30 March 2022

Mythras and Against the Darkmaster News

I thought that I would pass along some news concerning two of my favourite role-playing games and the companies that produce them.


First, The Design Mechanism – publisher of the Mythras game and many excellent settings for it, including the delightful Lyonesse (which actually includes all of the necessary rules as well as the setting) – has a new online store. 

If you bought any PDFs at the old DM store it may be a good idea to download them before the end of April. 


The second bit of news concerns Against the Darkmaster, published by Open Ended Games.

There are a number of Against the Darkmaster things in the works, as outlined here. Of special note: a reprint of the core rules and a Player’s Handbook version of the rules. Given the overwhelming length (and weight!) of the core book, a volume with only the rules needed by players should be very helpful. Thankfully, the “VsD PHB” will be available in both PDF and print at DrivethruRPG.


23 March 2022

Fort Endurance and the Dim Forest (Greyhawk Classics Campaign)

I thought that I would share the summaries of the adventures in my "Greyhawk Classics" campaign. The characters are described in this earlier post. I'll set up an index for the campaign in the near future (similar to what I did for my "Spider Cult of Mirkwood" campaign).



1.1        Cracks beneath Fort Endurance (Coldeven 1st – 3rd) 

  •  In late Readying (the month the elves call “Yellowillow”) the adventures—Erik (a mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (a high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee, capital of the Duchy of Ulek), Godric (a human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth, the southeastern part of the Gran March), and Godric’s twin brother Cedric (a human cleric of St. Cuthbert)—arrive at Fort Endurance within the Dim Forest. The fort helps protect the trade route connecting Hookhill (the capital of the Gran March) and Hochoch (a city on the boundary of the Gran March and the Grand Duchy of Geoff). For different reasons, the neophyte adventurers all seek the ruined Shrine of Istus, which is rumoured to be hidden somewhere in the southeastern portion of the Dim Forest. 
  • During the evening of the first day of Coldeven (the month the elves call “Snowflowers”), the adventurers break the ice in the fort’s tavern, The Hideous Hydra. They introduce themselves to each other and learn of their shared interest in finding the shrine (a remarkable coincidence—obviously fate brought them together!). Unfortunately, a brawl breaks out and the adventurers become involved—Erik enthusiastically, the others less so. They subsequently all are thrown in the “drunk tank” by the guards.  
  • The next morning the party is released from their cell by Rolf Ironfist, the clerk and advisor to the fort’s castellan, Sir Feric Vanick. (Rolf is a dwarf with a vivid red, carefully braided beard. He also is Erik’s cousin.) Rolf asks the party to investigate the merchant Garan’s shop, which apparently had been broken into a few hours earlier. The shop remains locked and there is no sign of Garan. 
  • The party investigates Garan’s shop and apartment. They find Garan’s body, a wing-clipped cockatrice that escaped from its cage, a hidden cache, and a secret trap door. The cockatrice (amazingly) is recaptured. After consulting with Rolf, the party opens the trap door and descends into a network of tunnels that permeate the rocky hill beneath the fort.
  • Over the course of their explorations, the party avoids some traps, fights some rats, discovers some secret rooms, and so forth. The rats, alas, infect Cedric and Godric with disease before they are destroyed. The party infers that the tunnels were used to run a secret gambling den during an earlier era. 
  • Delving deeper into the hidden warrens, the party discovers a Temple to Syrul (the Suel goddess of Lies, Deceit, Treachery, and False Promises). In the temple the party finds and fights Illyana Tatranova, a follower of Syrul. She seems to be unaffected by the party’s weapons! During the struggle, Illyana releases a mephit. Fortunately, the fiery creature is defeated by Cedric. Also released from a hidden trapdoor is a swarm of skeletal rats. The tiny creatures swarm Erik, rendering the dwarf bloody and unconscious. Godric also is knocked out. By means of magic, Althaea manages to overcome Illyana. Cedric returns to the surface while Althaea guards Godric and Erik.

