Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ill Met in Marlankh

The following was found written on a crumpled piece of paper on the floor of the Blue Rabbit.


It has come to my attention that a number of erstwhile companions have published their accounts of this tale in one form or another.  Unfortunately for both the general public and me, these uncouth scoundrels have spread naught but lies and balderdash.  Therefore, I am moved to set down my own version.  I will present the facts of the matter as plainly as possible in order that the truth might speak for itself.

I had been summoned to Marlankh by a few violent men that aided my scholarship in the past.  Sadly, the life of a diabolist is not without peril, and it often behooves me to align myself with a less savory sort.  They explained that they needed the services of one skilled in the Black Arts and that no one other than myself would do.  I graciously acquiesced, hoping that whatever task they needed me for would lead to my further edification.

I am not afraid to say, gentle reader, that the mission they wished to undertake was a kidnapping.  I am not a proud man, and if my studies in Toledo taught me anything it is that one should not be afraid to get one's hands dirty.  The reason for this kidnapping was somewhat obscure to me.  The best I can put together is that one of my fellow rogues wished to rid himself of his wife and in so doing gain access to precious lucre at the expense of his father-in-law.

It is in this matter, that is to say the matter of the mark, that things became more complicated.  You see, the woman in question was a vision of loveliness such as I had never seen before in all of my travels.  Her passion for the study of human anatomy and the more subtle ways in which it can be manipulated rivals only mine, and her eyes' fiendish intelligence set my heart alight.  I knew that I must have her!  I would perform my part, but only up to a point.  Rather than release her to her scheming father and her oafish husband, I would take her for myself and whisk her away to Wessex where we might live in happiness.

At first everything seemed to be going according to my plan.  Through subtle use of my own magics we were able to spirit her away to a finely appointed manor house I had procured in order that she might be comfortable while we practiced our extortion.  I am sad to relate that while doing so I had to hide my appearance and wash off some of my distinctive odor that has been the delight of women around the world.  I, Philip the Black, will do anything in the name of love.

It was my companions' job to actually secure the money; however, their general incompetence and slow minds made them fail in even this relatively simple task.  I suppose it is not entirely their fault, for it seems the father had little care for the fate of his lovely daughter.  The fool!  How can these men not appreciate one so beautiful and marvelous as she?  I am sickened by the mere thought that she now is with these imbeciles.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  When it became apparent that we were not going to receive any money, my companions reverted to their violent natures.  The clown was the worst of the lot, but it must be said that all of them were united in their murderous intent.  It was only when I threatened them with powerful magics and reminded them of my compact with Satan that they ceased.  It was decided that we would release the fair lady in some back alley.  I feared for her safety, but even though my threatening had worked I knew that the combined might of these viscous criminals would be able to stop me from saving her.

And so she was released to run back to the arms of two men who care not for her.  Damn them!  Now in exile, I must pine for her from afar.  I take solace only in the fact that Satan's eight eyes watch over me, and that with his aid I will one day take her away from her moronic husband and bless her with many, many children.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Poll for FLAILSNAILers

I'm curious to see what levels the existing FLAILSNAILS characters are.  So I put up a poll.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monster Monday: Groans

No. Appearing: 1d4
Armor Class: 16
Hit Dice: 5+5
Move: 90'
Attacks: 1 (claw 1d12)
Morale: 7
Alignment: Neutral

Groans are immense anthropophagi that lurk in the benighted forests of the Dark Country.  They appear as immense bulks roughly 10' in height that terribly combine the aspects of both men and trees.  They stalk through the forest searching for their favorite food: man-flesh.

Groans loathe humans but love their meat.  Their hatred comes primarily from the practice of farming, which groans feel is the equivalent of genocide or slavery.  To the groan, digesting any vegetable matter is murder.  This is not to say that groans are moralists, for they are slow witted creatures whose primary pleasures in life involve disemboweling human victims.

In their natural environment, groans are incredibly stealthy.  When in a forest at night, they surprise opponents on a 1-5 on 1d6.  They will occasionally parley with potential meals, but only if it is very clear that the party in question has not recently eaten fruits or vegetables.  Otherwise, they will attempt to devour any humans or demihumans they see on sight.  Even if there is no evidence that the party in question has eaten any vegetable matter, on a reaction roll of Uncertain or worse the Groan assumes they have and attacks anyway.

