Thursday, October 23, 2014

Revisiting Poul Anderson's Free Sword and Sorcery Tale The Valor of Cappen Verra

Grab It Right Over

Years ago I came across this book in a box as part of a haul in a used book store, one of the stories in this collection was a Poul Anderson. Anderson worked on and off in the swords and sorcery literature movement of the 60's and 70's.
 I really love the interplay between characters within The Valor of Cappen Verra  because of Anderson's literary sleight of hand in his tale spinning. The fact is that this is a bit of a classic but not one that get thrown out there by any degree of regularity.
 The tale sets up a major arch for some of Anderson's later Fey war tales and here we see that fore shadowing enables him to pull his reader into the world that Cappen Verra sets up.
 This techqiue of story telling is something that the author used later for some of his other sword and sorcery titles and stories.
This one remains an old favorite and classic in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

1d10 Random Encounters With Lovecraftian Horrors From The Outer Darkness Table For The Astonishing Swordsmen And Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System

On the outer edges of Hyperborea  where the darkness washes against the edge of the world dwell things that should not be that often come to sup upon the marrow of the peoples of world. Here are a small selection of encounters with some of these minor dwellers in the darkness that can be devil your PC's. 

1d10 Encounters With Lovecraftian Horrors From The Outer Darkness Table
  1. A collection ancient and old ghostly souls left over from the Green Death that have fused together in one massive ectoplasmic ball of pulsing undeath horror and nastiness ready to suck the souls from any they come across. There are 1d20 ghosts within this cloud of horror. 
  2. A strange jelly like substance that belongs to some other older order of beings that once fed upon the marrow of Old Earth and now hungers after the life force of humanity. Use the stats for a Shaggoth for this horror. There are 1d8 pieces of raw undigested metal if this thing should be killed. There is a 10% chance of it having a random artifact or piece of gold or silver mixed in with the material. 
  3. The animated collection of animal and human organs turned inside out and melded together with demonic energy from the Outer Darkness. This thing is a giant ball of flesh and ancient memories. These it uses to hunt down its old haunts for new flesh and souls. 
  4. This ancient shadow is on the hunt for a brand new person to possess and take on their form for great evil in the world. The thing is a minor demon with delusions of insanity and dreams of horror that it wishes to share. Use the stats for a minor demon. 
  5. This strange collection of bone and decayed flesh is about the size of a small ox and seeks a sorcerer to serve but it lacks any proper form and seeks to create itself from the dreams and nightmares of others. Once per day it may teleport without error into a new location. The thing is infected with a dangerous form of the Red Death. 
  6. This is a weird collection of technological horror that is on the hunt for souls to fuel its return to the Outer Darkness. It wishes to exchange a minor artifact for a brand new sacrifice. The thing will sing its replies in ancient and forbidden verses. 
  7. A weird pulsing glowing unreal colour from beyond space time seeks out an innocent to cause the ancient soul of a long dead Hyperborean sorcerer to be reborn into a new body. The thing will kill anyone who gets in its way. The same stats as a Colour from Outer Space. 
  8. A weird glowing sword is actually the imprisoned form of a pit fiend. This thing seeks a worthy hand to wield it but in fact is a prince of lies and seeks a sacrifice for its dark obscene master and will lie about its entire history. 
  9. A demonic strange mount with a wounded ancient demonic warrior seeks to pass on its curse to a worthy human so that he or she may fight in its stead at the last battle place. 
  10. A wounded spawn of Cthulhu will land and become a toxic waste hazard of vileness and insanity where its blood spreads along with its soul warping madness that surrounds the thing. Others of its kind are hunting it right now. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

1d10 Random Ancient Lost Treasures Table For Your Old School Sword and Sorcery Campaigns Or The Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System

There are ancient items which frequently surface within the more remote areas of Ancient Earth and Hyperborea. These items have often times survived catastrophic events and passed into the realm of local myth and legend. Some have passed down through the ages only to have been lost in the last sweeping cycle of the Green Death plague. Other artifacts have come from ancient and lost epochs of forgotten history, these can sometimes have troubled or down right dangerous legacies attached with them. Below are a small selection of the 'treasures' which have been rumored to be uncovered by adventurers over the last couple of  centuries. 