[Symbol of Syrul]

  • Cedric informs Rolf of the party’s discoveries. Guards are sent below to recover the other party members and the malevolent Syrulite. Illyana, still unconscious, is imprisoned. The party claims her equipment, including a magical dagger. (The dagger releases a blade of radiant energy when activated.) 
  • Father Cormac, a priest of Fharlanghn, removes the disease from Cedric and Godric. (Father Cormac is a friendly human cleric of Flan descent, with wavy dark brown hair and a ruddy complexion. His holy symbol is a wooden disc with a curving line.)  
  • The exhausted adventurers then crash for the night at the fort’s inn, The Slumbering Serpent. 
  • The next morning the party learns that Illyana Tatranova has escaped from her cell! Father Cormac believes that she is a were-rat and escaped by changing herself into a rat during the night. 
  • Over the course of the day the party learns that Illyana frequently stayed at The Slumbering Serpent and would talk with merchants at The Hideous Hydra. They speculate that she would collect intelligence on travellers in order to decide which groups to rob later.  
  • The party also learns the location of the Shrine of Istus from Father Cormac. (He tells them that he prefers to keep the location a secret, given the power of its altar, but finds the party to be trustworthy, and is grateful for their help in discovering Garan’s murderer and in alerting the fort to the danger posed by Illyana.)

[Illyana Tatranova]


1.2.1     The Lost Shrine of Istus (Coldeven 4th – 7th)

  • Father Cormac tells the party some of the history of the Shrine of Istus. It was established by followers of the goddess of fate from Bissel and Ket almost three hundred years ago. About a century ago, it was overrun by orcs. Its location was not known by many, and knowledge of it was lost after its clerics were slain. As a wanderer, Cormac came across it several years ago, but was frightened away by the orcs and ogres that inhabited it.  
  • The fourth of Coldeven is a grey drizzly day. Undaunted by the dreary weather, though, the party travels southeast from Fort Endurance to the ruins of the Shrine of Istus. It is early evening when they reach the ruins. By moonlight they spot some humanoids lurching about. Deciding that it would be more prudent to investigate during the day, the party retreats into the forest and sets up camp for the night. 
  • The next day the party explores the ruins. Vile orcs and ogres are discovered! Unnoticed, Godric sneaks around to collect information. However, the other adventurers are spotted, and an alarm is raised. Althaea takes out some of the evil humanoids with a sleep spell. Eventually the party kills eight orcs. One orc manages to flee, as do two ogres. Cedric heals himself and Godric.  
  • The party decides to rest for the night before exploring further. They climb up the remaining intact tower located at the northeast corner of the grounds. Althaea casts “Alarm” at the base of the tower and sets caltrops at the top of the ladder. 
  • The next day the party further explores the ruins. Eventually they find the legendary altar of Istus. Behind the altar is a grey tapestry depicting the goddess Istus (a beautiful yet aloof woman of middle years who holds a golden spindle with three strands). According to legend, the holy altar will answer one (and only one) question for each person who touches it.    
  • Althaea has long been intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the Valley of the Mage. So her question is: “Why do the Valley Elves follow the human wizard who claims dominion over the Vale?” The altar’s answer appears in her mind as a kind of new memory: “The Wizard of the Vale is neither human, elf, nor half-elf, and the elves of the Vale follow him because he gave them succour in their exile.” 
  • Overly fond of strong drink—but at all not fond of hangovers—Erik seeks a Dwarven Helm of Sobriety. These great artefacts, creations of the legendary dwarf smith Laga Vulin, are said to cure one of any ill effects from poisons, toxins, or liquor upon being donned. So Erik’s question is: “Where is a Dwarven Helm of Sobriety?” The altar’s answer: “An unclaimed Helm of Laga Vulin lies magically hidden and locked within the Tomb of Serten, champion of St. Cuthbert, who fell in the battle of Emridy Meadows.”  
  • Cedric has been having dreams of a dark force, an ancient enemy of St. Cuthbert, rising again. These dreams have been tormenting him for almost a year. This was his reason for travelling to Fort Endurance and seeking the Shrine of Istus. So naturally he asks: “Where should I seek the rising dark force of Chaos and Evil that plagues my dreams?” The altar of Istus implants the following information in his mind: “Travel to Hommlet, near the city of Verbobonc; those who follow St. Cuthbert there will aid you in your efforts.” 
  • Godric has long been entranced by stories of the half-elven roguish mage Quesse the Quick (who travelled throughout the lands centuries ago). Quesse was related to Godric’s family through her human father. The mage eventually retired two centuries ago to a hidden manse. Although he did not choose to try to find the Shrine of Istus (that was his brother Cedric’s idea), Godric decides to take advantage of the opportunity to ask: “Where is the Manse of Quesse?” The altar’s answer: “Quesse’s home lies within the Gnarley Forest; the woodsy elves there know the way.” 
  • Happy with their newly acquired knowledge, the party explores further. They discover some things, including a magical key. Alas, they are attacked by a band of orcs and ogres (no doubt alerted by those that fled their earlier battle). Althaea creates an illusion of a berserker dwarf. The illusion pathetically fails to cause the humanoids to flee, although it does distract them. She also casts a sleep spell on an orc. Despite these arcane efforts, though, a terrible mêlée ensues. The ogres manage to batter Erik and Althaea into unconsciousness. Godric and Cedric, however, succeed in slaying the ogres. Godric notices another damnable orc fleeing into the forest.  
  • After providing some divine healing to Erik and Althaea, Cedric helps Godric set up camp in the main shrine, near the altar. They rest for the remainder of the day and throughout the night. 
  • Early the following morning the party explores a bit more but is attacked by a swarm of stirges. While the stirges ultimately are defeated, Althaea and Cedric are gravely wounded and fall unconscious due to blood loss. The adventurers rest again and then depart from the shrine.