Groans fear fire and they fear the sun even more.  Groans always take full damage from fire-based attacks and always catch fire if that result is possible.  When hit by the rays of the Sun, a groans feet bury deep into the ground and the groan becomes little more than a dried up dead tree.  It is said that the White Lady knows the ancient magic by which these trees can be turned back into groans, but most woodsmen agree this is a rare event.  It is also the general consensus that this solar problem, combined with their general slow-wittedness and their small numbers, that keep the groans from attempting to stamp out all of human civilization.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What the West is Like

Stealing from Jack yet again.

The West
Precis: Petty lords feud and scheme against each other while dark things lurk in the woods;  A Game of Thrones meets Averoigne

Conspectus: Four (?) kingdoms: the Iron Kingdom, the Realm (Holy Roman Empire), the County of Averoigne (France), and the Kingdom of Kars (England); tournaments with painted lances still take the lives of foolish nobles; poachers and bandits hunting the king's deer; court wizards; competing high pontiffs fight over the Church of Law through poison and proxies; ancient, pagan shrines that still hold some measure of magic and terrible monsters; trial by combat; chivalry and courtly love side by side with treachery and rape; plague and famine; peasant revolts; witch burnings; constant, but petty, warfare; bloody dynastic struggles; cheap death; troubadours sing and spy for monarchs and counts; foolhardy knights ride out to slay dragons and other local monsters; knightly orders; dancing banners splashed in blood; secret, heretical cults plot the downfall of the Church; burning fields and cattle raids; self-made men who gain position through fire and sword; boar hunts and great feasts; wilding and robber barons

Taste, Sound, Image: Cassoulet and hard cider, Pentangle "The Hunting Song," the Morgan/Maciejowski Bible

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Castle Drakenstein is Like

Once again stealing from Jack.

Precis: A funhouse megadungeon run by a horror host.  Mummies, vampires, werewolves, aliens, and human flies all rub shoulders in Frankenstein's lab.

Conspectus: The more-or-less ruined Castle Drakenstein is home to a foppish, capricious lich whose only pleasure in life comes through torturing adventurers; peasants fear to tread in the shadow of the tower; caverns contain fog-bound, haunted forests where the moon is always full; mad scientists have moved in to conduct their hideous experiments; an ancient pharaoh's tomb has been rebuilt, stone by stone, and filled with the appropriate Egyptian horrors; satanic cults hold metal concerts; medusa heads!; Atomic horror monsters made by Frankenstein; technicolor dungeon lighting; regular monsters forced to dress and act the part by the insane Baron;  lots and lots of terrible puns

Taste, Sound, Image: Movie popcorn and Coca-Cola, The Cramps "God Monster," Tales from the Crypt (TV show or comics, your pick).

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Seven Cities: Lychgate

Lychgate is one of the more powerful of the Seven Cities, and it's position at the edge of the Long Swamp, where the Lesser Dark and River Deep merge into the Dark River, makes enables its magnates to control almost all the trade in the Dark Country.  The skyline is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Gax Lawgiver that was originally built when the Sword Brothers founded the city.  

The cathedral does not resemble its Western counterparts, rather it appears more like an enormous version of the fortified churches established by the Sword Brothers throughout the Dark Country and the Desert Lands.  It is squat but bulky, and a combination of defensive towers and the city's inner wall make the cathedral an imposing sight for those new to the city.  The other buildings are mostly in the typical Western style of wood and whitewash.  They huddle together next to twisting streets, their roofs obscuring the sky in some of the slummier districts.  Fire is a common problem, but not common enough to prevent Notker from publicly burning "Enemies of the Law" in the various squares.

The farms and thorps that lie in its shadow are some of the few truly settled areas in the Dark Country.  Still, a trip to the Long Swamp or a day’s ride to the Witchwood would quickly dispel any sense of civilization one might have within the city walls.  The majority of the populace within the walls are middle and upper class merchants as well as exiled nobles and priests from the West.  The peasants whose farms dot the surrounding countryside cannot afford the 2gp per leg entry tax required to entry the city.  Froglings too are forced to remain outside the walls, though this is because of the bigoted zeal of the Bishop.


