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My Newhon Campaign


Vondy
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I unexpectedly received a box from my mother containing the notes and character sheets from my long-running "old school" D&D campaign. This game ran for years, from childhood to young adulthood. I haven't seen this stuff in 20+ years. After the nostalgia wore off I though "I really need to translate this into hero (something I considered doing "way back when") and reboot it yet again.

 

Post One. Real World History.

 

My early D&D campaigns were shared with an eponymous co-GM so that we could both play. We originally used Lankhmar as its base city. We didn’t know much about Newhon. Our only reference was the Newhon Mythos section of Deities & Demigods (1980) and a beat-up copy of Swords and Deviltry. We decided that the Northmen, in addition to Kos, worshipped the Finnish Pantheon, while Bacob and Hecate became Lankmari demigods. That covered religion.

 

We ran a lot of modules. Newhon’s Great Salt Marsh and Sinking Lands were perfect stand-in locations for a lot of the 1st edition modules from “The Known World” and the Hool River / Marshes region of Grayhawk. These modules often featured reptilian or amphibian monsters. We saw far more Bullywugs, Lizard Men, Sauhagin, Troglodytes, and the Yaun-Ti than we did the standard “evil” humanoids.  They also seemed to fit better with Newhon’s weird pulpy groove.

 

It didn’t occur to us not to include demi-humans, but with the exception one long-running dwarf and elf, the vast majority of player characters were humans with a smattering of half-elves thrown in. There were an awful lot of fighters, thieves, and fighter-thieves. No one liked playing clerics and, with the exception of a long-running illusionist, we had few mages, and none of those advanced past the mid-level range. Our heroes were very much “freebooting mercenary adventurers” and “loveable rogues.”

 

Most NPC mages were Fire Mages, Snow Witches, Necromancers, or Scribes and Alchemists (Dragon Magazine). So, magically speaking, the traditional D&D wizard acting as “mystic artillery” was not a prominent fixture in our games. We weren’t too far off the S&S mark. Our characters relied far more heavily on potions, scrolls, dusts, powders, and disposable items (e.g., wands). Permanent magic items were rare and often were often cool “utility” items rather than weapons and armor. That was the zeitgeist for magic.  

 

When Lanhkmar: City of Adventure (1985) was published we snapped it up. It was much clearer about how Newhon should differ from generic D&D. I had also read Swords Against Death at this point. Over time we derated demi-humans as new PCs and either removed those races or sidelined them to the hinterlands along with the more common “evil huanoids.”. One long-running and nigh-iconic half-elf PC became “some demigod’s bastard.” We also implemented the supplements interesting, if not-quite satisfactory, system for “white” and “black” magic.  

 

We then decided to play-through a series of desert-themed modules and homebrew adventures (including a pastiche of Tower of the Elephant). These were set on the far bank of the Eastern Sea. I hadn’t done much reading that would cover that part of Newhon, but I had read Thieves’ World and had Chaosium’s Thieves’ World boxed-set (1981), so we used Sanctuary as our base city with a handwave towards it being on the frontier of the now-decaying Rankan Empire. Hyperborea’s Shadizar and Sukhmet also made appearances. One notable interpolation was that the Scarlet Brotherhood made an appearance as the shadowy hand of fallen Quarmall.  The campaign closed with the heroes returning to Lankhmar.

 

The rebooted Lankhmar campaign focused more on character-driven stories and personal drama, which often vibed like a “D&D Telenovela,” but around this time the shift to 2nd edition was taking place and a lot more Lanhkmar materials were being published for D&D. I had also read a lot more thieves world, farfd and gray mouser, and conan stories at this stage. I ran the homebrew stuff (the 1985 book has pages of maps with places to record homebrew notes for locations) while one of my players ran the modules so that I could trot my own characters out every so often.