1d10 Random Ancient Lost Treasures Table
  1. An ancient Atlantian mirror with a special silver backing. The mirror has an ancient sky demon bound within its confines that will show the depths of the Outer Darkness, the inner workings of a person's soul and fondest desires, and the elemental planes as well. Upon command the mirror may capture within its confines a minor air element to do the bidding of the owner of the mirror. The demon however is a flippant and very dangerous creature often twisting the mirror's visage into sanity shattering location images. 
  2. A set of eight silver etched steel knives which will cut the soul of a mortal into the individual pieces of shadow and light allowing a wizard to examine and heal the more fundamental damages that one has suffered at the hands of certain soul eating and swallowing demons and undead. These knives are etched with Lumerian instructions for their use upon their blades. The knives can also burn with an unholy fire for 1d4 points of damage per day. They will burn the types of creatures they were created to deal with. 
  3. A small coffin shaped box containing an ancient Lumerian mechanism that can trap and hold a minor demon. The thing will be forced to tell the truth about eight matters of magic and sorcery after which the mechanism will exile the little horror back to the Outer Darkness. Over the centuries these mechanisms attract more dangerous demons to the small bits of soul bait that these things use. There is a 20% chance of an incubus or similar demon is locked within this thing when found. It will be very angry and pissed off. It will either want to be bought off or attack with full fury. 
  4. A small crystal that holds thirty three perfectly preserved 2nd level clerical or magical spells within them. These things were often used by wizards of forgotten ages to record spell books, and commentary on day to day matters in ancient tongues. There is a 20% chance of some ancient secret or tid bit of forgotten or forbidden lore being recorded within these crystals. Often these crystals will be lost in with 1d100 pieces of random gold coinage and may be by passed completely. 
  5. An ancient book made from some alien metal, this book details certain esoteric ancient formula related to engineering feats not seen my centuries. These treatises will contain 1d20 random spells that will relate to engineering and warfare. These books will also have plans for some of the more esoteric pieces of Atlantian high technology. 
  6. This ancient staff is actually a communications device used for contacting forbidden ancient demonic entities of the Outer Darkness. These things will be starved for telepathic contact but this does not make these things any less dangerous. While they will communicate with the staff's owner and there a 20% chance of something trying to possess the PC owner once per week. These staff's contain a single demonic crystal that will try to corrupt a PC. 
  7. A cursed demon slaying sword that is able to heal the sick once per day but is actually an ancient weapon belonging to a demon of lust and depravity. The owner will hear and detect any nearby demonic creatures but he can never shut them out from his or her's mind. The sword is also a +2 weapon but may turn on its own as well. 
  8. A copper coloured torc that enables the user to use telepathy once per day as the spell and enables the owner to see into the Otherworld as well upon command. The torc allows one to protect mind and body against any intrusions. The thing glows in the presence of hyena men as well. 
  9. A small stature of some lost or ancient god that enables the owner to cross worlds once per day. The thing is actually a demon and seeks the owner to claim their souls. The piece also allows the owner to rebuke any undead that they come across. 
  10. A statue of Cthhlu that allows one to know the location of any minor Lovecraftian monsters and allows one to know their various tongues or dialects. This thing once belonged to a ghoul cult and as a result the owner will begin to take on the minor characteristics of a lesser ghoul. Charisma and intelligence will be at -1 but the owner will know the language and dark tongue of the undead. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review and Commentary On Swords of Kos: Hekaton From Skirmisher Publishing For Your Old School Sword and Sorcery Campaigns