  • Too weak to make good progress, the party camps in a shallow cave within the Dim Forest. The next day they complete their return trek to Fort Endurance. There they recover from their travails and make plans for a future journey.

01 March 2022

More on The Rings of Power series

The Vanity Fair article, “10 Burning Questions About Amazon’s The Rings of Power,” actually came out a couple of weeks ago but it slipped by my notice until now. As its title indicates, it provides answers to 10 questions (including: “Should Fans Be Worried?”; correct answer: “Yes!”). While none of the answers makes me more pessimistic about the series, none of them make me more optimistic either.

I mentioned in my previous post on the series that there are two main periods of dynamic, violent change in the Second Age:

  1. The forging of the rings of power by Celebrimbor and Annatar (the disguised Sauron), followed by the War of Elves and Sauron (SA 1500-1700). 
  2. The struggle for power in Númenor following the reign of Tar-Palantir (with the ascension of Ar-Pharazôn), the capture of Sauron by Ar-Pharazôn, the subsequent downfall of Númenor, and (a century later) the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron (SA 3261-3441).

We already knew that the series would be “compressing” these events into a single period (so “mashing” almost 2000 years of history into maybe a decade or two?). Much more than anything else this is what bothers me the most about the series (so far). But that’s what will be happening. 

The article confirms that the main story-lines will be:

  • (a) The forging of the rings of power (featuring Celebrimbor of course, but with a closely connected story-line involving Elrond and Durin IV); 
  • (b) The rise of Sauron (although it’s not clear whether he will appear in the form of “Annatar”); 
  • (c) The fall of Númenor (apparently with a focus on the stories of Elendil and Isildur); and 
  • (d) The Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Of course, those are the right stories to focus on – but there are 1500+ years between (b) and (c). Among other things, the slow corruptive work of the nine rings given to “mortal men” almost certainly will be portrayed too hastily (I really hope that the nine don’t instantly become Nazgûl once they pop on their shiny gifts). Dwarven history will also be “compressed,” as Durin III and Durin IV will be father and son in the series (which of course makes no sense, given that every later “Durin” is, according to the Dwarves, a reincarnation of the original).

Another worry of mine concerns “meteorite man” (referred to as “Mystery Man” in the article). It’s hinted in the article that he may be one of the Istari (most plausibly a Blue Wizard, although that does not mesh well with the official lore that the series is allowed to use, namely, that found in The Lord of the Rings, including the appendices, and The Hobbit). Apparently, he’s found and befriended by the proto-hobbit “Nori Brandyfoot” (*sigh*). My own guess is that meteorite man will turn out to be Sauron (perhaps in the guise of “Annatar”?). Whoever he turns out to be, though, I think having a significant character appear via meteorite is decidedly not “Tolkien-esque.”

On a more positive note, I expect that the series at least will be beautiful, given the involvement of John Howe. 



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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).