Lychgate, like all of the Seven Cities, is very much defined by the man who rules it.  Notker the Unshaven is the worst sort of bishop: officious, domineering, irritable, and most of all loud.  He has recently sustained a number of personal insults that he believes originated from a secret Satanic society bent on obstructing the will of the Law.  While his lieutenants and cronies do not share his paranoid suspicions, they know that to keep their positions they must find suitable scapegoats in order that Notker might vent his rage at someone other than themselves.

His chief lieutenant and marshal, Lord Eckhard, was recently sent away from the city to serve as the "governor" of Nightwick Village.  The Bear is a grumbler, but his sense of duty and his fear of the Bishop's anger made him go.  In his absence, Bader the Badger -- the leader of Bader's Boys, a mercenary company with low moral standards -- has filled the void left by Eckhard.  He lacks the scruples of his predecessor and is both a sycophant and a sociopath.  In his zeal to please Notker the Unshaven he has butchered many an innocent.

Notker's suspicions are not entirely without cause.  While the other cities have mostly stamped out paganism within the shadow of their walls, the Bishop's overzealous pursuit of enemies has galvanized those who might otherwise have been converted.  The people whisper of a messianic figure named Yim Yimsley who will overthrow the tyrannical Church of Law and return the people of the Dark Country to the Old Ways.  None know his true identity. Some say that he is not truly one man, but several who take up the moniker whenever the innocent people of the Dark Country are threatened.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Blog You Should Check Out

Have you ever seen that Cole or Welcome to Dungeon! guy in the comments of a blog post or on G+ and thought "that dude is sharp?"  Well that's because he is.

Anyway, he has a blog now.  Go read it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unfocused Thoughts on Castle Drakenstein

"No!  You musn't go!  We People of the Mountains believe fucked up shit happens at the castle."

Tunnels & Trolls is a game that fascinates me.  I've run a session or two using the quickstart -- which I don't seem to be able to find at the moment -- and I remember having mixed feelings.  However, Scott Driver's love of the game combined with its lighthearted tone have made me want to revisit it at various points.  I think, for example, it would make a kickass system for the Land of Ooo.

One thing I particularly like is the idea of a dungeon "proprietor."  I especially liked Scott's making his a messed up parody of himself.  So I decided to see what I could come up with for myself.  Thus was born Castle Drakenstein.

Note: this is another one of those settings I'm not likely to run.  This is especially true because the overlap with Nightwick Abbey is pretty heavy.  However, I'd like to have something if I ever decide to give T&T a second chance.

