Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Early Morning Adventure Thoughts

I recall a post on some blog somewhere (though I can't remember where) which discussed the author's use of the module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks in Gamma World games. That got me thinking about reusing other old modules in post apocalyptic games. So I decided to look at several old D&D/AD&D modules and see if I could "convert" them into something fitting in a post apocalyptic setting. In no particular order:

DL1 Dragons of Despair - Yes, I know, many people dislike this series because of it's railroad nature, however, throwing away the rest of the series and just using the basic themes, ideas, and areas of this module, with some modification strikes me as being playable. Afterall, it's not like the setting isn't post apocalyptic when you come right down to it. However, let's look at some ways to tweak this module into something useable for a PA game set in a post apocalyptic Earth. First let's change the regional map of the Solace Region. Ironically, there don't need to be as many changes as one might think. First rotate the map 180 degrees so that "Qualinesti" is in the north. Doing this gives us a map of a region with a major forest to the north, plains to the south (south west, but go with it), sea and swamp beyond the plains and a small mountain range, and towering mountains to the east. Well I can think of a place in North America that fits that description well enough to be used, Washington State (more or less), heck you could even probably use California or Oregon if you really wanted to, come to think of it, you could probably use the state of New York as well (and those are all from the USA). So now you've got a PA region of Earth to work with, the rest follows without much in the way of major changes. Solace represents a post apocalyptic community living among giant mutated trees, Qualinesti (though it doesn't come much into play in this module) as a forest of forest-dwelling mutants, the Darken Wood as a mutated forest full of fey mutants and possibly robot remnants from the apocalypse, Haven as a pure human safehold (or possibly dome city), the Plains of Abanasinia as grasslands or wastelands full of nomadic tribals (being attacked by armies of whatever villainous mutant species you care to make the antagonist), and the swamp and Xak Tsaroth as whatever major sunken city you want to use (such as Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Albany, etc.). Now change the major macguffin from the Disks of Mishakal into something more technological, like say Microsoft Operating System discs and you're pretty much good to go. Mutants, tribals, pure human techs, ancient robots (kiss gully dwarves goodbye, say hello to Roomba ver 12.6), lost technology, ancient ruins (and cool ones at that), what's not to love?

B2 Keep on the Borderlands - This one should be a no-brainer to convert. Post Apocalyptic survivalist/militia group compound and nearby small town ruins (the titular "Caves of Chaos"...though these could also be mines, an old military research facility, experimental geofront, or even regular caves). A couple of basic things of note though. One the rumor table would have to be slightly reworked, though not by much. For example, the "merchant" could be a water merchant, wandering wasteland merchant, ammunition merchant, arms merchant, etc. The "powerful magic-user" could become a psychic, robot, cyborg, or some other powerful menace. The magic wand could be a firearm or energy weapon. Altars could become some electronic device (televisions or music speakers for instance). "Piles of magic armor" could become power armor. The rest of the humanoid specific rumors could easily be modified (although "dog-men" and lizard-men really need no change) into humanoids from Mutant Future, goblins becoming Higher Baboons, bugbears becoming Pumpkin Men, the ogre becoming a Goliath, the elf becoming an Eloi, and of course, orcs becoming Pigmen. Kobolds could be Cockroahoids, Hobgoblins becoming Morlocks, the Minotaur could be a mutant cow or bison, the gnolls could be medusoids, etc. Of course, it should be obvious that references to magic items should change to technological items, with magical armor becoming advanced armor, magical weapons becoming either advanced melee weapons, or, more likely, firearms and energy weapons (though I think energy weapons are better represented by magic wands/rods/staves). Scrolls could be power sources or explosives, potions would likely be variuos chems and medical items, rings and miscellaneous magic as "Gizmos", etc.

X1 The Isle of Dread - One of my personal favorites (and I think, slightly better done than WG6 Isle of the Ape though I don't think it's difficult to combine the two modules to get the added King Kong effect of giant carnivorous apes fighting dinosaurs). This one is fairly easy if you want to have your own post apocalyptic Jurassic Park thing going. Heck, just replace the Kopru with psychic fishmen, brain lashaers, or humanoid masses, the aranea with spidergoats, the rakasta with catmen of your choice, and phanatons with mutant gliding mammal (such as a flying squirrel, colugo, galago, flying lemur, or greater glider) and you're set. (allowing for the magic item substitutions noted above.)

