Thursday, November 23, 2017

'Mythic Evil In Old School Campaigns' - Another OSR Commentary

Happy Thanksgiving everyone from Casa De Fabiaschi, I wrote about 'The Cosmic Struggle In Old School Campaigns'.  So why would any of the planar elements & powers care about some lowly PC on some backwater world? Because the lowly adventurer does not stay in the lower ranking tier of the adventurer if they survive long. From the very beginning in Original Dungeons & Dragons the fate of the player character is writ in blood & violence. As the player characters make their way up the levels of their careers the cosmic game plays itself out in the mythology & adventures of the campaign.


The wargaming aspect of Dungeons & Dragons was built in right from the beginning & as well as this came into a more sharper focus & use of

Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren's  Chainmail.

"Dave Arneson used Chainmail in his Blackmoor campaign, and many elements of Chainmail were carried over wholesale into Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in 1974. In fact, the original edition of D&D required that the reader own a copy of Chainmail (as well as the Avalon Hill game Outdoor Survival). The first edition of Dungeons & Dragons frequently defers to Chainmail, for example in the rules for elves and hobbits, in the "Invisibility" and "Conjure Elemental" spells, for the special abilities of monsters, specifically for the text of many monsters including goblins and ghouls, in the magic items descriptions (e.g. "Horn of Blasting") and in the naval combat rules."

But another gaming is playing itself out at the same time as the game plays on. The players might not be aware at all that the battle of power plays out as they assume their place as the movers & shakers of the world. Demons, gods, and other far worse things are watching them from the shadows.
All of this echoes through Dungeons & Dragons right from the beginning with its role springing from the Chainmail rules.



"Shortly before the publication of Chainmail, Gygax wrote to Wargamer's Newsletter describing his intention to add "rules for Tolkien fantasy games" to his medieval miniatures rules, including rules for balrogs, hobbits, trolls, giants and the aforementioned dragons.[17] In a 2001 interview, Gygax recalled that
...as the members began to get tired of medieval games, and I wasn't, I decided to add fantasy elements to the mix, such as a dragon that had a fire-breath weapon, a hero that was worth four normal warriors, a wizard who could cast fireballs, [which had] the range and hit diameter of a large catapult, and lightning bolts, [which had] the range and hit area of a cannon, and so forth. I converted a plastic stegosaurus into a pretty fair dragon, as there were no models of them around in those days. A 70 mm Elastolin Viking figure, with doll's hair glued to its head, and a club made from a kitchen match and auto body putty, and painted in shades of blue for skin color made a fearsome giant figure. I haunted the dime stores looking for potential additions and eventually found figures to represent ogres, elementals, etc. The players loved the new game, and soon we had twenty or more players showing up for every session.[18]
The first edition Chainmail Fantasy Supplement added such concepts as elementals, magic swords, and archetypal spells such as "Fireball", "Lightning Bolt" and six other spells"

So right from the beginning mythological elements have been a part of the Original Dungeons & Dragons product set up. Psionics, Demons, Druids, Artifacts & Wandering Monster Tables were all part of the "Eldritch Wizardry" from 1976. This set up the PC's as heroes in the mold of Conan & other Sword & Sorcery characters who were always encountering demons in the wastelands of various novels. The height of war gaming in the 60's & 70's paralleled the rise of Original Dungeons & Dragons.




This means that the dungeon master's campaign world & player's PC's go from being nobodies adventuring on a back water world to suddenly appearing on the multi dimensional stage the second their PC's encounter their first demon or devil. Because waiting right in the wings are the minions of the gods who be more then happy to claim a soul for the armies of the gods. This goes back to mythologies the world over.


This all ties back with the rise from lowly adventurer to king or wizard along the steady levels of the game.
"Eldritch Wizardry" gets a Hell of a lot of undeserved heat almost literally. Check out the B.S. in this Amazon review from a verified purchaser ; "This book contains sections on the five areas mentioned in the title of the review. Half of the book dealt with psionics.

