Meet King Byron the Blessed, Usurper King of Erun!

King Byron the Blessed by Jonny Grey

King Byron the Blessed is the ‘ruler’ of the shattered Kingdom of Erun, after sending the two young Princes (his nephews) down the infamous Dungeon of Doom never to be heard of again. Many of his subjects, including several powerful magnates of the land consider this to be blatant murder of his younger brother’s heirs who he was bound by law to protect. Byron disputes this, saying he is truly ‘Blessed’ by Voden who has finally chosen him to rule the kingdom after previously being passed over in favour of his younger brother Opus the Pious.  It is a difference in opinion that sees the land on the brink of yet another Civil War.

From the upcoming History of the Kingdom of Erun.

You’ll be seeing good King Byron first in “Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Heroes”, since he was originally commissioned for that book, but I liked him so much I’ll be re using him in the Kingdom of Erun book I have planned for Albion Adventures.

The artist Jonny Gray does some truly amazing stuff and I can guarantee you’ll be seeing more of his work in future D101 publications.

  • Jonny Gray’s online portfolio.

The Gods of Erun

Thinking about the next section that will get some attention in the Kingdom of Erun my mind wonders to the Deities of this imaginary land.

One thing that was common throughout the UK 80s D&D was that we quietly shook our heads at Deities & Demigods, as being a book that was practically useless at the gaming table. The inclusion of stats for the gods contained within seemed only to encourage the worst excesses of power gaming. “If you put them in the game with stats, the players are going to want to kill it” was the sage advice at the time.  So keeping the gods powerful and distant was how they were treated in publications like Imagine and White Dwarf magazine.  Short flavoursome descriptions, to give the gods a bit of variety and background and to give their clerics some basis in believable reality. There was also a tendency to start giving Clerics weapons other than blunt, but still tied to the general theme of the god in question (a Cleric of a soldiering god for example would gain access to swords), that was to become a standard rule in 2nd Edition.  I remember the pantheon described in Tortured Souls magazine going as far to give individual spell lists based upon the Realm of Power, but I felt this was a step too far for D&D which restricted player creativity and smacked of wanting to make the game like RuneQuest.

Those early attempts at Panthenon building, like most of trips into fantasy land at that time, wore their influences on their sleeves.  Norse, Celtic and Greek mythology was liberially raided, and books on the subject where readly available in the children’s section of your local libary. While the obvious Christian influences are hard coded into the implied setting of D&D, it became less in your face in UK games when the majority of the gods became pulled from European Paganism.

So Ladies and Gentlemen with the above in mind, may I introduce you to two of the deities of Erun’s Celestial Court, Voden God of Kings and Forfiegan Lady of Mercy.

Voden, King of the Gods

The grim yet wise chief of the Celestial Court who is renown for his strong leadership  and occasional dalliance with favoured beauties of Erun, which tries the patience of his long suffering wife Forfiegan.  He inherited the power to see into the future from the Cyclops Tian, whose eye of world seeing he gouged out and ate.

He is followed by any hero with aspirations of Leadership and is regularly called upon by chiefs, kings and village elders. His priests are chief advisers to nobles, calling upon Voden’s ability to see into the future.

Realms of Power: Law, Leadership & Divination.

Alignment: Any Lawful.

Priests: Voden has two types of priests, dusty clerics who provide Divination for the Nobles and the Nobles who act as living examples of Voden, ruling through Divine Right.

Holy Weapons: Spear. Voden wields the Spear of the Sky in battle, and his Clerics are expected to do the same.

Holy Symbol: The Eye of Tian.

Forfiegan, Lady of Mercy

She is traditionally depicted as a beautiful but constantly weeping woman surrounded by animals of all types. Forfiegan weeps for the pain of the world and for her own hurts at the hands of the unfaithful Voden. To ease her pain she attempts to heal the world and forgives the villains who cause the pain in their first place. Her Mercy is not toothless as many a tale attests, she gives those who have strayed a second chance which leads to a great redemption and the creation of great heroes. Her tears bring water and life to the world, and she is the Fertility Goddess of the Court. In her presence even the most savage is tame and gentle.

Forfiegan is worshiped by Healers throughout Erun. She is called upon by pregnant women, people in distress and those seeking to redeem themselves.  She is also revered by Farmers who call upon her to protect their crops and lifestock.

Realms of Power: Healing, Fertility & Mercy.

Alignment: Any good.

Priestesses: The Sisters of the Heart are crimson robed priestesses who wander the realm of Erun, providing their healing, husbanding and midwifery skills to all who cross their path.  The order has Nunneries where the travelling Sisters can find lodging.