Grab It Right 

This is is one of those anthologies that comes out when a company is promoting an rpg setting. I love the Sword of Kos campaign sword and sorcery setting. Its got a different flare to its material then many OSR efforts that have come out. This is the second volume of the series and its a nice solid hit to the material. 
Skirmisher does a good job setting up the backdrop to their sword and sorcery setting with this volume which is set right smack into the heart and soul of their timeline for the Kos rpg material. These stories are focused around the various Kos historic monsters and horrors that the setting uses as both background and game fodder in spades. All of this material has an ancient Mediterranean fixation and it suits what it does quite nicely.It reads some place between ancient Greek mythology and its own brand of highly epic sword and sorcery fantasy with a Skirmisher Publishing flare.
 Here's the Drivethrurpg blurb: 
"'Hekaton! Hekaton! Hekaton!'
From his quarters at the top level of the City Guard commandery that controlled the main entrance to the Hippodrome of Kos, Commander Ivan Pieger could hear the crowds chanting in the grand plaza some five stories below. Hekaton, of course, simply meant “one hundred,” and was shorthand for hekatontaetir√≠da, or 'one-hundred-year anniversary,' but the full expression of the term did not roll off the tongue very nicely and could not easily be chanted in unison by hundreds of frenzied souls.
Pieger got up from his paper-strewn desk and strode — as much as he was able to stride on his short, somewhat bowed legs — over to the narrow casement window that looked straight out onto the plaza before the great oval-shaped Hippodrome. It was still more than a full day before the start of the Titanomalia, the annual commemoration of the great volcanic disaster that had rocked the very pillars of the world and which many people believed had been caused by a great war between the Gods and the Titans. It had, in any event, awakened the forgotten races, monsters, and magicks of a primordial age that had preceded the relatively placid era of human-dominated peace and commerce that was ongoing at the time of the cataclysm.
The Titanomalia was always a chaotic spectacle but this one promised to be unprecedented, corresponding as it did with the hundred-year anniversary of the cataclysm ..."
Inspired by the works of classic swords-and-sorcery authors like Fritz Lieber, Jack Vance, and Robert E. Howard, Swords of Kos: Hekaton is the second entry in Skirmisher Publishing LLC’s fantasy fiction series and follows Swords of Kos: Necropolis. In this anthology, the island and city of Kos and the lands around it are explored through the stories of eleven authors and original illustrations and cartography by nine artists. All are set during the Hekaton, centennial observance of the great volcanic cataclysm that reawakened magic, the elder races, and all manner of fell monsters, in a fantasy world that draws upon the myths, legends, and history of the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Middle East.
Stories in this compilation include “Bloodsuckers” by Michael O. Varhola, “Rogue’s Nightmare” by R.M. Aislin, “Chasing Shadows” by Richard T. Balsley, “The Misadventures of Bjoric” by Brendan Cass, “The Rite” by Christopher Van Deelen, “To the Dragon Apeiron” by Lissanne Lake, “Unfamiliar Ground” by Sharon Daugherty, “The Day Pateon Fnordseeker Gave Up Drinking” by Eric Lis, M.D., “Nithernons the Ale’er” by John Giddens, and “The Price of Land” by D.M. Fitzgerald. Join us in our adventures through the dark and fascinating swords-and-sorcery world of Kos!
The writing in these stories is tight, well thought out and done with its own merits. Some of the stories are well done and work well with the sword and sorcery slight of hand that does its work well. Namely making me want to run a game set within this campaign world. I didn't mind weighing through the pdf and going through the two hundred and eighty plus pages of material here. The stories are well done and nicely written, they go down easy. But I'm not crazy about the cover art on this one. I understand what its supposed to convey but it doesn't do the sword and sorcery material of this book any justice. Point of fact I actually think it takes away from what this book sets out to do. Namely market me on a new campaign setting. That really is how I feel about it.

Using Swords of Kos: Hekaton
For Your Old School Campaigns 

This book is meant to be a throw back to the 80's fantasy paper back anthologies with the illustrations, maps, and background pieces. The book might as well be another old school resource book for the campaign setting. The stories illustrate and under pin the setting very well. I think that its very well written, and the folks at Skirmisher know the material very well. That being said I don't think that DM should take any of this material within the stories as gospel. I've written, read through and made a stab at Kos as a campaign setting and its strength lays partially within the fact that it can be a very well thought out DYI old school campaign setting.
With all gaming fiction there is a problem, role players often take these anthologies as gospel and that can be a problem for a DM which makes the following my advice with this and any of the Kos material, use what you like, leave out what you don't and pull from these books as needed when planning adventures.
Skirmisher makes these books system neutral and the ideas here suit that premise very well. The heart and soul of this anthology is the writing which captures the ideas, spirit, and intent of the setting very well. Bottom line is these stories entertain and pull the reader in while dealing with the issues and events of the historical and current world of Kos. Grab this one when you can and pull the material as you need. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review and Commentary On The Lamentations Rpg System 'Death Love Doom' 'Pay What You Want' Adventure For Your Old School Campaigns