The only real problem with this book is the decision the writers made to jump into the world of Satanism and demonism in it. I don't believe anyone on the team were believers in it. I've heard that Gary Gygax himself was a Jehovah's Witness. I think it was just an exploration of a type of fantasy that existed more prevalently in those days. One example I am aware of is the movie "The Black Cat" starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (1934). In that movie, Boris Karloff's character was a Satanist. After saying the word "Satanist" though, no further mention is made of the concept.

The 50s and 60s were pretty innocent. Evil stuff like we see today didn't much exist back then. The words were merely just mentioned for the basic thrill it gave everyone and then nothing much deeper was ever explored. The same goes for this book. Except for the mention of the word "Demon" and the idiot who chose to put a painting of a naked woman on a sacrificial altar on the cover, the book is pretty innocent. Honestly speaking, the only reason why there are statistics for demon and devils in this book, is so that players can go and find them and kill them.

It was really too bad though. The cover of this book and the mentioning of Satan and other devils in Dragon magazine really put a bad and undeserved stink on this game."



By the way its diabolism oh reviewer, the real reason that the demons are in the game is to act as adventure set pieces & vile villains in the vein of mythology & pop culture for adventures. PC knights, paladins, clerics, etc. are their to battle these evils there by pulling their respective worlds from back water to chess piece on the board of the multiverse. This is the actual function of alignment in the game & clerics are one of the prime agents of the gods in the game. Once again this great reviewer of Basic D&D spells this out the form and function of alignment in his review in part one of Basic D&D. I highly recommend you take a look.




Player characters are subject to forces beyond their ken the moment they step into their first dungeon. The gods are watching them.
All of this is pretty much spelled out in the Original Dungeons & Dragons Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes By James Ward & Robert Kuntz & even pushes on the Arthurian legends of King Arthur & his knights. The struggle between the otherworld, the worldly, & the quests of the divine is intertwined throughout that mythological & literary tradition.



So let me push this who commentary into a modern OSR context for you oh dear reader. With retroclone games such as Swords & Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, & even Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition it would at first seem that these struggles & tussles with the divine & demonic might not have any place within them. This isn't true at all. These forces are at the center of the struggle of these games. There are vast alien & demonic forces right at the heart of Lamentations of the Flame Princess where a first level wizard can use the Summon spell to get themselves into a world of trouble. I've actually used a summoning spell going wrong to be the center of a beginning adventure for an LoFP game. In Swords & Wizardry there are numerous adventures where the demonic plays a central role.
The forces of chaos are front & center in the 'Weird Tales' source material of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea with its alignment system which states that the forces of chaos wish to tear apart civilization. The forces of law wish to save it & guess whose there to save it all!?


A favorite art piece from AS&SH second edition.


Last night I mentioned a Near East occult text with ties to the blog post woven through out and tonight will be no different with me using the Abu Maʿshar to tie things together.
"
Abu Maʿshar, Latinized as Albumasar (also Albusar, Albuxar; full name Abū Maʿshar Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar al-Balkhī أبو معشر جعفر بن محمد بن عمر البلخي ; 10 Aug 787 – 9 Mar 886, AH 171–272),[3] was an early Persian[4][5][6] Muslim astrologer, thought to be the greatest astrologer of the Abbasid court in Baghdad.[2] While he was not a major innovator, his practical manuals for training astrologers profoundly influenced Muslim intellectual history and, through translations, that of western Europe and Byzantium.[3]
Abu Ma'shar was a Persian nationalist"

So not only is the Abu Ma'shar a corner stone of Western occult tradition but its great real world occult resource that not only touches on the celestial, the demonic, etc, etc. But the 'Kitāb al‐milal wa‐ʾl‐duwal ("Book on religions and dynasties"), probably his most important work, commented on in the major works of Roger Bacon, Pierre d'Ailly, and Pico della Mirandola' 
Also hints at the greater workings of heroes, knights, etc. in their struggles against the evils of the universe against a cosmic background.  Its just the type of real world resource that could make a perfect resource or capstone for an OD&D or Lamentations of the Flame Princess game.