  • The general theme would be horror movies of various sorts, particularly the Universal and Hammer ones, with a smattering of 50s sci fi, horror literature, swords & sorcery, ufology, and metal stuff thrown in willy nilly.  It might be best described as "the kind of castle a horror host would live in."
  • The proprietor, Baron Edric van Drakenstein, is a capricious and melodramatic lich who has a habit of dressing like the above picture.  He is usually sulking in his chambers beneath the castle, playing an enormous pipe organ.  When he's in a manic state, however, he will often appear to badger the delvers with terrible puns, horrible monsters, and incoherent whining.  This is all done with an excessive amount of gesticulation.
  • Dungeon levels/sublevels will have themes based on various types of movies.  For example there would be a Frankenstein lab (this would also include things like Mu-tants), a Dracula crypt, a cavern that looks suspiciously like the forest from The Wolfman, etc.
  • Monsters will include Wolfmen, Wolfwomen, Mu-tants, Frankensteins, Draculas, Draculaensteins, Skeletons (a la Jason and the Argonauts), Orcs with Halloween masks on, Froguloids*, Creatures from Various Lagoons, Gorgons (complete with purple back lighting), CHUDs, Morlocks, Zombies (both flesh eating and voodoo varieties), Flatwoods Monsters, Igors, Jersey Devils, Swamp Monsters, and a lot more.  I'm too lazy to think of more now, but that took me like a minute so whatever.
  • Sections of the dungeon will disappear based on the good baron's mercurial moods.  If somehow the delvers were to integrate Edric on this point, he would declare "the map was ugly!" and complain about how hard running a dungeon is.
  • The Baron is just the most recent in a long line of fucked up liches in the van Drakenstein family.  They all look eerily similar, but that's easy when your face is a skull.
  • The castle is on a high mountain and only appears at night.  A village lies at the foot of the mountain, and the peasants have various nonsensical excuses for why they don't move.
  • Various magic items and/or technological gizmos would only work on the levels whose genre matches their theme.  So the ray gun you found on the Devil Planet level doesn't work in the Tomb of the Mummpire. 
  • SFX provided by Ray Harryhausen.
  • There will be a lot more lighting than in most of my dungeon complexes.  In this case it will appear like the various psychedelic lighting tricks used to make Hammer movies so lurid.
  • I like the idea of the more traditional fantasy monsters in the dungeon thinking all this horror movie stuff is stupid and complaining.  They stick around because they get a hot meal and a place to sleep.
  • The system would obviously be T&T, but I'm not sure what edition I would use.  I only really have experience with the quick start.
  • I suppose there would probably be some TOS Star Trek references in there.
  • One of the Draculas, or perhaps the Baron himself, would have a gallery of busts of himself in different extravagant hats.
Ok, I feel like I'm reaching now, so that's it until I get more inspiration.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monster Monday: Vault Weaver

Vault Weaver
No. Appearing: 1d3 (0)
Armor Class: 18
HD: 3
Move: 120'
Attacks: Special
Morale: 6
Alignment: Neutral

Vault weavers subsist on a diet of decaying flesh, but are also known to attack and devour unfortunate living beings that happen to cross their path.  They appear as luminescent orbs roughly two feet in diameter.  The color of these orbs is difficult for the human eye to comprehend, and when combined with their great speed this makes them incredibly difficult to hit.

When feeding, the vault weaver protrudes thick, goopy strands of phosphorescent ectoplasm of the same color as their unnatural bodies.  These protrude out from the creature 10’ in all directions, and victims must make a Save vs. Breath Weapon or take 1d4 points of damage.  Afterwards, the vault weaver selects one target that it will continue to feed on.  This target is randomly selected, but must have been damaged in the initial burst.  Every round thereafter until the creature takes damage or until the victim is slain, whichever comes first, the victim takes 1d4 points of damage. 

Characters or creatures killed in this manner have all of their organic matter dissolve into a strange dust that then flies into the vault weaver’s body.  Once the creature has thus eaten, it immediately makes a morale check.  If successful, it once again sends out strands to find a new victim.  If it fails, the creature is full and will flee from combat.

Due to the fact that their body is composed of an otherworldly energy, vault weavers are not only immune to energy based attacks but are healed by them.  This includes magical attacks of various sorts.  If the creature is healed in this manner when it has full hit points, it gains extra hit points above its normal maximum.  Strangely, physical attacks do harm vault weavers, but only deal half damage (minimum 1).

The origin of vault weavers is a mystery, and they can be found in tombs and underworlds throughout the Desert of Demons.  They are most often found in the ruins of Old Jerah where the catacombs – along with a constant stream of foolhardy adventurers – provide a nigh inexhaustible food supply.  However, those who believe this is their only haunt are often surprised to find themselves spending the last moments of their life as the victim of one of these blasphemous orbs. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Unfocused Thoughts: A Barbaric Age

The Great Cities have risen and fallen,  civilization's grip on mankind has grown weak and arthritic, dark powers seek to renew forgotten covenants, and primordial beasts reclaim the wilderness. -- Korgoth of Barbaria, "Pilot"

Ah, another setting destined for the creative detritus of my wandering mind.  Hopefully this will get it out of my system and I can get back to Dark Country and Uz* related things.  The impetus for the idea came from this post by another Evan** whose blog appears to be defunct.  Anyway he points out that OD&D using the Outdoor Survival map is a rough place to live, and it's filled with roaming bands of armed humans.  That's saying nothing of the castles.