Holy weapons: Blunt weapons. Forfiegan’s followers are forbidden to draw blood.

Holy symbol: A silver pendant in the form of a single tear.

Where I stand with the OSR

Originally posted over at where they’ve just discovered the joy of the Old School Renaissance, in this thread
Renaissance / Nostalgia / Whatever

I’ve followed the OSR with joy since Neil Ford introduced me to it a couple of years ago. Heck I even now own copies of the items of love and dedication that are OSRIC, Sword and Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord. The later is my retro-clone of choice and even got run at Furnace recently .

My interest in the OSR was intensified when people from that scene started mentioning my game OpenQuest (OQ)on their blogs, For example Akratisia’s excellent “Akratic Wizardry” blog has a series of posts about OQ. Mainly because not unnaturally people are saying OQ is a bit of a RQ retroclone. Part of me agrees with them, part of me doesn’s (see below)

Things I love about the OSR
The amazing labours of love books that are coming out of it -I’m bought “Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing” for the amazing cover and the unique re-imagining of old D&D.
The fanzines – just looking at Fight ON! made me want to do The OpenQuester (originally named ‘Turn left’) for OpenQuest.
The forums/blogs where it’s obvious that people are playing these games with great love and more importantly FUN!

Things I’m not so sure about
The obvious retreading of old ground in some of the modules and really piss poor production values (Dark Dungeons I’m looking at you here – go to the trouble of recreating 300 odd pages of the Cyclopaedia and then fill it with really dank, dark horrible clip art, I’m out of here!)

Things I hate (when they occasionally rear their ugly head)

The obsessive fixation on getting the rules right.
The niggling when creators who are doing well move on from the happy clappy free/low cost model to a slightly higher priced but better for the author financially business model.

Is OQ the OSR RQ?
Part of me likes to think that OQ is a fast, easy to play, modern D100 system and others agree with me. Heck John Ossoway wouldn’t be writing River of Heaven and Rik Kershaw Moore The Company if they didn’t. But there’s also a part of me that says ‘Hell yes!’. The clue’s in the back cover :) One of my design goals for OQ was to make something that I could crack out the Gloranthan Classics and play with my kids (or interested kidults :) ) in my doting old age, with very little modification. If you are using definitions its ‘Tribute’ game to RQ2/3/Stormbringer 1-3, as well as being modern D100. OQ modules will reflect this diversity. The Savage North is very Old Skool, while the upcoming Life and Death is very modern story telling and Empire’s Rising reminds me of the RQ3 renaissance adventures.

The British OSR
What I’m having most fun with is looking back at the old British Roleplaying materials of the 80s; TSR UK modules, WHFRP 1st Ed, old White Dwarf and Imagine Magazines and off course the Fighting Fantasy books. There’s a strong arguement that the British OSR experience was fundamentally different because we were exposed to different influences; … -here.html

This is not just rosy nostalgia on my part. There’s a lot of really good practice in those old modules/books that’s worth looking at and bringing into my D101 games fantasy releases.

Inspired by this I’m going to be producing a series of modules under the banner of ‘Albion Adventures’.

You can read about my on going adventures in Old Skool land here on this blog.

Hobbits! bah! how we hates them my precious.

One thing I’ve been doing this week on and off in spare moments is writing up my quick pen pictures of the non-human player races for Erun. Halflings used to take a bashing in the letters page of White Dwarf every month, and were widely considered the comedy D&D race. In the gritty Kingdom of Erun, they don’t get an easy time of it.

Woe to the little people, for when the Demon War engulfed Erun in flames it was their homely hamlets that burnt first. Those not killed in the holocaust found themselves refugees in human cities and towns that were already flooded with humans fleeing the burning countryside. No place for the little people, with their strange customs of pipe smoking, silly dancing and gluttonous appetites. Whole clans went wild, hiding out in the wilderness away from warlords and monsters alike. But it is whispered amongst the campfires of the refuges that bold heroes will arise, to take them back to their comfort of Home!

The other races get a similiar make over. High Elves are better known as ‘War Elves’ since they actively attack the ‘enemies’ of their forests. Mountain Dwarfs are failed Imperialists dreaming of their old mountain empire. Half-orcs rather than being the product of Orc/Human interbreeding are the manufactured slave race of the Demon Underlords, freed once their masters where cast back into Hell, left to fend for themselves in the world and to find a sense of identity.

Here’s the pen picture for Gnomes which is a tribute to every player that I have met, who usually play them as an Illusionist/Thief of Chaotic Neutral alignment.