In the end the only thing that stands between the weirdly dangerous & demonic forces of the other dimensions is your PC's. The may succeed in their struggles or fail utterly but in the end the clock keeps on ticking invisible against the patterns of the campaign. This is part of the essence of old school play. For now keep those dice rolling.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'The Cosmic Struggle In Old School Campaigns' An OSR Commentary

So its been a Thanksgiving run around kinda day hence the lateness of this blog post but there's been something bothering me about B/X Dungeons & Dragons & its various retroclone bastard children for sometime. Campaign settings are planar backwater worlds, the struggles of adventurers,the epic fights, etc. all are very minor on the greater stage of occult circles & even the retroclone settings. This issue is something that I noticed going over Original Dungeons & Dragons, Holmes, Mentzer, and even the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. Cosmically speaking in the terms of the greater backdrop of the occult universe your heroes struggles don't mean a whole lot or does it?



What really kicked this off was me looking through Holmes Dungeons & Dragons last night & then  reading about The Ghayat-al-Hakim or Picatrix posted by RpgPundit. 

The Picatrix could the lynch pin to an entire old school campaign because its a huge part of Arabic occult history. Wiki has a solid entry on it but the gist of it goes something like this;
" Picatrix is the name used today, for a 400-page book of magic and astrology originally written in Arabic under the title غاية الحكيم Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm, which most scholars assume was originally written in the middle of the 11th century,[1] though an argument for composition in the first half of the 10th century has been made.[2] The Arabic title translates as The Aim of the Sage or The Goal of The Wise."

Basically Picatrix is one of the corner stones of Near East Occultism but personally I prefer the writings of Albumasar for understanding more of the pillars of European occult tradition. We'll get back to the Picatrix in a moment.
When you begin to look into the monsters, treasures, & other adventure elements of the old school on thing becomes apparent, the PC's are the heroes. They're deeds are going to change the history of the campaign setting or their bones will molder & decay for others to find. This isn't the cosmicism of HP Lovecraft but very nature of Dungeons & Dragons style dungeon mastering & adventure playing  that happens to line up with this style of belief.  So let's turn the introductory aspect of Holmes on its pulpy ear.


Many times though out Dungeons & Dragons  the fact is that Earth, Greyhawk, Avalon, etc. are all cosmic back water settings in the wars,struggles,battles of the greater occult & planar universe. This means that the deities, monsters, etc. are all chess pieces in the larger context of the war between the forces of the universe. There isn't simply one front in this meta war but many.
This was something that was mirrored in  Original Dungeons & Dragons's
Eldritch Wizardry & Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes not to mention Paul Anderson's  Three Hearts & Three Lions which gets quoted so often about in certain OSR circles. So were the writers & designers of Dungeons & Dragons trying to promote the occult and lead our children to the infernal?


TSR 2005 Dungeons & Dragons D&D Original Supplement III 3 Eldritch Wizardry 8th
Printing

Umm no they were trying to use the trappings & ideas of mythology to create a viable set of tools for old school play so you could design campaign setting of your own. You can even see this evidenced in this video review of Holmes where the commentator brings up the point that Holmes was a transitional set of rules until Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hit the market.



This means that the mythology of 'Chaos vs Law' has always been a part of the equation of Dungeons & Dragons which in turn plays its own part in the mythologies of the
cosmicism of HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith & the Lovecraft circle of writers. Its very operatic in its own terms. Now we come back to the Picatrix which according to Eugenio Garin," Astrology in the Renaissance: The Zodiac of Life" , Routledge, 1983, p. 49"The work's point of departure is the unity of reality divided into symmetrical and corresponding degrees, planes or worlds: a reality stretched between two poles: the original One, God the source of all existence, and man, the microcosm, who, with his science (scientia) brings the dispersion back to its origin, identifying and using their correspondences"


This is exactly the sort of thing that we see in Gods, Demi Gods, & Heroes by James Ward & Robert Kuntz. It taps into the types of influences that we've seen in popular  comic books for years especially those of Jack Kirby in both his Marvel & classic DC days.