Anyway, that reminded me of Korgoth, 80s S&S movies, and the Greek Dark Ages for some reason, so here are some setting notes.
  • The map is (obviously) the one from Outdoor Surival.  Ponds are castles, buildings are towns, deer are probably going to be villages and the little wolf-looking things (I can't really see what they are from the maps online) are probably what Scott would call an "8 page module" dungeon.  I may cut the villages out or make the monster layers if I want to make it very "barbaric," which I do.
  • Basic premise is, as stated above, our civilization has crumbled and a civilization that looks suspiciously like pre-modern Earth has risen in it's place.
  • Rules would be OD&D plus some classes and monsters from the supplements and probably some copious house rules.
  • Part of the idea would be to develop things (house rules, setting info, monsters, etc.) through play and the needs of play.  I want the setting to have an overall flavor, but it's a bit closer to baseline D&D than is say... Uz.
  • While I want to retain some of the barest Tolkien elements, I want to emphasize some of the other source literature a bit more.  If orcs are in it then they'll be the pig-faced guy from the three Deathstalker movies or something equally stupid.
  • Since it's a far-future Earth I plan to make good on OD&D's promise of Robots.  Ray guns are probably but not a replacement for magic items in the way they will be in Uz.
  • I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet with alignment.  If I go with a REH style split between barbaric and civilized people I may use it to get that across; however, it seems like this setting is going to be pretty barbaric all around, so I dunno.
  • I wanna go back to using some mythological monsters I haven't gotten to use with Nightwick Abbey or Uz.  I miss Minotaurs.
  • If it looks like I'll run this at some point -- which seems unlikely right now -- I'll probably work up some kind of "underworld" for beginning play.  OD&D's wilderness can be rough on level 1 characters.
  • On that note, I may steal a page from Scott and use the CSIO 4 Level dungeon for that.  I wouldn't have to draw many maps right away and it seems like it would be fun to stock.
  • Speaking of the underworld: I need more dungeon NPCs!
  • I'd generally take the "whatever you want to play" approach to PC races, but I think I'd like to work up some writeups for things like lizardmen and other weirdos.  I swing back and forth between human only campaigns and campaigns where you can play minotaurs.
  • The basic culture of the area would probably be movie-style-medieval, with a thick layering of bronze age and classical crap over it.  Some clerics might worship God, while the next one over is a fan of Apollo, and that wizard is totally a Satanist.
  • The various castles on the map would be generated using the rules for such things in Underworld & Wilderness adventures.  I'll probably also add a few fighting men whenever that seems appropriate.
  • The towns will use a combination of the guidelines for determining population in the Greyhawk Folio and in the Ready Ref Sheets.
  • Place names will be a mix of historical place names and shit I like spelled backwards.  Expect the return of Vennax the Mauve.
That's it for now.  Hopefully the idea will stop bugging me now.

*More on that later

**There can be only one!

Witches of the Dark Country: Goody Gallows

The fetid bogs and benighted forests of the Dark Country are filled with all manner of hags, witches, strigoi, and other cronish creatures.  This series of articles is meant to detail only the most powerful of these "women."  They owe much to Scott's Granny Grimtits, the various witches of Adventure Time, and VectorSigma's Random Tables for Generating Striga.

Witches are without exception loathsome and hideous creatures, but none more than Goody Gallows.  Goody is a stunted, emaciated figure whose skin is pulled taught over her bulging, misshapen bones.  Her skin is mottled grey, and here and there black down feathers emerge from bleeding sores.  What little hair she possesses grows in small clumps across her scalp, neck, face, and shoulders.  Some patches exceedingly long, but these are universally gray and wispy.  Her nose and upper jaw fuse into a strange, hooked beak, while her lower jaw is little more than a limp flap of skin that moves unsettlingly whenever she speaks.  The whole effect is that she looks something like a humanoid buzzard.

The toothless nannies of the Dark Country will tell you that Goody Gallows' birth was the result of her equally cronish mother's copulating with a carrion bird.  She was born only three days later and grew to full adulthood three days after that.  Shortly thereafter her mother was slain, and the nannies bicker over who did the slaying.  They all agree that it was a beautiful woman who was avenging the death of her lover, but the particulars are enough to start fist fights.