“Its all an illusion” a Gnome will tell you with a sly grin.
Crafty, tricky and mistrusted by other races, even their ‘cousins’ the dwarfs, they are regularly chased out of town. Or they have become so indispensable to the town, usually in a monetary sense because Gnomes are renowned money lenders, they couldn’t be shifted even if the local community tried.
Gnomes live in small clans often hidden away from the world and protected by strong magics , usually of an illusionary nature.
They claim that the ruins of the Ancient Empire were of their making. When it is pointed out the ruins are much bigger than they are, they only reply,
“We were taller then”.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Erun

From the setting document I’m working on for Albion Adventures.

Oh woe is the folly of mortal man!

The last king of Erun, Opus the Pious, was deceived by the purple robed priests of the Hidden Gods. They claimed their religion was for the good of all and that their Gods where only hidden since they needed to hide themselves from the attention of the jealous and impotent Old Gods. So it seemed for all and hundreds flocked to their temples to unknown gods, and thrived under their worship. The poor raised their lives up from the gutter, there was food for all! The Hidden Gods blessed all with good fortune.

So the King called a national day of celebration, upon which the purple priests said their Gods identity would finally be revealed. Thousands descended on the capital and in front of the Great Temple of Mysteries shouted out their adoration. Shouts of joy that turned to screams of anguish as the now red robed priests revealed their Hidden Gods before the assembled crowd. For there in terrible splendour stood the the Underlords of the Demon Dark. Great was the carnage that ensued that day as the assembled crowd became a mass sacrifice to the forces of Evil. The sky wept and great gates opened to hell its self in the dark deep places of Erun, forgotten underground ruins of the Ancients who predated the Kingdoms of Man and had mysteriously disappeared before their rise.

The hordes of Hell streamed out of the dungeons and the surviving armies of man fought alongside the battalions of Dwarfs and the living forests of Elven kind. The war was grim and terrible, with almost catastrophic losses on both sides. Finally the Overlords where driven back to the Deepest Dungeons and sealed in by the Grey Elf wizards.

In the aftermath of the Hell War, the Kingdom of Erun was in ruin, reduced to a handful of petty dukedoms, the countryside filled with bandits and monsters. Many of the old halls of the Dwarfs lie empty or have been taken over by foul orcs and goblins. The once great elf wood is a shadow of itself and the last few Elves either focus on its regeneration in hidden glades of power or bloody vengeance against those they perceive have done them wrong.

In these anarchic times a new class has arisen in Erun society. That of the Adventurer, more than willing to take up sword and spell and discover treasure and horror in the dark places of the world.

Introducing Albion Adventures

Ok after a triumphant game at Furnace, I’ve sat down and planned out what I’m going to be doing with Albion Adventures in the long term.

In short Albion Adventures is going to be D101 games line of adventures in the old skool British tradition using Labyrinth Lord as its base.

System compatiblity
I’m going to be using Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Companion. It not only suits the way I play AD&D (which is Basic with the extra options from AD&D)  but also LL is strongly branded and recognised amoungst the OSR and beyond. If people wander up to me and ask how they get the core system, I can point them in the direction of it. I got my print copy via Patriot Games which indicates its available via conventional distribution. Of course I’ll be making  it clear that you can use certain ‘1st Edition systems with it’  and Osric/Swords and Wizardry compatiblity.

Adventure Modules
I’ve roughly got the got the following planned.

AA-UK1. The Furnace – write up of the Tournament game I’ve just run.
AA-UK2. Bone Valley – my tribute to Keep on the Borderlands, through a gritty UK lens. A valley filled with old tombs and caves, and at its head Fort Boneguard, a seedy town from ancient times that has seen better days and is an adventurers hang out. A sandpit for levels 1-3?
AA-UK3. Sorceror Under Mountain.– go to a mountain to get a long dead sorceror’s treasure. What could possibly go wrong?

Setting: The Kingdom of Erun.
My initial aim is to produce an internal doc that acts as a common setting for the modules, but when its bashed into shape I’ll release it. I want to keep this short and sweet hence the focus on a single kingdom.
Inspiration is the old  Pelinore setting, which was detailed in Imagine TSR UKs 80s magazine and the shortlived Games Master Magazine,  with a dash of Titan, the world of Fighting Fantasy, (which I picked up in glorious A4 format along with Out of the Pit at Furnace 🙂 ).

So eta on all of the above? Not a clue I’ve got a few things already in the D101 production que before it, but I’m quietly chipping away at the writting at the moment. I reckon Spring 2011 is not unreasonable 🙂

The Furnace – how it went

Ok the short version of this was that it Rocked mightily 🙂

It was a Saturday night game and fully booked with with six players.  I’d been running all day and had been on the beers the night before, so at game start I had hit the wall. Frankly I was almost “rabbits in headlights” scared, and the players were already there keen and looking up at me as I arrived.  But I pulled my boots up, made my introductions and got into it.