On the more contemporary side of the OSR, Lamentations of the Flame Princess by James Raggi IV, Dark  Albion By RPGPundit,  & even The Midderlands Additions From  MonkeyBlood Design all take advantage of their settings as planar back waters.  There are far worse monsters, gods, and things out in the greater universe that can wreck the PC's.



But that's always been my point before the PC's are the heroes & in terms of adventures regardless of level their struggles define the frame work of the campaign. They may raise the bar from back water to stage presence. For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition or any of the other retroclone systems that might not be a good thing. For many science fantasy authors the age of heroes has passed but the PC's have a chance to bring it back. Der Ring des Nibelungen is a fine example of the consequences of interfering in the workings of the gods & its repercussions for a campaign setting.


Recently Oakes Spalding on the Save Vs Wands blog did a quite interesting & expansive look into demons in Demons in Holmes,the Monster Manual and the Players Handbook. My conclusion is that demons are a fulcrum tool to kick a campaign into a higher gear or bring the PC's onto the larger stage of adventure. This is where I think that a campaign world goes from back water to player in the cosmic scheme of things. The PC's actions, struggles, deaths, and triumphs are what make the mythology & difference in the campaign.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

B/X Dungeons & Dragaons & OSR D&D Rules Encypclopedia Campaign Commentary

So I'm looking through my Dungeons & Dragons rules cyclopedia again doing a cross comparison between monsters, PC classes, etc. for research purposes for my  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition/Adventurer,Conqueror, King hybrid campaign.
There's an old thread on Dragon's foot about B/X Vs Rules Cyclopedia D&D 

but the truth is that the Rules Cyclopedia isn't really complete in one package. That is all of the demons, underworld, plane jumping stuff that I love so much isn't in there.
 


So what the heck I'm I going to do? Well its not as much of an issue as one my think with the OSR to the rescue! Blacky the Blackball years back created Dark Dungeons a complete retroclone version of the Rules Cyclopedia with everything I'm looking for. Planes jumping, demons, high level material that I want to incorporate into my 'Old Earth' campaign setting. I consider this a far more 'Weird Tales' setting then a standard fantasy one. Because of this I'm pulling far more from the science fantasy sided but with a more Michael Moorcock Eternal Champions feel. Dark Dungeons has several elements within that fit the bill to a tee but more on those later on. Dark Dungeons is a 'pay what you want' book on Drivethrurpg.




What really started this off is wanting a mid tier Clark Ashton Smith style villain for my world, since I'm using Adventurer, Conqueror, King as the main system & AS&SH second edition as the world resource book so to speak I began to look into the ACK's Player's Companion for NPC options.



The one that caught my eye was the classic & underutilized Anti paladin! These servants of evil gods & the ruin of kingdoms hearken back to my days of reading Dragon magazine & pull at the dark cockles of my black dungeon master's heart! A perfect compliment to a Sword & Sorcery campaign world especially 'Old Earth'. So here's what I came up with off for a mid tier campaign NPC villain.


Ezra Lin fallen Amazon daughter of Thasaidon lord of the seven Hells. Fifth level anti paladin & leader of the Legion of the Wretched. She is working with the raiders outside the lands of Lomar in the service of her dark lich king masters. She carries a sword containing the soul of her former husband & a piece of his demon preserved  flesh as part of the sword's guard. The magical sword's power at this time is unknown. She has the scalps of twelve Hyperborean commands adorning her armor.



More on Ezra Lin as she develops but that's a brief thumb nail sketch of this NPC presence at this time. There's lots more to come.

Monday, November 20, 2017

More Lovecraftian Old School Monster Ecology & OSR Campaign Commentary

I've been doing a lot of research over the weekend between work, calls, etc. on B/X Dungeons & Dragons monster & lair placement. The fact is that many of the traditional monsters certainly fit into the junket of being opportunists of the highest orders. That is that if a ruin or other adventure location is available they'll take it. This is something that Holmes B/X D&D monsters  take full advantage of. Running with this I began to dig a bit deeper.



