Tuesday, April 30, 2019

X is for X10: Red Arrow, Black Shield

[over the course of the month of April, I shall be posting a topic for each letter of the alphabet, sequentially, for every day of the week except Sunday. Our topic for this year's #AtoZchallengeRevamping the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a way that doesn't disregard its B/X roots. I got behind by a couple days because of the Easter weekend, but I'm trying to catch up as quickly as possible]

X is for X10: Red Arrow, Black Shield, a 1985 adventure module by Michael S. Dobson, using characters and concepts from Dave Cook's earlier modules X4 and X5. I’ve never owned or run X10; it was published long after my home campaign moved to AD&D  and its own (non-Known World) setting, and long before I ever considered going back to BECMI and (later) B/X. Having never given it a shot (as a DM or a player), I won’t comment on whether or not it’s any “good” as a module. I will only say that while I really dig the (Cook invented) “Juggernaut” monsters, I’m not a fan of bugbear forces (again! These evil Wookiee are everywhere...even Hule!), and I wish there was some faction using war elephants. I could find no such force upon a quick skim of the module.

The part that’s pertinent to this series is how the adventure interacts with the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. X10 is one of those “campaign changing” adventures, in the same way as Wrath of the Immortals or (possibly) Death Frost Doom. Depending on how the war goes, the entire Known World will be radically changed for good or ill (though it’s still  D&D...couldn’t a wish or two put it back the way it was?). As such, GAZ1 (and all subsequent Gazetteers take an interesting tack with regard to X10: they state that the events in the module take place 200 years after the “present day” of Mystara. Specifically:

"This adventure theoretically takes place 200 years in the future of this world. (It was originally written for the current day, but later pushed further ahead in the chronology because of the massive changes that the war described would create.)"

I don’t get this. Why? Because the stuff in the ideas and NPCs in the GAZ are so sacrosanct? Maybe that’s the case...after all the information of Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure has hardly changed after a decade’s distance between it and GAZ1. Anton Radu is still alive (and running the Veiled Society), despite being murdered and outed in adventure B6. Lady Magda Marilenev is still waiting to “snap.” Sacacia of Luln has yet to be knighted (or landed) despite the fall of the Black Eagle Barony and the evidence of Ludwig’s “evil villain” status.

But So What? If you don’t want want the Master of Hule wrecking your joint, just don’t run the adventure! Why make it a part of the “cannon” timeline of Mystara? It doesn’t appear any other adventure is! Is it just SO AWESOME that it needs to be included in a Mystara campaign?

Now with additional
BS required.
Personally I think the reason is a bit more nefarious. X10 was written to both showcase and market TSR’s mass combat rule set “BATTLESYSTEM,” another accessory I skipped owning. To run it, you needed to buy BS (as I will hereafter call it); telling folks that you could ignore X10...or worse, not even mentioning it in the GAZ (no such thing as bad publicity!) would be an unheard of lack of opportunity to market yet another TSR big box product, hopefully in aid of driving sales and earning ducats for the corporate coffers.

What a bunch of rubes they took us for, huh?

If you want to blow up your campaign setting (with it without BS), I say just go ahead and do it. A well-run campaign should be constantly evolving anyway due to the action of the PC adventurers wrecking the joint and blowing up the local economies and power structures. If you don’t want a massive invasion (especially one that includes bugbears and no elephants), then don’t. Personally I like the idea of crushing the Five Shires under the massive stone wheels of rolling juggernauts and making western Karameikos a haven for halfling refugees (flood those Iron Ring slave pens with hairy footed wretches!).

Heck, maybe you’d like to make Hule a nation that worships death and convert the entire invasion force into a massive “army of the dead.” That would be kind of neat, too...if not terribly original.
; )


  1. We haven't gotten there in our interviews yet, but when we played x4/5 the master's armies were almost completely undead. If I were to run x10 I would probably make him a lich, explaining why he came back, and create a new army of undead.

  2. I enjoyed X10 for what it was, a framework. Still havnt finished it, but I concluded that you could just run army combat by one PC fighting an NPC because each were indicative of each military force. A kill results in a total annihilation of the opponent. It eliminated the whole battle system.

    Its okay to wage this war in AC1006 while your PCs are on exploring/colonizing the Isle of Dread... and simply not have the resupply ship return. Having the world they love wiped out or descimated is okay. As okay as the fact that any asteroid capable of creating a fifty six mile diameter crater in glantri killed everyone in six hundred miles radius with thermal radiation, and wind blasts out to a thousand miles radius.