Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review And Commentary On The Book of Artifacts By Dragon Tree Press For Your Old School Horror Campaign

Back in the early 80's when the hobby was just getting started and I began my weekly trek down to War and Pieces in West Hartford. I stumbled upon Dragon Tree press and into the world of Delos. 

 I did quite a bit of adventuring upon the shores of Delos. It's a place that borders Arduin, Narnia, Fairyland, Oz, and many other worlds. There is more of the touch of Faerie here. More on that in
Delos comes from the pens of Ben & Mary Ezzell.

From the Dragon Tree Home page : 
Delos is a planet near neighbor to that best of all worlds which is Arduin®, and doth much traffic therewith. However the mana here is richer and more erratic, and the Theologian Newton describes it thus:
Here they need not store nor hoard their mana for it floats rich in the air for all, and nay they cannot hoard it for it slips and slides and sputters, all in and out of the Mage and the air and the ground and the Shadows. And here they cast and cast and there is no lack...and no grievous burden on the Mage to draw it neither. But as the mana slides about so often slide the spells and so they miscarry to the shame and sorrow of all....
American mages name this mana as 'Percentage and Fumble System'. The casters have aplenty to work with but tis like steering a ship in a storm or runaway horses, and caster's skill is all to turn it as he wishes and he fails to his woe.
Like Arduin®, Delos hath never built fireish machines but offtimes spaceships land here from the techno worlds and trade their goods or mayhap are robbed of them, and starrish beasties leave ship to roam in our woods. And here Multiversal can sell many strange goods from many strange worlds, but some they cannot sell because of the Prime Directive. And the rich living mana hereabouts offtimes sparks cross-Shadow making natural gates as those from England to Narnia, whence persons come through by mental inclining from amany strange Shadow-worlds and times, by the strength of their hearts' desires.
Introduction and description 
Contains over 200 new magick items with complete descriptions, stats, prices, uses and misuses. Also included are rules for player-character construction of magick items in a mana-rich (i.e., Percentage and Fumble) world. Any first-level spellcaster can make a Staff of Power ... which will do something ... but watch out!
Table of Contents (abbreviated)
Delian Methods for Constructing Magical Items
Discusses the methods and rules for the construction of magical artifacts together with notes on fumbles, failures and other mishaps.
Definitions & Commentary
An explanation of terms and definitions relating to magical artifacts together with notes on the laws governing such devices.
Perhaps more popular with game masters than with players.
Wands & Staffs
All mages have one, right?  But what exactly do they carry?
Adventurers' Equipment
Listing includes the AMLA knapsack with all the essentials as well as much, much more.
Everything for the well-dressed adventurer.
The better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Arrows & Bows
... and, speaking of arrows, a bow is also nice ...
Miscellaneous Weapons
Weapons come in all shapes and sizes ... and other characteristics as well.
A wide assortment for the fighter, paladin or other gay blade.
Drugs & Potions
Drugs and potions to satisfy a wide variety of needs.
Providing those special touches that make a cavern or dungeon so much more.
Amulets & Jewelry
More than merely adornment, the right touch for every occasion.
When you don't know what to offer, a ring is always the proper gift.
The One Ring and the Lesser Rings
Here are the secrets of the One Ring and the nineteen lesser rings.
Random Akronian Effects Table
Even the best of magics fail or fumble ... here's an aide to determining the effects.
Magic Item Generation Table
A helpful guide for providing the proper assortment of devices and treasures for your dungeon.

Using the Book Of Artifacts For Your Old School Horror Campaign 
The Book of Artifacts is a throw back to the early days of OD&D and its a book full of deadliness as well as whimsey. The book has the feel of more an attachment then it is a complete volume of lore.
As for why its a horror resource? The truth is that the book has more then a touch of the horrific nature of both fairy tales and the deadliness of its origins. Namely from back in the early days when things weren't so well defined. The traps, tricks, and magic items if placed correctly can mean all of the difference between a PC melting into a puddle of slime or gaining the treasure.
 Magical treasure in this book are closer to the fetishes seen in other rpgs. Namely spirits are bound within the confines of the magic item. This into itself is pretty nasty but the consequence of these actions for those who find such items can be deadly. 

There is a strange twist in the nature of 'fairy' within Delos. Its treated as an alien and separate dimension in many of the Dragon Tree Press products. This allows a DM to tie the product directly into Lord Dunsany or CS Lewis more then Tolkien. The background has a more traditional fantasy feel then the usual tropes of D&D. Some of the background of the Fey were truly alien and very horror based.
 Many of the Delos books have the background of Amazon Mutual as a background and story device. This is an insurance company that pays out should an adventurers body need to be recovered for resurrection. The company is more then a bit on the shady side and has helped to finance more then its share of nasty and dangerous deals. There have been several instances when they've purposely uncovered 'Things Man Wasn't Meant To Know' with the intention of cashing in on the deal. Amazon Mutual is always hovering in the background of all of Dragon Tree Press's materials. They do actually provide a pretty good horror campaign motivator with the PC's never quite sure whose side their really working for. 

Believe it or not several of the treasures in this book are tied directly back to Amazon Mutual allowing a DM to quickly,quietly, and carefully insert them into their campaign with little fuss or muss.

 Using The Book of Artifacts With Modern Retroclones

Because of the nature of Dragon Tree Press products there is very little problem inserting this material into most retroclones. The Delos stuff is really suited to working with OD&D White Box but because of the nature of the material I've used it with AD&D second edition with very little modification.
This is the one Delos product that is actually out of circulation at this time. Every other Delos related products are available through their website. 

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