Since then, Goody has born hatred for all beautiful women.  She is particularly fond of strangling brides the night before their wedding and eating their hair.  This gives Goody Gallows the ability to transform into the bride, and she then fakes her way through the marriage celebration.  On the wedding night -- during the act of love -- she returns to her horrid natural form and slays the husband.  Old wives say she then takes whatever bits she found most "handsome" from the groom and sews them to an enormous flesh golem she has fastened from other victims.  This abomination is one of the few things uglier than Goody herself.

Goody Gallows' preferred method of travel is her mother's coffin.  She opens the lid and crawls in next to her foul predecessor.  Once she closes the lid her coffin flies to whatever location she wishes.  Any obstacles in its path will be moved aside with magic.  Trees will hunch and bend, doors will fling open, and hills will crack into strange, crooked valleys.  Once it has arrived, the coffin lid flies open and out pops the irate witch.  She always carries a dagger made from the thighbone of a drowned woman, but she prefers to strangle opponents even when this is unwise.

Goody is foul tempered even by the standards of witches, and as a witch born from a witch she is almost universally hostile to mortals who happen upon her.  She reportedly lives in a hut inside a gigantic birds nest somewhere in the Fog-Bound Forest.  Those living near her home know to keep a goose inside during dark nights because she fears geese more than all other things.

Note: I was going to call these posts "Witch Wednesdays" but then I realized it's unlike there will be more than three or so.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monster Monday: Meat Animals

Meat Animals were genetically engineered by Earth's scientists in the years before the Deluge.  Initially they were created to provide a more humane alternative to traditional animal-based food products, and as such they were simply piles of cloned meat without any nervous system or appendages.  At some point before the Deluge, a scientist came to believe that these piles of ugly meat were the key to humankind's survival.  Since he knew most cloning facilities would shut down in the face of the oncoming catastrophe, he altered the DNA of the cloned meat such that it could be herded and bred in a post-apocalyptic world.

To our eyes, Meat Animals appear as nothing so much as an enormous, boneless pile of flesh.  Closer inspection reveals the rudimentary flippers used by these loathsome creatures to scuttle about, the gash of a mouth they use to consume whatever slop their masters can muster, and the small, dim eye spots that provide them with only the barest semblance of sight.  They move at a frightening, if uneven, pace.  They possess several calls that can alert the herdsman to various positional problems with the meat.  Meat Animals also provide a source of "dairy."  They sweat a sweet smelling, viscous liquid which tastes like a combination of honey and cream.  The herdsmen who deal with these animals are usually knowledgeable in the creation of several cheeses from this bizarre residue.

If not for their stupidity, they would be the perfect source of food; however, they are extremely difficult to control and manage.  While the creatures themselves are bred to be docile, they are stubborn to a fault, and they often charge headlong off of cliffs or sink into bogs despite their herders' orders.  They have few defenses against predators and are very vulnerable at night since they have difficulty seeing.  Some genetic defect also causes the creatures to desire to wander aimless, and when combined with their stubbornness this causes them to be difficult to raise except by either the most easy going pastoralists or the most organized cities.

This being so, Meat Animals are most commonly found around large urban centers like Uz and Almodad.  The few villages which dot the arable land in the Desert of Demons usually rely on more conventional fare for their food.  The Meat Animals size combined with the amount of their flesh that is usable in the production of food makes them perfect for those urban centers that can more or less protect them.  They are also often used as sacrifices, and it is said that beneath the city of Uz whole hecatombs are cast into the Fuel-less Fire at the direction of Moloch.  Those in the know are quick to point out that Moloch generally prefers humans to "meat."

While the Uzite tongue is well acquainted with the taste of "meat," our modern tongues would perceive the flavor as a riotous cacophony of pork, beef, lamb, chicken, white fish, salmon, catfish, and other as yet unnamed meats which will be invented in the centuries to come.  If the unlikely event were to pass that a modern or pre-modern human found themselves eating one of these creatures they would have to Save vs. Poison or become immediately addicted.