But then I started looking a bit further of field, into the deep recesses of the Fiend Folio for first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & began to notice this same style of opportunism. Since I'm running an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition/Adventurer,Conqueror, King hybrid campaign I began to delve a bit deeper into the Fiend Folio because of the science fantasy nature of my own home campaign. 'Old Earth' has its roots deeply into H.P. Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith along with numerous classic science fiction era authors.



This means that the wastelands have monsters from the Fiend Folio moving into ruins, dungeons & other adventure locations. The Folio's encounter charts provide the perfect opportunities for where & when adventurers are likely to run into the horrors of the weirder edges of the map. But I'm dealing with very jaded & experienced players of Dungeons & Dragons so how do I spice things up for a science fantasy campaign? The answer of course was right in front of me the whole time! I've got a copy of 'The Teratic Tome' by
Rafael Chandler right in front of me & the monsters nicely dove tail in with several of the ideas already present in the campaign. But there's something about the monsters in the Tome that hearken back to the Fiend Folio & Holmes Dungeons & Dragons. The ecology of these monsters is both pulpy & dire, they all take full advantage of their ecological circumstances even in a science fantasy setting.



I'm talking about the fact that these monsters suit the setting in a weirdly twisted way, the gnomes of Mecha Zel from 'The Teractic Tome' are going to be a faction in my 'Old Earth' setting causing all kinds of havoc. They are a hive mind of psychotic steampunk style mutant survivors of Atlantis who have recently come to the surface world. 'Old Earth' already has atomic rockets, whist black powder weapons are very common. The military & certain adventurers have lasers or blasters if their very lucky. But there are far more sinister forces stalking the wastelands as 'Magistrates' stalk the wastelands for any usable & recyclable artifacts they find to take back to the hives.


So as a dungeon master I'm taking full advantage of the fact that these old school & OSR resources work with Adventurer, Conqueror, King. I've been talking with my 'systems' guy over the weekend to take full advantage of the fact that many of these sources are geared for the war gaming aspect of Adventurer,Conqueror, King's Domains at War. I'm planning on a fully realized science fantasy war game campaign down the road.


The priests & monks of Tsathoggua preach about the evils of the raider's alterations as the Hyperborean  own forces field monsters & worse out on the battle fields of Lomar. The campaign setting continues to grow, change, and be dynamic as the monsters & playing pieces come together with Old Earth.



There are still pieces in play from the last time I ran AS&SH's Beneath the Comet, several artifact resources from the adventure have made it to 'Old Earth' causing the goblin races to make a bold move on the Eastern borders of Lomar. The goblins have a very different origin point in 'Old Earth' being an abandoned Lemuria weapon system that has continued to generate & function sans their masters.




Much of the origin point for old Earth comes back to the fact that Ubbo-Sathla ("The Unbegotten Source", "The Demiurge") is stirring & churning the dreams of the various factions of Old Earth causing wars & worse. This means that many of the monsters are acting out the dreams of a mad god with little regard for their own actions. It also means that war is coming! A type of war that the Earth has seen in millions of years!

"The Midnight heaven's burning
Through the ethereal deeps afar
Once I watch'd with restless yearning
An alluring aureate star;
Ev'ry eve aloft returning
Gleaming nigh the Arctic Car.
Mystic waves of beauty blended
With the gorgeous golden rays
Phantasies of bliss descended
In a myrrh'd Elysian haze.
In the lyre-born chords extended
Harmonies of Lydian lays.
And (thought I) lies scenes of pleasure,
Where the free and blessed dwell,
And each moment bears a treasure,
Freighted with the lotos-spell,
And there floats a liquid measure
From the lute of Israfel.
There (I told myself) were shining
Worlds of happiness unknown,
Peace and Innocence entwining
By the Crowned Virtue's throne;
Men of light, their thoughts refining
Purer, fairer, than my own.
Thus I mus'd when o'er the vision
Crept a red delirious change;
Hope dissolving to derision,
Beauty to distortion strange;
Hymnic chords in weird collision,
Spectral sights in endless range....
Crimson burn'd the star of madness
As behind the beams I peer'd;
All was woe that seem'd but gladness
Ere my gaze with Truth was sear'd;
Cacodaemons, mir'd with madness,
Through the fever'd flick'ring leer'd....
Now I know the fiendish fable
Then the golden glitter bore;
Now I shun the spangled sable
That I watch'd and lov'd before;
But the horror, set and stable,
Haunts my soul forevermore!"
Astrophobos  (1917)
by H. P. Lovecraft