B4 The Lost City - Another favorite module of mine. This one requires a bit more work to convert than some of the others, but I think concepts of arcologies, dome cities, geofronts, hyper towers and so forth, combined with the typically common post apocalyptic desert wasteland makes for a lot of playability. For an interesting twist, change the three Cyndicean cults into Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (or cargo cult/debased versions thereof, making as many changes as you see fit to avoid offending people) and the cult of Zargon a Cthulhu type cult (no real change there), add in some 60s psychedilic drug culture, and go gonzo with it.

FRC1 Ruins of Adventure - Another easy to convert module of great utility. Clear out the ruins of some ancient city so it can thrive again. Slums, no problem, choose your poison, raider gangs or mutants (or both). Sokol Keep, go robots/cyborgs or fishmen (or some other aquatic humanoid mutant). Kudo's Well, easily a major raider band controlling a fresh supply of water. Podal Plaza provides tons of fun, with an auction, temples (to whatever cults you want), and a "raider" bar for all your bar brawl needs. The Textile House gives us mutant humanoids and political intrigue. Mendor's Library can easily be used for knowledge recovery quests. Kovel Mansion provides plenty of loot caches and thieves. The Wealthy District has some mutant dark cult foes. The Temple of Bane is obviously the HQ of a cryptic alliance or mutant dark cult. Valhingen Graveyard gives you your zombiepocalypse fix (personally, I'd throw some other undead type critters or pseudo-undead in there as well...nothing says vampire like a blood drinking mutant cannibal...though I gotta admit, incorporeal undead are a harder sell in a PA setting). Stojanow Gate is where some serious decisions have to be made. After all, depending on what you chose for the Big Bad, you'll have to figure out what minions you want. As a simple exercise, let's say the Bane "faction" is a mutant death cult (regardless of what you chose for the Temple of Bane block of the city), the giants are Goliaths and Medusoids, mages are brain lashers, the false Tyranthaxus is a skin stealer, and the gnolls and trolls are pumpkin-men and vile slashers respectively. Of course the hedge maze is also populated by various killer plants. For a change of pace, switch around the city blocks so they are in different locations than on the map.
The Wilderness outside of Phlan also provides lots of utility. They Pyramid is obviously the lair of a mad scientist or robot factory. The dragon could be a pro-restorationist AI. The Kobold Camp, Buccaneers, and Nomad Camp are all pretty easy to convert. Zhentil Keep can easily be a mutant supremacist or pure human supramicist stronghold.

FRC2 Curse of the Azure Bonds - Another module that requires quite a bit of conversion. Mostly in deciding what five factions (i.e. cryptic alliances) you want to harrass your characters. Given that most Cryptic Alliances have vastly differing goals, I recommend using an expanded selection of cryptic alliances/post apocalyptic cults such as Gamma Cryptic Alliances to give you a lot more useable options. Personally, in keeping with the basic theme of the module, I recommend a raider band to represent the Fire Knives, a robot or cyborg cryptic alliance to represent the Red Wizard, a mutant plant PA cult to represent Moander, pure human supremacists to represent Zhentil Keep, and a mutant supremacist for Tyranthraxus. (Obviously each faction has its own goals, and they all think they are using the others for their own ends, which means plenty of opportunities for backstabbing and betrayals.) The main problem here is how to replicate the "magical" Azure Bonds themselves. I think that while some form of psychic control is possible, it's not very likely given my suggested usage of pure humans and robot/cyborgs. Nanotechnology or some sort of Snake Plisken virus might do the trick, also bio-engineered parasite/symbiote would also work, or computer chip implant controls (for example, the type from Terminator Salvation). Better yet, a combination of all of the above, each requiring a different method of removal would be a particularly fun trick. Lastly, the problem exists in just what the goal of each of these factions is.

I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City - Obviously a no-brainer, heck you could probably keep the monsters as is for the most part, and just make each section of the city that they control the focus of some pre-apocalypse loot cache such as a national guard armory, police station, hardware store, library, computer center, supermarket, hospital, etc. to determine what kind of loot would be scavenge-worthy. I suppose that the ruined city could either be the result of an earthquake, sinkhole, sunken dome city/arcology, or geofront if you really wanted to.