No stats are provided based on the assumption that they will not fight any PCs.  In the event of a sacrifice, a Meat Animal has 5HD.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lost Worlds Part 1: Lost Worlds and Me

I'm not the first one to discuss the importance of "lost world" fiction to D&D.  A quick scan of Appendix N makes it clear that the genre appealed to Gygax, and its impact on the development of D&D cannot be overstated.  However, I haven't read as much of Appendix N as some of my fellow bloggers, and as such I don't feel comfortable guessing the effect of this genre on Gygax beyond the above truism.  Instead I want to focus on two things: how lost world fiction has influenced me and how lost worlds can be portrayed in Dungeons & Dragons.

There are few things nine-year-old Evan liked more than the science fiction and monster movies of the 1950s and 60s.*  This love had grown out of the typical childhood obsession with dinosaurs, and it was those monsters that most resembled prehistoric creatures that were my favorites.  My parents at some point purchased a VHS "documentary" entitled Hollywood Dinosaurs that they thought would entertain me.  In it a narrator would discuss various trends in giant monster movies -- few of them were actually about dinosaurs -- and then they would show the trailer of some monster movie that illustrated the narrator's point.  I posted some of these a while back, and you can see the one for Mothra: Monster God at the beginning of this post.

The one for Mothra and the one for Valley of the Dragons -- the later of which seems to have disappeared from the internet -- both captured my imagination in a way that the other trailers on that VHS were unable.  They both have something in common beyond their lost world plots: they provide a list of awesome things that are in the movie.  In the more naive time in which these films were made, the trailers would often provide a list of things to SEE or THRILL at while watching their motion picture.  These two had particularly good ones: Vampire plants, monster gods, gorilla people, stone age mountains, and underground demons.**

Now, I've not seen either of these movies, and perhaps in execution these things are lackluster.  In my mind's eye, though, they are magnificent.  They combine the feelings of both wonder and terror, which is the ultimate expression of what D&D is.

At some point in high school I began listening to Coast to Coast AM.  Now, I'm not a conspiracy theorists, and my primary reason for listening to the show is its unintentional hilarity.  However, I have drawn a great amount of inspiration from the litany of whack job guests for both Call of Cthulhu and D&D.  Just before I entered college they had a guest on who discussed Hollow Earth theory and the Shaver Mystery.  The combination of bat-shit-insanity, Ufology, lost races, and dinosaurs really tickled my brain.  I tried to work vast, subterranean areas into my Wilderlands games, and eventually I came up with my own Hollow Earth setting.

The Underworld is a cool setting.  I said in one of my responses to Zak's questionnaire that of all the things I've made I was most proud of Nightwick Abbey.  This is true; however, I have a feeling that if I was ever able to get Underworld to work that it would be my greatest creation.  Nightwick Abbey is obviously an idiosyncratic blend of things I enjoy, but those things aren't that far from baseline D&D.  Underworld is different while still fitting very well with the kinds of activities one does in D&D.  It has more or less been replaced by Uz,*** but I sometimes think Uz lacks the requisite amount of wonder.  It has plenty of terror though.

Lost world fiction had greatly affected the way I view D&D.  They define the range of emotions that I seek to evoke as a DM and that I want to feel as a player.  I want to marvel at things not seen before by human eyes.  I want to flee in terror from pallid creatures who have grown sightless in their benighted land.  I want adventure.

This post has become much longer than I originally expected.  I'll spend further posts discussing the different ways to do lost world scenarios in D&D and the pros and cons of each.  I don't know how many further parts there will be because I initially intended this to all be in one post.  If the other parts run away with me the same way this one did, you can expect a lot more.

*One of those few things was the Universal monster movies of the 30s and 40s, and I would later add Hammer to that list.  However, I've already made that setting.

**Notice I remembered several of the ones from Valley of the Dragons despite the fact that I do not have any way to watch the trailer.  Now that is good advertising.

***There may be some Uz related announcements shortly.  On a related note, make sure you're reading Dandy in the Underworld and Rogues and Reavers.  They're cool blogs run by cool people.