Saturday, November 18, 2017

'Smoke & Mirrors of Olathoë' Session Report


In tonight's hybrid game, the party wandered through the streets of Olathoë and made contact with the bard's guild after spending the night in the local temple of Tsathoggua.The monks of the temple were tending & helping to heal the city's soldiers who were having lots of problems with inhuman raiders in  the western wastelands of the land of Lomar. The temple is serving as a hospital for the soldiers in the city who were wounded in the raids the week before.



Olathoë is a war wracked city surrounded by enemies who want to take  the plateau of Sarkis. The city's black powder musketeers are stretched thin by the inhuman forces on all sides forcing the city to bring in human Viking mercenaries. The situation is holding for now but for how long & what secrets do the wastelands outside the city hold? Once the sites for countless battles with the human forces that once occupied the place, its now a hotly contested zone for the city's defenders with death of mercenary troops being both common & expected but the Hyperboreans pay well and offer fishing rights as well as subsidized crops of fungus, wheat, and other high end sundries.



There are the ruins and underground vaults of a great many ancient temples that were destroyed during the various invasions & battles of the past now occupied by all manner of monsters including  the hairy, long-armed, cannibal Gnophkehs & far worse. So naturally the PC's are headed out into the wastelands to find out if the city outpost has been compromised.



There are rumors that the PC's heard in tonight's game of gargoyles, ghouls, and worse stalking the battlefields feeding on the souls & flesh of the dead. Tunnels have been found by certain rangers leading deep into the Earth with the sign of  Mordiggian painted in blood & mud above certain tunnels that were sealed off with the sign of Koth. Representative priests from the temple of Nodens have come to see if they need to send an inquisitor party in but things are strained. So the PC's have been contacted to help investigate the situation and see if the raiders and co are in league with the ghouls. Or worse a necromancer has been stirring the supernatural pot of events.



The assassins guild has been active as of late spying on the movements of certain foreign trading houses for the king of Lomar within 
Olathoë. Are there monstrous forces within the city & how can the party cope with an overwhelming enemy such as a werewolf or worse. They need more support & perhaps more hands to help them combat these dark forces which need aligned against them. Is a necromancer, vampire, or worse on their trail as the temple seer indicated from last week's game? Only time will tell as they make their way to western wastelands to find out if the city outpost has been taken over by the dark raiders forces. Maybe they will stumble on a dungeon or two?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Appendix 'N' Commentary - The Eternal Battles of The Worm Ouroboros By E. R. Eddison For Your Old School Campaigns




Life works in strange & mysterious ways, last night I had wicked migraines, these are something that I've had since I was a kid. I know what causes them & their nothing to be concerned about but my work schedule has been a bit scattered & hectic to say the least. But in my travels up at the wilds of the wild & wholly Litchfield hills of my home I came across not one but two treasures beyond compare. Two flag ship books in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series  The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison (April 1967) & The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H. P. Lovecraft (May 1970) (#01923-7) both in prime to good condition.
So why was/is this book imprint important? Because once upon a time there wasn't an internet & these books were the only way of getting anything right & proper in the Appendix N of the Dungeon Master's Guide from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Here's the back history on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series imprint from Wiki;"The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was an imprint of American publisher Ballantine Books. Launched in 1969 (presumably in response to the growing popularity of Tolkien's works[1]), the series reissued a number of works of fantasy literature which were out of print or dispersed in back issues of pulp magazines (or otherwise not easily available in the United States), in cheap paperback form—including works by authors such as James Branch Cabell, Lord Dunsany, Ernest Bramah, Hope Mirrlees, and William Morris.[2] The series lasted until 1974.
Envisioned by the husband-and-wife team of Ian and Betty Ballantine, and edited by Lin Carter, it featured cover art by illustrators such as Gervasio Gallardo, Robert LoGrippo, David McCall Johnston, and Bob Pepper. The agreement signed between the Ballantines and Carter on November 22, 1968 launched the project. In addition to the reprints comprising the bulk of the series, some new fantasy works were published as well as a number of original collections and anthologies put together by Carter, and Imaginary Worlds, his general history of the modern fantasy genre."



