Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ever read or run this adventure?

Went to the LA County Museum yesterday and saw the Fem Surrealist show and found out all about Remedios Varo who I previously knew nothing about, probably due to her existing in the long shadow of Frida Kahzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oh sorry, anyway, from Wikipedia:

Remedios Varo Uranga (December 16, 1908 – October 8, 1963) was a Spanish-Mexican, para-surrealist painter and anarchist. She was born María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga in Anglès, a small town in the province of Girona, Spain in 1908.

In 1937, she moved to Paris with Péret, sealing herself from any return to Franco's Spain since she had republican ties. She was forced into exile from Paris during the Nazi occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941.

In Mexico, she met native artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but her strongest ties were to other exiles and expatriates, notably the English painter Leonora Carrington and the French pilot and adventurer, Jean Nicolle. Her third, and last, important relationship was to Gary Gygax, an American who claimed to have become "unstuck from the ages" due to "hyperrandom Nystullian flux" and "rolling poorly". Using what Varo described in her diary as "a North American currency of postcontemporary date and several pieces of what I suspect is German gold" Gygax commissioned her to create illustrations for an unusual book which he called "a module" and which he admitted "will make no sense to you in the current temporal context ".

After 1949 Varo developed her mature style, which remains beautifully enigmatic and instantly recognizable. She often worked in oil on masonite panels she prepared herself. After collecting the completed illustrations, Gygax disappeared. Varo died at the height of her career from a heart-attack in Mexico City in 1963.I've seen this cover and some of the interior illustrations...
But I have no idea what it's like.
Has anybody seen this module or read it? What's in it? Is it good?


  1. You've never seen this? I swear that you cribbed a bunch of Vornheim stuff from it.

    Anyways, it's a pretty out there surreal adventure, it takes place in a matriarchal city in the Astral or Ethereal plane.

    Actually, it's not so much of a matriarchy but a society composed entirely of these female "Giths"; they're the female gender to the Githzerai and the Githyanki, so both races come here to find wives and take their male children back to the Astral plane or Limbo.

    There's not so much of a plot (although there is a extradimensional wilderness you travel through to arrive, with an associated framing device adventure); it's a sandbox with a bunch of schemes between various factions of the Gith races (as well as Sladdi and Mind Flayers) that the PCs can become enmeshed it.

    Oh, and the "mysterious villain" is an Intellect Devourer!

  2. It's pretty great. The Green Witch, as seen on the cover, is a cool NPC. The players never know if she's aiding them or thwarting them. Her ghost-weaving power is pretty awesome.

  3. The girlfriend has it. RV seems to have approached it as a "commercial" project similar to the Bayer ads. Most of what you've posted here actually illustrates the new spells.

  4. I think I read a copy of it in a used book store a number of years ago. It seemed really interesting--I especially liked the way that the branching paths of the dungeon could be explored through time as well as space--but there was probably too much treasure in it.

  5. Me, I thought it really didn't work at all. A lot of that is, I'm sorry to say, Gary wrote it.

    There's a lot of Borges woven through it, but Gary really didn't _get_ Borges, you know? So it turns into a Gygaxian slugfest, where the best parts are the parts that aren't in the module that you have to make up. Sure, some of the scenery is *really* evocative, makes the most sense, and plays the best, when you treat it like D3: a few, sometimes-forgettable, set-pieces in a weird and wondrous landscape.

    Apparently that's how Blair has experienced it, and thinks it was meant to be run. I wish I'd had his initial encounter with it, because when Greasy Steve ran it for the 7-11 Parking Lot Gang in 1984, well, it put me off the module for a good 25 years.

    I think this module would have been tons better if Tom Moldvay had written it. Think about _Castle Amber_. Now imagine the same sensibility (and same sensitivity to the source material) turned loose on Magic Realism. *THAT* would have been a magnificent module. This one? It's a B-. And that's way more generous than I would have been ten years ago.

  6. did you see the work Carrington did for JG? I think they couldn't pay her so it never got published but there are rumours of a first Gen-Con printing and some photocopies that showed up in A&E.

  7. wait, I remember one room from this thing - there was a reverse gravity trap and some potion that would turn characters into intelligent sunflowers. I think that's where Pokemon got Sunkern from.

