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Dreams of Darkness

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Final Cover Spread: extra space is for wrap, since it's going to be 8½ x 11 Hard Cover.

Wand of Orcus

I hope you like it as much as I do. Valin Mattheis is responsible for the cover and 90% of the interior illustrations. (if you care: major spoilers ahead)

Tackling a project like this is such a challenge because of the weight of a personality like the Prince of the Undead. As a kid, I stared at those images Dave Sutherland III churned out and even now, they have such gravity. I wonder if he ever realized how those simple drawings came to form the bedrock of a legendary pantheon of nightmares.

Nightmares with a very particular feel.

Writing text that represents the actual place where one of these deeply iconic monsters dwell...the rooms, the diversions, even a smattering of things a demon prince would say----it's daunting and humbling and I really wanted to get it right. Not just for my players, but for me. When I read the text that I write, I want it to feel like it felt when I was a kid: fascinating, slightly overwhelming, a little subversive and always surprising. As such, I'm slapping a mature content notice on the book.

As a player, going up against that same text? I want the words that come out of my mouth to be automatic: "We're so dead. So very, very dead."

This adventure is important to me because its the culmination of my personal campaign. I wrote this for me. For us. And because I wrote it for me, I have to say that I love it. But also, I have to be honest in saying that this is an adventure for characters 14th level and higher with powerful gear and not many people are going to have a use for it.

Sut, the Walking Demon
  • What's Inside?

  • A Demonic Treatise covering demons in general from a 1st edition perspective

  • How mortals get to the Abyss

  • Demonic status

  • How demons are made and unmade

  • How demons die and how demonic amulets get used

  • Rules for demonic abduction

  • Demonic treasure and barter advice

  • Abyssal weather, hazards and "plants"

  • Rules for role playing in the Abyss

  • A Demonic Perspective on the Multiverse

  • Warrens of the Prince (key for map one)

  • Court of Orcus (key for map two)

  • High Temple Prisons (key for map three)

  • Spires of Damnation (key for map four)

  • The Prince's Duel (detailing Orcus' potential fight w/ Demogorgon)

Vrock with Hand of Glory
  • NPC sheets for Orcus & Demogorgon

  • Support for The Primal Order variant (by Peter Adkison) if you want to make the battle more epic

  • 65 ??? new objects, spells and monsters in the appendix

  • Random Undead Table that collates nearly all 1st Edition AD&D undead in one place w/ their sources

  • Gated Demon table

  • List of all True Names for demons in the adventure.

  • All four maps in both DM and Player version

The book is 142 pages long, FULL COLOR and HARD COVER. But you will still be able to get the pdf for cheap----eventually----and honestly, i know you can get it for free if you think I suck and want to do me harm.

I heard a grumble or two that Zjelwyin Fall was too expensive and that full color wasn't a necessity. And while I can sympathize, I also heard that Geir Loe Cyn-crul (in black and white) got some complaints that the map wasn't full color. You can't please everyone, but more importantly, you can't please yourself when you're trying to please everyone. I'm not a publisher trying to figure out what the masses want. Publishers of modern gaming material have not figured out what I want so I have to write it myself. For my game. I have to do all the work b/c there just isn't any material out there on which I can consistently rely...especially given my system choice.

The thing I need right now for my players is a final (or at least penultimate) battle and capstone adventure in an Iron Fortress on Pazunia where Orcus holds court. That's technically the absolute end of the campaign's 6+ year arc and will require a bunch of characters 14th level or higher.

I mean, it's absurd, right? No one else needs such a thing. No one else wants such a thing. So the pitch goes: Here's an absurdly high-level dungeon for a LARGE group of players written specifically for 1st Edition AD&D. The module is Hard Cover and Full Color (because I want my players to have a nice capstone memento to their time playing with me) and will certainly cost $50.

Tldr: You don't want or need this module. It wasn't designed to be easy to drop in just any old place. Nice Maps though, right? Tim Hartin did the originals, which I then heavily modified.

Point is, I'm just not happy unless I'm doing a thing the way I want it done. And this is how I want it done. And doing it that way isn't cheap or even practical. But I'm happy.

I know it seems like I'm only interested in high-level gaming but that is so far from the truth. It seems that way because I keep shouting about how everyone else is wrong. I keep shouting about how everyone else is wrong because their voices damage the legacy and content of the AD&D rule books. My players started at level one and I'm a no nonsense kind of guy. Look at my site. Look at what I do. I'm no nonsense. After five years of playing, my players have high level characters. The game continues to function wonderfully. And yet the internet says that's a fable. And game companies mostly make low to mid level dungeons. So there's a hole to fill. There's a lie to be crushed. I'm crushing it not because I want to win an argument but because crushing it is good for the legacy of the books. This is a game about endless possibilities. It is not about ceilings. It is not about low fantasy. You start in the mud. But you don't stay there. You can run it any old way you want of course and that's fine. But this system, as written, has nothing to do with low fantasy and that should be acknowledged. Crushing the lie is about freeing you to think long term.

The problem folks run into is that they don't understand how to stratify while still being fair. I've said it before and once again: Hardcore Asian MMOs understand how to stratify. Over 100 levels of progression with gear. You have to think big. You have to think small.

Make a story arc that will last a decade. Just do it. You'll have to make some of your own adventures though because there isn't a lot out there to support you in the latter years...which is what most of my supplements have tried to rectify. For this adventure, I'm pulling in Peter Adkison's help (not personally but via his book: The Primal Order). Ah-ha! You say. That's why you blogged about The Primal Order last month! Indeed.

The Primal Order is going to help me set this adventure up in a way I couldn't otherwise. If you actually run this module (please email me if you do) you'll be able to run WITHOUT The Primal Order. It's a variant the text supports but also provides notes on how to carry on sans-PO.

I'm polishing up the Dream House of the Nether Prince right now. Killing typos and enlisting a second pair of trusted eyes. After that, I'll order a proof. After that it'll be available on Lulu (sometime before the end of July?) After that...welp. I guess it's time to start writing LOW level adventures again. My image will be ruined...


And happy gaming.

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