Professor J.R.R. Tolkein today gets all of the press but for me Eric Rücker Eddison, CB, CMG (24 November 1882 – 18 August 1945) was & is the superior writer. His creation the The Worm Ouroboros  stands head & shoulders above his contemporaries but still has resonance with a modern audience. This novel has all of the intricacies,mythology, warfare  of Game of Thrones with out the bull shit narcissism & weirdness to get in the way. Wiki sums the central plot nicely for me;"The book describes the protracted war between the domineering King Gorice of Witchland and the Lords of Demonland in an imaginary world that appears mainly medieval and partly reminiscent of Norse sagas. The work is slightly related to Eddison's later Zimiamvian Trilogy, and collectively they are sometimes referred to as the Zimiamvian series."
The characters of the are operatic in stature and life, beings molded in the turn of the century style. Heroes & villains of depth & status totally indifferent to the struggles of the common men & women around them. People die by the score but so do the heroes.
This doesn't make them any less likable but of a mythic status for the action of the novel doesn't take place on our world but a secondary world referred to as Mercury. These are characters  in the older almost medieval  & mythic mode but they're essentially humans of a completely different cut. Even though we have both the lords & ladies of both Witchland & Demonland they're human beings but drawn from the expansive imagination of
E. R. Eddison. They still die in battle & war.
In fact the world of the The Worm Ouroboros can be considered the inversion of everything that Tolkien does in his fiction. The book was written thirty two years before 'Lord of the Rings' The heroes are made great by the deeds of their continuing war with Witchland. Demonland's warriors adhere to the old Norse war code of glory & loyalty in battle. This doesn't make the sentiments as such. But it does offer the DM plenty of opportunities for exploiting the circumstances for their own campaigns.
So what does The Worm Ouroboros have to do with an old school campaign? Especially my Old Earth style game which draws heavily from the Clark Ashton Smith style school of dark fantasy. At first the high fantasy of the novel clashes with the dark fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith & Lovecraft circle of writers. This brings me to my second find today, 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' by HP Lovecraft. Now I mentioned the larger then life characters, mythology, etc. of  The Worm Ouroboros. What if the events of the Zimiamvian series are taking place in another dreamlands? What if these races of Demonland & Witchland are actually a variant of the Hyperboreans that have somehow slipped past the Boreas winds into the dream lands of Mercury? We know that Zothique has its roots in the far future of Earth in the times to come. But what if the events of
The Worm Ouroboros happened in the distant past & only the PC's can save the world. But is this a world that wants to be saved?Are the answers someplace deep within the Dreamlands of HP Lovecraft or
The Gods of Pegāna's dream worlds?
The Hyperboreans have the same distain for humanity that the characters  of the world of Mercury show for the humans around them. I think that there's more then a passing connection.




I've used the places, ruins, battles of 
The Worm Ouroboros to create a number of dungeons & other adventure locations in the past for B/X Dungeons & Dragons & perhaps its high time I begin to do this again. The larger then life high fantasy fits the operatic Jack Kirby style of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second especially after the glory & heroics has faded to wrack & ruin.
Past the winds the distant sounds of battle can be heard as the clash of swords & warfare winds its way across strange vistas as the forces of Demonland & Witchland forever clash together as it will be forever more.