  8. The cat levels where you have to fight the blue tigers & there is the mystical jaguar whose spots are the letters in a spellbook are nice touches.

  9. Both the white suited visitor calling himself "The Chair Leg of Truth" and the old friend "Mervin Stormhawk" have made claims about this module.

    Foremost Mervin claims to have funded the development, or at least been Gygax's patron. (indeed he has often claimed to have patronized Gygax at every opportunity).

    Chair Leg, or CLOT as is is sometimes known, claimed that the module is the D&D manifestation of the chrono-synclastic infundibulum referred to by Kilgore Trout.

    Apparently the module is dangerous and has been cited as being behind the disappearances of several gaming groups. Although the risk is not in playing the module but in failing to play it.

    Mervin promised to send me a copy but instead I received a folio in medieval Welsh which seemed to relate the tale of a Sir Guy of Gax in the court of King Arthur.

  10. I may have been too young to understand all the stuff in it when I played it, big brother of one of my gaming groups regular members had photocopy of the module. I remember my character had at some point his head replaced by a gourd. It all ended in TPK on the cat level.

    1. But the seeds? Did you use the seeds from the gourd your head became?
      A buddy of mine played it in a midnight session one year at Aggiecon, and swears that's how they made it out alive, with the seeds.
      To me, it sounds like one of those details Kuntz puts in that no one would ever get unless they'd read the module.

    2. No, but I do distinctly remember that Remove Curse did not work on my character which sort of gave us a tip on the matter that it was supposed to be something beneficial, one of the players though said that restoring the head might need a Wish spell and we assumed this was the case.

  11. your second image is what my college roommate called the 'Vorpal Moon' when he ran this adventure for me and stefanie. summer after sophomore year he asked if I wanted to drop 50ug of lucy every day. he started on june 1. i made it to june 3 and then both my parents died. unrelated. i cried for like two months straight then took quite possibly the entire blotter's worth of acid and decided i wanted to be an internet troll for a living. all i remember about the Moon is that you gain +1 to something something for each child you can bring to the moon as a bride-prize or something, but She insists that the kids' parents send them in full knowledge that they'll never return. my roommate dropped out of college and actually he just quit the design team for dungeons & dragons 5th edition. his name is Kenji. stefanie and i had all the babies and all the sex, not in that order. her character swallowed the Moon and i remember kenji got really intense and sexual with his description. then a while later we switched to Risus

    1. come to think of it i probably made up the part about having all the sex

  12. oh! travel tip: in decreasing order of trustworthiness (cats):

    * iron
    * deceased
    * bloodthirsty
    * malingering/breath-control
    * Erica
    * usually embroiled in controversy
    * child's face, clear blood
    * Erica

  13. Yeah it's German, which is why it starts with D for Deutch. Title is 'die Nacht des Seelendiebes', which translates loosely as Night of the Soul Stealer. That's die Nebelhexe (Mist Witch) on the cover after stealing a few PC souls.The first picture is her lair, where she spins souls into magic raiments. It's a bit of a quantum ogre thing, cause the room pops up wherever you go in her Seelenvilla. The second shows the paths to the three Seelenrichter you have to astral travel to and complete quests for to get your souls back. The last is the Lebengeber, who uses soul energy to perform miracles and good acts, but who the PCs are ultimately forced to kill to regain their souls.

    The module was the most popular in Germany and even spawned its own RPG, Seelendiebe und Traumweber. Outside of Germany, it was considered railroady, filled with Mary Sues, and the soul stealing as worse than save or die. I played it once and have to say all the astral travel and weird riddles make sense at that high level of play.

  14. That is not a module.
    Please prove you're not a robot.

  15. I'm surprised a good Pynchonian like yourself knew nothing of Varo. In The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa remembers visiting an art museum in Mexico with Pierce Inverarity during which she encounters Varo's painting Bordando el Manto Terrestre. The painting shows eight women inside a tower, where they are presumably held captive. Six maidens are weaving a tapestry that flows out of the windows. The tapestry seems to constitute the world outside of the tower. This reference sent me on a Varo kick years ago. Though I somehow missed that module...

    1. i know probably you're making some kind of goofy joke, but i gotta say -- dude you've got it turned around. 'lot 49' is the story-within-a-story in pynchon's second novel, 'lovecraft unbound.' the one about the dangers of apophenia as a life-ordering principle, the one every college student is forced to read when they could just skip ahead to pynchon's big novels ('jest,' 'let as done,' even the new one 'remains of the day'!).

