of this novel to start as campaign jump point! 
  9.  There are other city states around Lothar that are perfect canvas for DM's wanting to create their own Barsoomian adventure locations! They are glanced over and that' it in the novel. 
  10. Thuvia, Maid of Mars ' has the potential to create a whole cloth adventure campaign based around the Martian city states preparing for all out war.  
Personally I would grab a copy of Dark Albion to help flesh out some of the comings and goings of the royals within the court of Thuvia, Maid of Mars '. This is a personal opinion based around having to quickly and painlessly flesh out some of the NPC's in the past that quickly die and are bumped off yet there own importance to the adventure's events remains!

You can down load
Thuvia, Maid of Mars from here!

Thuvia, Maid of Mars   is still owned by the ERB estate with the  trade mark & copy right. This blog post is not an attempt to violate that trade mark or copy right.This  download  is for educational and entertainment purposes. The makers of Warriors of the Red Planet are not anyway responsible for the content of this blog. All commentary here is copyrighted & trademarked to Dark Corner productions @2018.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A More Basic Adventure Campaign Arch With The Villainy of B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology For Your OId School Campaigns

On the edge of civilization violence & horror has been visited upon the villages of Bohemia.Strange raiders from Hell itself or so it seems have been looting, burning, and rampaging across the countryside! Weird humanoids have been taking out many of the larger villages & bastions of civilization!



B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology is one of my treasured mega modules and a perfect set up adventure as an introduction to the Lion & Dragon retroclone rpg. Since the PC's start as zero level characters, they need a mega module to really get them over the hump & onto upper levels for the Thirty Years War's time line with the Lion & Dragon retroclone.
Why is In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology adventure perfect for this? 


Because it put's the PC's at ground zero & at the center stage as the Elves stage a big push in Bohemia to take over. They begin acting through cells of witch cults, & a huge population of humanoids who have been manufactured in Fairyland. 

"In Search of Adventure is an abridged compilation adventure module published by TSR, Inc. in 1987, for the Basic Set of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. Its product designation was TSR 9190. This 160-page book features cover artwork by Keith Parkinson."
This super module is a mix of many of the most popular module with a lot left on the cutting room floor;"The modules B1-B9 include: B1 In Search of the Unknown, B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, B4 The Lost City, B5 Horror on the Hill, B6 The Veiled Society, B7 Rahasia, B8 Journey to the Rock, and B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond."


These events are happening around the Bohemia Revolt's beginning & the Bohemia is a great stand in for the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Why would the Elves let loose their dogs of war on humanity during this time?
"The death of Emperor Matthias emboldened the rebellious Protestant leaders, who had been on the verge of a settlement. The weaknesses of both Ferdinand (now officially on the throne after the death of Emperor Matthias) and of the Bohemians themselves led to the spread of the war to western Germany. Ferdinand was compelled to call on his nephew, King Philip IV of Spain, for assistance."

"The king-elect then sent two Catholic Councillors (Vilem Slavata of Chlum and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice) as his representatives to Prague Castle in Prague in May 1618. Ferdinand had wanted them to administer the government in his absence. On 23 May 1618, an assembly of Protestants seized them and threw them (and also secretary Philip Fabricius) out of the palace window, which was some 21 m (69 ft) off the ground. Although injured, they survived. This event, known as the (Second) Defenestration of Prague, started the Bohemian Revolt. Soon afterward, the Bohemian conflict spread through all of the Bohemian Crown, including Bohemia, Silesia, Upper and Lower Lusatia, and Moravia. Moravia was already embroiled in a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The religious conflict eventually spread across the whole continent of Europe, involving France, Sweden, and a number of other countries."

 Because these events involve  all of Europe,PC are going to be scrambling to play catch up with the hordes raging at the fringes of Europe. The old strongholds of the Elves now in ruins, being used as dungeon locations, & as gateways to Fairyland are going be the targets of adventurers. So are these old school adventures presented perfectly or is there more going in B1-9? Actually there's a very solid thread about this subject on Dragon's Foot.

The PC's are going to have to deal with bands of trolls, ogres, and worse as Fairyland becomes aware of the plot by several of the secret societies of royals who are in actually keepers of the sacred knowledge of the Kings Under The Mountains.

Of course there is an Arthurian tie in with hordes of knights waiting in sleep for Europe's greatest hour of need. Part of the time may involve the PC's questing to awaken various champions of Europe & summon the Kings Under The Mountains.
  • "Ječmínek, legendary Moravian king will, according to a prophecy, return to save his country from enemies" and this looks like its it.
  • "St. Wenceslas (Václav) of Bohemia (Czech Republic). He sleeps in the Blaník mountain (with a huge army of Czech knights) and will emerge to protect his country at its worst time, riding on his white horse and wielding the legendary hero Bruncvík's sword."
  • "Knights of Sitno in Slovak mythology are a legion of knights supposedly sleeping inside the mountain Sitno in Central Slovakia, waiting to be called upon in times when the Slovaks are in danger. It is said that every seven years, the oldest of them climbs up the hill and shouts the question: "Is it time yet?" in every world direction. If nobody answers, he climbs back inside."
All of these events center around the messianic awakening of Arthur and his return to help with the banishing of the Elven darkness from England & Europe's shores. 

B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology's is perfect for creating loads of dungeons & ruins stocked with horrors from before the Biblical Flood. The  knights of Europe coming back to rid the darkness and put aside the petty whims of religion is a powerful one. The choice bits of  David "Zeb" Cook's The Veiled Society is perfect for creating assassin's plots in the back waters of Europe.
The real problem is knowing who is really on the PC's side and whose going to be turning on the party as Europe deteriorates under the weight of the advancing humanoid hordes. Lion & Dragon has some very solid rules for handling the assassination bits of some of these modules.




For Clark Ashton Smith's end of things there are several of his stories that spring to mind but one that stands out is
End of the Story, The (1930). This tale takes place in in 1787, its the only  Averoigne story to take place outside of the Middle Ages or the early Renaissance. But within it are elements that have much in common with some of the central themes that run through B1-9 In Search of Adventure: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Anthology. This is anything of a standard love story, and in this The End of the Story   transcends the usual limits of its own mythology. As an NPC the exquisite lady Nycea would be right at home during the events of the Thirty Year War. Another possible Elven royal mover and shaker among the landed and high born royals making war with the lives of their lessers.