Grab It Right Over
*Just in time for Halloween comes this OSR adventure but the explicit content warning is spot on. Not one for the kids.
So this afternoon I downloaded James Raggi's Death Love Doom and I was expecting some freak show horror adventure with adult themes. Well it is that but there's more here in just twenty two pages. This module is an exploration and re-definition  of what makes up a weird horror adventure. This is an adventure with some very strong sexual themes, disturbing art work, and weird reworkings of horror conventions by James Edward Raggi IV.
Well yes and no really. This is more of an exploration of one family's descent into a level of depravity and madness with a structured OSR adventure that uses many of the deliberate transgressions and taboos of  one family by an artifact of incredible maleficence and horror. The PC's are along for the ride and no power in Heaven can help them. This is an adventure that uses baroque bodily transformations allied to an almost demonic reverence to the carnal within the bounds of an adventure location. In other words this adventure uses the conventions of weird erotic horror in the likes of Clive Barker,Ramsey Campbell, and other modern 80's and 90's horror writers. Its a very dark homage to the imaginative echos of Clive Barker's film Hellraiser in some respects. I wasn't shocked because I've played plenty of the Kult rpg back in the early 90's and this adventure reminded me of the better adventures that came out for that game.
This is a vicious and horror filled adventure not for the faint of heart and it contains a horrid adventure location that the PC's will be lucky to get out of with their lives and souls. This isn't simply a haunted house of a survival horror adventure redressed for OSR gaming. This is a highly charged horror run through and gauntlet for a mid level party of adventurers that you want to shake up with a series of adult highly charged encounters.
 This isn't Ravenloft with a new coat of paint, this is Gothic horror adventure with gore and sex themes  center stage. I've seen other Call of Cthlhu adventures with much adult themed as well as weirder plots and twisted paths then Death Love Doom. But I haven't seen the material framed as well as this one.

 Using Death Love Doom For 
Your Old School Campaigns 

One of the themes here is sexual and bounded alienation done against the painted gore and twisted horror of the NPCs as well as the adventure location here, the mansion of the center stage here.  This adventure should be run when the game campaign is at a bit of slow period and the players agree to something different. This is where players and DM's have to have an understanding of the level of adult material in the twenty two pages. I'm not talking about about the 'shocking' art work and adult themes of the adventure. I'm talking about the whole of the level of weirdness that this adventure evokes in those that play it. This is one that sticks with you long after you put down the pdf.

Elements of this adventure involve the whole range of taboo events that take place within the mansion and how those supernatural elements transgress against the natural order leading to a Lovecraftian build up and execution of this adventure. A DM running this is going to be left with a feeling of having run one of Satra's plays like No Exit, here the Hell really is other people. The family and NPC's ultimately are a part of a series of events of horror where the themes of the mundane and supernatural exist side by side in a reworked and deconstructionism of the usual D& D tropes. One part Shining and one part Hellraiser style old school  Barkerism where the journey not the end will change a party one way or another.
My advice is to run this with a group of players who understand and appreciate 80's & 90's horror movies and are out for a good time with lots and lots of Raggi style twists,tricks, and traps against an entire cast of NPC's that not even the cast of ER can put together again.
In the end this is one very twisted adventure location that can be dropped into a campaign and will drop a party into an adventure that they will not expect and much less survive without in some respect be changed and touched by the madness, depravity, and insanity of Raggi's vision and writing. This isn't a light weight module but a blue print and tool box of how to do a very nasty old school weird horror adventure. All not too bad at all for twenty two pages. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1d10 Random Minor Treasures From The Hoard Of The Vampire Kings Table For The Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers Of Hyperborea Rpg System

'Know ye now that in ancient times when the Green Death came down from the North, the ancient kings of undeath and splendor watched in horror as their subjects turned to dust before their very eyes. They secreted themselves away under the Earth and slumber still. Their power and magic await the coming of the moons of Hyperborea when the stars are right again and demon winds howl for the blood of the cosmos. Beware oh man their coming by tooth, fang, and claw. For what was theirs shall be again & your blood shall be their life.'
- From The  Chronicles of Qalos The Wanderer -