 

The rebooted game was much truer to the swords and sorcery milieu in general, and Newhon in particular, but we also managed to work in some eldritch and gothic horror elements, which jived really well with Newhon’s “weird.” Beholders, mind-flayers, reanimated flesh golems, necromancers, and the occasional vampire were a thing in this game. Anyhow. That’s the history of my long-term campaign and how it developed (without going into the character's crazy backstories).

 

Next up: What old-school modules were played alongside the homebrew adventures?

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    If you still want to use Sanctuary as a home city I’ve got a way for you to get a load of free maps at no cost.

Robert Asprin and a bunch of other writers were sitting around at the hotel bar of a convention (Worldcon)  they were guests at when they put together the idea for Thieves World. When they started figuring out the layout of Sanctuary they used the map of the city included in their hotel pouches.  The waterfront, the marketplace with the red light district next to it and at the top of the hill overlooking everything...the Governor’s mansion topped by a golden dome.

   It’s Boston.  My home town.  You can find all the city maps you could ever want online for free.  If you go through a history of the city you’ll find Downtown Crossing, the Combat Zone (the nickname came from the nightly brawls between sailors and local criminals from the ‘30 thru the ‘50’s) and the State House are all still there. Photos of the gold-leaf domed building could be a nice bit of illustration for you.

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10 minutes ago, Tjack said:

    If you still want to use Sanctuary as a home city I’ve got a way for you to get a load of free maps at no cost.

Robert Asprin and a bunch of other writers were sitting around at the hotel bar of a convention (Worldcon)  they were guests at when they put together the idea for Thieves World. When they started figuring out the layout of Sanctuary they used the map of the city included in their hotel pouches.  The waterfront, the marketplace with the red light district next to it and at the top of the hill overlooking everything...the Governor’s mansion topped by a golden dome.

   It’s Boston.  My home town.  You can find all the city maps you could ever want online for free.  If you go through a history of the city you’ll find Downtown Crossing, the Combat Zone (the nickname came from the nightly brawls between sailors and local criminals from the ‘30 thru the ‘50’s) and the State House are all still there. Photos of the gold-leaf domed building could be a nice bit of illustration for you.

 

That's an interesting tidbit. He also said in an interview  "None of us (writers) know how big Sanctuary is. Its as big as it needs to be for the story."

We used Sanctuary as a home-base during our "desert adventures" phase, but then returned to Lankhmar, which is what I'll focus on if I reboot.

The main setting divergence is just that Sanctuary, the Rankan Empire, and some Hyborean cities are on my Newhom. 

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Nehwon is one of my favorite fantasy series.  This is going to sound odd from an author of fantasy books and gaming material, but I don't really like most fantasy.  But Fritz Lieber got it just right for me.

 

I prefer pulp fantasy, gothic horror, and swords and sorcery to conventional fantasy, which is generally synonymous with "high fantasy" for most people.

 

Though more "cultural," I also find the traditional Robin Hood ballads and Arthurian myths are more my speed than, say, Tolkein and his imitators.

 

I find Moorcock hard to read, but I Lieber, REH, and Aspirin and crew's work.

Just now, Vondy said:

 

I prefer pulp fantasy, gothic horror, and swords and sorcery to conventional fantasy, which is generally synonymous with "high fantasy" for most people.

 

Though more "cultural," I also find the traditional Robin Hood ballads and Arthurian myths are more my speed than, say, Tolkein and his imitators.

 

I find Moorcock hard to read, but Lieber, REH, and Aspirin and crew's work gets my creative juices flowing.

 

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33 minutes ago, Vondy said:

 

That's an interesting tidbit. He also said in an interview  "None of us (writers) know how big Sanctuary is. Its as big as it needs to be for the story."

We used Sanctuary as a home-base during our "desert adventures" phase, but then returned to Lankhmar, which is what I'll focus on if I reboot.

The main setting divergence is just that Sanctuary, the Rankan Empire, and some Hyborean cities are on my Newhom. 


 The story was in the Authors Notes at the back of the first edition paperback.

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