Characters where handed out, and we ended up with a nice mix of Fighters, Elves, Dwarfs and Clerics from the pile of ten characters which had all the permutations of 5th Level Basic/Expert. Obviously no one was in the mood to play a Halfling or Thief 😉

I did my grand introduction about the Mad Tzar, a fiend of immeasurable evil shaking free of his prison in the Iron Moon suspended over the City of Eternal Shadow. Then the players got into it role-playing and exploring the city, before getting into a fight with 20 Zombies. Now in any other system, the players would have either a) run away and let the NPCs deal with it (there was a group of local Clerics who were on hand to deal with such threats) or b) complained bitterly about how the game was going to descend into a big grinding fight. Not so here, the players got into with gusto and relish and an epic zombie fight was embarked on! It was a good wetting of the feet as regards the system, as I think every one was a bit rusty. Even the D&D regulars used it as an excuse to test out which version of D&D we where playing (Labyrinth Lord). Of course they were triumphant, but one of the Clerics ,played by Andy, took a huge pounding, so there was a nice edge of danger there.  Throughout the fight the banter and roleplaying continued in a relaxed manner which was good as well. In fact it must be said although admitly D&D is more combat heavy than alot of games I play, at no point did the players treat it as a figurine-less war game, which mightly heartened and impressed me.

Play then flowed from this fight as they made their way up to the Iron Moon via a masusleum dedicated to the 10,000 who died in the Mad Tzar’s previous reign of terror.  I won’t say any more about it here, because I’m planning to write up and publish the adventure and because I didn’t intend this post to be an ‘actual play’ post. More me mulling over how it went.

Couple of other points arising from the game.

  • Use of 5th Level characters, as suggested by Sacha, was bang on. Magic-Users and Clerics had enough spells and other classes where generally effective enough so that they had lots of things to do. Therefore no one sat arround bored.
  • The online character generator I used was a great time saver, I really created this at the last minute, but some of the characters created were a bit odd. Clerics with no heal spells and Magic Users with no effective spells in their spell books. I should have reviewed and chucked out these duds before the game. DOH!
  • Tournament adventures with a fairly set goal of “go here and save the world” can be very linear as the players spend less time exploring. In its current form they players only visited about 50% of the locations. Either I mix it up a bit and make the dungeon levels a bit more ‘twisty’ and less easy to navigate by taking a direct route, or I live with that. For a four hour con scenario it was bang on, who’s to say that a home group would explore more of the finer points. One to mull over and work out in play testing.
  • Fireball spells really are the dogs bollocks 🙂

Overall we had a grand time and I was really surprised how straight forward the fun was. Looks like I’ll be doing regular D&D con scenarios from now on in.

We played D&D :)

A quick post, post-Furnace convention (Sheffield UK last weekend just gone). My fuzzled brain is still recovering from the sheer awesome that this con was, but for now some pics from my FULLY BOOKED Saturday night of D&D (powered by Labyrinth Lord) – The Furnace.  More detailed analysis to follow, but it fully rocked 😀

From behind the DM's Screen

Labyrinth Lord powering the fun

Labyrinth Lord powering the fun

The Furnace – Progress report

As the con (Furnace, Sheffield UK) approaches this weekend, I’m taking a slow but steady approach to writing the Furnace.

Systems wise I’ve settled on Labyrinth Lord. Even though I’ve got printed versions of Swords and Wizardry and Osric, LL best sums up the way that I used to play back in the day from the old Red Box Basic/Blue Box Expert sets, with bits of AD&D thrown in when I finally joined the big boys club and got a set of books second hand.  Another big deal breaker was that there’s a truly marvelous online character generator which allows you to roll up fully formed characters of any level (I’ve chosen 5th) and save them as pdf’s using the official character sheet 🙂 I should really get round to doing a similar webpage for  OpenQuest. So in the space of 10 minutes or so a pile of ten characters where generated 😀

As far as the adventure goes I’ve made it a series of Micro-Dungeons, starting with the City that the adventurers meet up in, no more than 10 locations each. This is allowing me to get the grand “save the world” scenario that I have in my head done in the time constraints (this is very last minute) and that will play in 3-4 hours. I’m getting there, I’m currently a third of the way through, but this is against a backdrop of me sorting out other things for Furnace (which ends tonight). That third is fully stated up and written up. Theres’ a good chance that this will be our first release for Albion Adventures 🙂