1d10 Random Minor Treasures From The Hoard Of The Vampire Kings Table 

  1. An ancient jade and silver sacrificial  knife enchanted to glow with the strength of the blood of the victim. The edge is shod with silver and enchanted razor sharp. There are Atlantian demon bats worked into the artwork on the handle. Those handling this blade will taste copper like metallic bits upon their tongue. +1 knife 
  2. A strange blood red jewel about the size of a human fist that beats with its own internal fire. There is a strange bat demon trapped within its confines, the hell thing can't escape but will teach and as well as sanity shattering spells to the owner. It will whisper them in dreams and nightmares. 
  3. This weird sword is edged with swirling ruins and glyphs of ancient Old Earth. It sings its ancient owners history even as it draws blood from its victims. A +1 sword of sharpness known as Blood Teller. It seeks its original vampiric lord to once again be held in its maker's claws. It tells tales of violence and ancient forbidden gods in whispered dreams. 
  4. This cup is made from the skull and helm of an ancient Roman general of Old Earth. When filled with fresh blood it will create a restorative 'cure light wounds' potion within. But the stuff reeks of old battles and decayed flesh even as it cures. 
  5. A convex lens made from the eye of some long forgotten demonic creature that has been slain by the ancient kings. This thing will show scenes of old glories and ancient battles of far away planes. The thing will want to lodge itself within the skull of the living and is cursed with the powers of the undead.  Once per day the eye may summon a giant bat for the owner to ride. They will be turned into a minor mindless undead zombie within 1d8 months of owning the eye.
  6. A copper plate etched with the ruins and glyphs of kings long forgotten by Hyperborea. This plate enables one to commune with the powers of the Abyss especially Orcus himself. Once per day the owner may summon 1d8 insect headed ghouls who will serve the owner. But there is a demand of blood which the plate will accept and devour with a wet, red sound. The plate must have its sacrifice or demons will come to take the fool away to the Abyss. 
  7. This ancient silver and gold rod has the most ancient writings across its surface of the Kings of the Night. The owner may summon a pack of demonic hounds once per week but must master them lest they try to tear him apart. A charisma roll is needed to bring these horrors to heel each time these savage curs are summoned. 
  8.  This is the book of ten thousand damned, it contains on copper the contents for ten thousand souls. It is an ancient demonic contract. The thing can be used to summon 1d30 vampiric specters from beyond the Outer Darkness to make prophetic songs of love and damnation. The owner may cast a mass charm on an audience when this item is within his hands but he must pay in a price of blood and warfare. 
  9. A solid metal dagger of pitted meteor metal forged from a single piece of a star of the damned. This knife may be used to summon a shade of the ancient kings of the Outer Darkness whose appetites will consume a single soul once per new moon. Their ancient rites will enter into the owner's mind when he first picks up this dagger and a single drop of blood falls on the blade. 
  10. A carved soap stone doll of a child, this thing is actually a spawn of the old gods in disguise. It will attach itself to one it chooses and make obscene spells known to the owner so that its brothers and sisters might be let loose from beyond the vale of time and space. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Free Comic book Old School Resource Sword & Sorcery Download - Warren Presents 013 - Sword & Sorcery Comix 1981

Grab It Right
 Here's the low down on this issue of Warren Presents : 

Publisher: Warren
Published: October 1981, Original Cover Price: $2.00
Cover by Manuel Sanjulian. Edited by Bill DuBay. Stories by Greg Potter, Budd Lewis, Bill DuBay, Gerry Boudreau, and Forrest J. Ackerman. Art by Esteban Maroto. Reprints of Esteban Maroto sword and sorcery stories from Warrens magazines, plus a feature by Ackerman on the 1981 fantasy adventure film Dragonslayer. A Scream in the Forest; The Kingmaker; Goddess in a Kingdom of Trolls; Scheherazade; The Sleeping Beauty. 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. 64 pages, PC/PB&W.
This old school magazine from 1975 was done in the Warren style, the art here is top notch and the title though it capitalized on the 'Sword and Sorcery' craze back then is a really nice read through. This is a pulp/comic mashup comic magazine with elements of Arthurian legend thrown in to boot. I'm not going to lie, I've used this comic magazine a couple of times over the years for inspiration or as an outright source for a few AD&D and OD&D adventures and NPC's.
This issue of 'Warren Presents' makes perfect source material for an OD&D campaign or indeed an Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure. Much of the material here can easily be recycled and used with a bit of dust up and polish for some of the encounters. The writing by Greg Potter, Budd Lewis, Bill DuBay, Gerry Boudreau, and the Dragon Slayer movie Forrest J. Ackerman are pretty top drawer and a nice change of pace to the hum drum material that we see on the internet today. The Dragon Slayer film is mostly forgotten amid the CGI clap trap that passes for 
special effects today and should be viewed though as a great film to pull material for a sword and sorcery campaign. It remains an old favorite of mine.
The writing and artwork in this issue is up to Warren standards at the time, and while these are reprints of earlier Warren efforts, they're fresh and mostly forgotten by today's players. Making this a perfect source to pull from for a fast evening's 
entertainment or simply use these as fodder for your own imagination's pondering. All in all this isn't a bad little old school download to pull material from for an OD&D
or AD&D campaign. Warren put out quite a bit of quality material and this issue of 
Warren presents gives some solid Sword and Sorcery stuff to pull from. Grab your copy and get rolling.