If  Your Interested In Downloading & Reading "
The Worm Ouroboros"
Its Available For Free Here
re

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thoughts on Thouls,the Throghrin,& Old School Monster Ecology For Your Campaigns

I've been thumbing through the B/X Dungeons & Dragons rule book today on my lunch break; we've been incredibly busy at work today. Hence the late posting on my blog but whist zipping around the monster section I noticed the Thoul. They've been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.




I love using Thouls because their Sword & Sorcery weird feel I began to want to use them for my next up coming Adventurer,Conqueror, King, & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition hybrid adventure. They weren't listed under their usual monster label in either rule book so I went back to Goblinoid games Labyrinth Lord retro clone rule book which is the basis for ACK & on the web. In Goblinoid Games forums I came across the following;
"LL has something eerily similar in the form of the Throghrin, which you'll find on page 98 of the core rules" I looked in the ACK's core book & sure enough there's the Throghrin in all its glory.



But there was something else about the Thoul & its ACK's Throghrin counterpart I noticed today. These monsters are artificially created, a mix of troll, hobgoblin, & ghoul plus their not undead. These are an elite & specialized monster to say the least. But whose creating these hobgoblin hybrid horrors? Its gotta be a wizard or some NPC class far more specialized in the creation of hybrid or chimera species of monsters.




This sort of a chimera monster makes me think of the wizards of both Jack Vance & Clark Ashton Smith. CAS's  all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb is exactly the sort of wizard who could & would have created  the Throghrin species most likely from Atlantean Pict survivors mixed with a generous helping of troll virus & ghoul DNA. There's probably a demonic pact in the mix someplace but these things breed true with hobgoblins. I started thinking again about the post apocalyptic fantasy wastelands of B/X Dungeons & Dragons when we mixed B/X Dungeons & Dragons with a generous helping of Gamma World back in middle school. Over the last couple of years I've thrown in the Fiend Folio into the mix of Gamma World to pad out some of the edges of the adventure map.


So I'm thinking about many of the humanoid species in the Fiend Folio as being possible chimera or slave race prototypes of humanoids on many of the worlds of the solar system. I can see the Elder Things from HP Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains of Madness' creating five pointed artificial  bio-environments or deep space bio ships with a wide variety of these species on board. Possibly these ships might be guarded by shoggoths or worse.


Elder Thing artwork created by Віщун -
http://vixis24m.deviantart.com/art/The-Elder-Thing-395769042



So what does this mean? Perhaps the Elder Things who were masters of biology, magick, and bio technologies far beyond our own created hobgoblins from a mix of an unknown demonic humanoid species plus, Atlantean or Lemurian survivors after the shoggoth rebellion.
This was a disposable race of humanoid servants & perhaps food species with a finite life span & a built in willingness to serve.
These shock troops might have been very susceptible to the Elder Thing telepathic commands. A race with a built in passion for violence & military like tribal structure that might have filled the gap in while the Elder Things fled the surface world. Could they have followed their masters into the inner world of the Earth? With slow wars of creatures such as the Yithians, the spawn of Cthulhu, and others the Elder Things are a race that counts in eons not centuries. Hobgoblins would be a fast breeding, pliable, & yet hardy race in some ways ideally suited for their environment. Thouls would be a subspecies created by latter day wizards or others.


Could the hobgoblins then be one of the species that exits the inner Earth World when the Hyperboreans returned to the surface world of Old Earth sometime in the future? They might have become servants or shock troops for the Hyperboreans longing for another powerful race to serve. There is some evidence that Clark Ashton Smith implied such a race might exist within his Zothique cycle. Unfortunately evidence for this conclusion is scant at best. Hobgoblins within my 'Old Earth' campaign definitely have an Elder Thing origin point. For Dungeons & Dragons & its various retroclones there is very little explanation on the origin or even event for many of the various humanoid races. This suit an innovative & creative dungeon master just fine; old school monster books didn't do all of the heavy lifting for you. You & your players created the world, shaped it through play, and harvested the result as another product of your imagination.