  16. My bloody oracles tell me the module was about witch sisters weaving down the moon. Because the moon was actually some kind of egg for a world eating monster, and the witch sisters were going to kill it. So if the players rushed in and killed the witch sisters they would then have to go to the moon and decent into it's lunar depths and kill the worm themselves.
    If the players negotiated with the witch sisters, they could be doing a fetch quest for various components of the worm killing weapons in the towers of the witches, as the witches lived at the top of a vast gomenghast style rotting mansion and had long forgotten their way around anywhere but the towers they occupied. The 4th tower had the most potent of components, and required a key from each witch to open.
    Yeah cause the more components the players could find for the witchs in the mansion the easier the fight with the worldeating worm was, and the less close the moon had to be wove to the earth and the less damage was done to world.
    Coz if the players do not do anything the witchs weave the moon right down atop the planet and kill the worm, but everything is really fucked up.
    If the players just kill one or two witches , the moon hatchs and the worm presents to try and eat the world and its horrible tough.

    If the players work with the witchs they are "oh okay, we don't have to pull the moon as far down as we would we if people were not going to travel to the moon and take our magics directly to the worm"
    Like if you found all the best components , especially the 4th tower ,
    the witchs could make lunar scythes and sickles and space flying potions and moon boats pulled by sails that were nets of flying fish.

    The flying fish were (C1) messengers between the towers, but there were gangs of rogue ones in the mansion, each grouped around a different misunderstanding of a message.

    And that's all I got out of that skinless screaming goat.
    Hope that helps

  17. Is that the art from the Astral Spires of the Owl Priests module? IIRC that was the module that was recalled from the distributors and pulped right before release: the initial letters in all the 'read aloud' boxed text turned out to be acrostics of deliriously foul-mouthed verse.

  18. I've never seen a copy in 'real life' but I bought one during a dream from a game store called Imagination Unlimited.
    It was hard to read because it kept reversing itself.
    A while later I stumbled across the store's waking world location but, sadly, it had just then gone out of business.
    All the shelves were empty and the lights were off.

  19. Oh man, The City Behind the Stars! Weird module, but fun if you have a playgroup that likes subtlety and politicking and surreal situations. You're brought there by a vaguely-defined astral travel mishap: there being a city that exists somewhere in the astral plane, suspended beneath an enormous and complex system of constellations which is visible at all times. The denizens practice, and build their lives around, a kind of reverse astrology: they believe the actions of people in the City impact the position of the stars. They also believe that the position of the stars determines the fate of the rest of reality (though where exactly the rest of reality is and what happens there is something they're vague about): therefore their actions are of enormous importance.

    But of course there's also a dozen different schools of reverse-astrology thought, and these different schools of thought are constantly struggling for ascendancy and a position from which they can, as they see it, allow fate to run its course. The pictures show three different factions at work: the first a Genatian, who are a sort of circle of artist-mages who sculpt with magically-captured starlight (that's what the funnel-press thing is harvesting through the roof): the guys in the second pictures are the Masters of the Silver Gear, who are monks who believe they understand the invisible clockwork underlying the heavens, and can tinker with it (their visualisation of it pictured), and the third is not a faction but an individual The Lady of Sparrows, who is a rogue force who becomes more important as the plot progresses.

    The city is a whole is deeply surreal, filled with people who are very courtly and placid and polite but who literally believe that the fate of all reality rests with them, and will therefore perform more or less any kind of duplicity they feel necessary. Surprisingly often, however, the pattern of stars they're trying to achieve doesn't directly serve their self-interest: the astrology thing is very rarely just a cover for power-plays, it's more usually vice-versa.

    As a result of which, the GM has to do a lot of work to transmit very alien mindsets and keep all the factions in play while making the players care about what's going on. Though that shouldn't be such a challenge once the party makes its way up The Highest Stair and realises the twist to the whole campaign: in believing that reality depends on their actions, the city's inhabitants are right.

  20. I still haven't been able to find a copy of this to download anywhere. I think I will have to combine what Scrap and B have written out here and make up the rest, then put it in my game. Oh, and thanks for the info about the gourd seeds, good catch!!