H1-2-3-4: Bloodstone Pass
|This article or section is about something oldschool - and awesome.|
Make sure your rose-tinted glasses are on nice and tight, and prepare for a lovely walk down nostalgia lane.
Bloodstone Pass is the setting for Douglas Niles' and Michael Dobson's module of that name, first in the H series (for "High On Cocaine") and the first testing-ground for Battlesystem aka neo-Chainmail. In fact "Bloodstone Pass" was the original name for that system before the authors - two and the same - realised that a "crunch" supplement needed a title that actually, you know, described what it did.
Zhengyi, a follower of Orcus, has crowned himself Witch King of Vaasa, and built Castle Perilous there. In year 1137, the "Wolf Winter", Zhengyi sends an army of orcs and giants and creatures like that against neighbouring Damara. Over ten years, the baronies, Bloodstone among them, are hard hit by the war and attendant problems. Then the Witch King - with help from the Grandfather of Assassins - BTFOs Damara. This leaves Bloodstone adrift. (We can compare how Blackmoor is left to itself in that setting; or that Angmar / Rhudaur / Arthedain dynamic in Tollers' Third Age.)
Bloodstone is named for a macguffinite mineral. One of its special problems over this last decade is that They Delved Too Greedily And Too Deep. More on that, anon.
The H Series
H1: Bloodstone Pass
That first module is, still, a boxed set. Vaasa calls upon Bloodstone's fifth Baron, Tranth, for a truce: we'll end the state of siege, if only Tranth turn over selected subjects for slaves. Unlike other barons, this one balks; so must call for help. The PCs lead Tranth's forces to defend Bloodstone Pass. The PCs lead the baronial armies to fend off the Grandfather of Assassins' orcs and of other bandits, plus undead.
H2: The Mines of Bloodstone
Something very big with goat horns has come up from Deepearth, as Niles calls it, to mess with Bloodstone directly. The party must go down there to root out the eeevil. Turns out, there's a duergar problem; fortunately, svirfneblin live here too. The PCs get to Orcus' Temple and end it. There are optional BATTLESYSTEM battles here too. Strategically, those engagements are diversions, from the PCs' temple-raid. So, if they do want to run these battles: the party is split. Just like in early Dragonlance.
This story doesn't need to be a sequel to H1 - it is even possible that Niles (alone) first intended it as an independent showcase for his new DSG's Deepearth. (He's got Wilderness Survival Guide in here too; to get to the dungeon, the PCs can't wait for summer and have to trudge through winter.) With Dobson on board, though, the two figured they had that common thread of Orcus, so let's throw in some more Battlesystem engagements BUT UNDERGROUND and shoehorn in the H1 backstory.
H2 requires a lot of the DM to rebalance everything against the high-level party and its likely inventory of powerful magic. Further, splitting the party was controversial even in Dragonlance. Reviewer John Saunders just gave up and shat all over this one in White Dwarf #88, using the word "gross" a lot.
H3: The Bloodstone Wars
Here, the PCs are the barons of Bloodstone now firmly planted in Forgotten Realms. Clearly, TSR worried about campaign-setting creep: as H2 had to set Niles' Deepearth Mines in Bloodstone, H3 had to marry both to Greenwood's work...
Anyway it's more of H1's same: BATTLESYSTEM!1!eleventyone. Also some dungeons.
H4: The Throne of Bloodstone
"Between levels 18 and 100", H4 is universally acknowledged the most hilariously gonzo and METAL adventure in 1e. Get bent Mr Saunders, you think H2 was "gross" and overpowered, we'll give you gross and we'll deal with the balance issues OUR WAY. As Lawrence Schick pointed out in 1991, AD&D 1e didn't have a Master's Set; there were no rules in 1988 beyond level 25.
Defeating Vaasa isn't in the cards as long as the true ruler is on some other (lower) plane. Time to go right down there - so far, so Queen of the Demonweb Pits. The module's got the "Forgotten Realms" logo which is funny given it's the one module in the H series that doesn't take place in the same plane of existence as that setting.
This time, Dobson and Niles mused to themselves what it might actually take to bring down a demon god in his own home. As usual, that's to destroy his Ring: the Wand, in Orcus' case. Except, he's still using it. Never to be forgotten, the city of liches and another city of 100,000(!) demons.
Bless you, Dobson and Niles, for bringing this kino to /tg/ and to neckbeards everywhere.
Most of all Battlesystem itself came out of this, which is a Big Deal in the hobby. Rich Baker has acknowledged Red Hand of Doom's debt to H1 in particular. Otherwise this was an experiment in high-level play, parallel to Companion / Master; even if it didn't work (H2) or was a joke (H4), it paved the way for better in future.
Forgotten Realms retcon'ed this setting into its world like (some say) it did for R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale. That's FR9, The Bloodstone Lands.