Friday, 21 November 2014

NWOBHM: New Wave of British Heavy...Module!

Best of British
NWOBHM stands for New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and was a phenomenon that took place in the late seventies, early eighties, when an influx of British Heavy Metal music made its way across the pond stateside, much the same as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did fifteen/twenty years before. 
These were bands that had risen way after Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple (all three also favourable British exports abroad) had been cast aside due to the emergence of Punk. Some would say that Punk was also another British invention, along with Fish & Chips, Seaside Rock (a kind of brightly coloured log-shaped candy) and best of all, cricket, rugby, and that one sport the British still stubbornly call football, while the entire world doesn’t...but each to their own, eh?
Lemmy say, bow.
This post is actually about none of the above, but is in fact about some super-heavy modules that drifted from TSR UK, to TSR USA, and all points in-between. You know them I’m sure, maybe even played a few of them over the years. I know I have, and I plan to discuss all of them at length in the future, but for now I’m going with one of my all time favourites, Drums on Fire Mountain.
When we got it, it was brand-new, and had that new-car smell about it. The cover was a lurid red and the green Kara-kara warriors looked like hulk influenced, and aggressive surf bullies. The guy on the right was holding some ‘tooth-studded’ chainsaw type sword that just looked like it was going to hurt if it hit you. It also had a Union Jack on the top left of the banner, just in case you missed that it was written by TSR UK. As a side note here, Grame Morris, is actually Graeme Morris, author of so much module goodness that we will be looking at later.
We had had just come off the back of playing Castle Amber about ten hours before we began this one, and this was nearing the completion of a marathon session of gaming that had taken place every day for weeks. Needless to say we were all a little loopy when we made landfall on the island, and we began to treat it like our own, ‘Apocalypse Now’.

I love the smell of iron rations in the morning.
If the Isle of Dread was reminiscent of the whole, Lost World/King Kong thing, then to us, ‘Drums’ was like Lord of the Flies with two-handed swords and fireballs. We behaved abominably and gave the DM a serious run for his money. We weren’t being dicks, we just wanted to burn everything to the ground, and lay waste to all that moved.Fully embrace the hack&slash and make it our own sort of, search&destroy.
To counter our anarchy, the DM upped the number appearing of all the monsters to be found. So when we emerged from the mist and onto the beach it was like something out of Saving Private Ryan. There was Kara-Kara on giant horned chameleons everywhere. They were chucking spears and other assorted missiles at us, and we had nowhere to go but up the beach. When we were halfway up (under cover of our Mage Arik’s spell slinging) we got flanked by the chameleon cavalry and we took our first casualty. It was Crusher Blood-Sword, (don’t judge the name, we were thirteen) one of our fighters. He was decapitated by one of those spiky swords, and his head bounced all the way down the beach and came to rest against the hull of our ship that was now burning merrily. Oh, how we laughed!

Luckily, we made it to the tree line and scampered into the jungle and onto what I think was called the ‘Trail of the Dead’. This game has it all, because shortly after that, we got lost in a swamp, stuck in some quicksand and attacked by a Hydra, all in mere minutes of making landfall. It was at this juncture that we lost another player, the thief. Luckily the players were now running our hirelings but we were running out of them too. A creeping sense of doom descended upon us as we realised that this might very well be our last sojourn together. So what did we do? Play cautiously and stealthily? Nay, good sir, we doubled down on the madness and went tearing around the island, hell for leather, torching everything and everyone we came into contact with. We went loco; painting our faces in weird war paint and adorning our armour with severed heads and other body parts. We were going for the fear factor, and it seemed to be working too, because we made it into the tunnels under the volcano without losing anyone else.

Despite the ‘Island Style’ vibe of the game, it is still fairly dungeony when you get indoors. We encountered ochre jellies and gelatinous cubes on our travels, not to mention these cool little zombie type dudes called Topis. Man, how we laughed when they came gibbering down the corridor toward us like little, leathery, wind-up-toys... It wasn’t so funny when they swarmed us and tore the dwarf’s throat out. It was a Battle Royale after that, because they can only be turned as wights and you have to save vs. poison or be slowed for one to two turns. I am not sure how many more players we lost, but our madness did not abate, and I recall us taking cover behind our fallen comrades as Arik napalmed the little buggers.
From here on in it was just one bloody slugfest after another, wounded Purple worms, savage apes protecting their young, fire fundamentals, molten lava, more Topis, some trippy fear inducing, phantoms called Kal-murus that can drive you insane with bad-acid-mojo. Toward the end of it all I think there were four of us left out of a group of twelve or so. Arik had been cursed by now as well; he’d been given red eyes that glowed no matter what state he was in, so bang went most chances of surprise.
Finally, we got to meet our Colonel Kurtz-like nemesis in the shape of a fat green dude called Kalna-Kaa, who proceeded to have at us with a Staff of Striking and then eventually, when we got the drop on him, transform into a Devil-swine... As you do.

Exterminate with extreme prejudice.
We slew him, finally, and then looted his chambers for some fairly cool treasure if I remember correctly. Then it was down to beach to the watch the sunset and the volcano explode, as we paddled out to sea on our stolen war canoes. Good times. So, in short, if you ever have that one game that you feel you just want to go mad, and let it all hangout, Drums on Fire Mountain is the one. If run correctly, by a DM who goes with the entire flow of insanity, it will be one hell of a memorable game... I promise.
What games have you played in the past that become your own personal Insane Module, for want of a better word? I would really like to hear about them. And remember, an overweight and overpaid actor once said,"Horror! Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies."

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