Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

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Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by Havard » Mon Feb 02, 2015 9:50 pm

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Hi, does anyone know anything about the AD&D 2nd Ed module A Hero's Tale by Monte Cook? I sort of stopped keeping track of AD&D stuff for a while in the late 90s so I missed this one when it came out (1996). I know it is a collection of adventures. I would love to know more about it though. Is there a common theme to the individual adventures? What sort of things do they deal with? Are there any new monsters etc?

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:35 pm

It's a common theme in many of Monte Cook's fantasy works (not unique to Monte Cook by any means, since it's basically been hardcoded into the original D&D alignment system since the beginning and it's inspired by Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, and Poul Anderson, but it's a well he draws from more than most D&D designers) that there's a conflict between the forces of Law and a destructive form of Chaos. You can see it in Labyrinth of Madness, Chaositech (which ties into his Ptolus setting), and parts of Beyond Countless Doorways (in particular the Mountains of the Five Winds, though I don't think Monte Cook wrote that chapter). It's definitely in evidence in A Hero's Tale. Tales From the Infinite Staircase subverts this theme, presenting instead a destructive form of Law as its primary nemesis.

The basic premise of A Hero's Tale is that long ago, a powerful priestess of Law pulled a star from the sky and turned it into an artifact that preserves cosmic order in the world against the encroaching forces of Chaos. As long as it remained safe, the world remained a stable, relatively predictable place with consistent laws of nature. In the first adventure in this anthology a group of kenku remove the artifact from its hiding place by accident, creating a chain reaction that threatens to destabilize the world and let Chaos reign supreme.

The adventures in A Hero's Tale are sometimes unrelated, connected only by the theme of rising chaos as a result of the mishap in the first adventure. They aren't meant to be played all in a row, but interspersed throughout a larger campaign. There's a bit of irony in the climax; the wizard responsible for the tide of chaos is long dead when the adventure begins, having died convinced his project had been a failure. Most adventures would end with a climactic battle with the villain responsible for it all, but in this anthology the PCs are denied that satisfaction. They can fight his apprentice/lover, though.

There's a minor crossover between A Hero's Tale and Labyrinth of Madness, but not one players are likely to ever be aware of (an NPC in one book is the sister of one in the other). There's no reason you have to own one book to use the other. Still, the theme of a corruptive extraplanar chaos is present in both, so you might tie them together somehow if you decided to use them both in the same campaign. Labyrinth of Madness is a much higher level adventure than anything in A Hero's Tale, so it would have to come later. Maybe the lamia NPC known to visit the labyrinth could be there, still plotting revenge.

I thought it was a bit of a missed opportunity that the extraplanar Chaos-worshiping archmage wasn't tied into Planescape's Xaositect faction, which is why I made him the faction's founder in this history.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by AuldDragon » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:51 pm

Rip covered the synopsis better than I could have. To answer your other questions, it's not tied to any setting, and doesn't make any references to any specific settings that I ever found. There is a Kali-worshiping medusa in one adventure, and a local LG goddess called the Lady of Blue. The finally takes place on a demiplane in the Ethereal. There are no new monsters in the adventure.

It shouldn't be too difficult to fit it into any particular setting, but with the strong Law vs Chaos aspect, Mystara would probably be a better place than many.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:32 pm

If you set it in Mystara, you might decide that the "star pulled from the heavens" was actually a fragment of the FSS Beagle, transformed into an artifact of Law during or just after the Blackmoor era (perhaps by Djaea as part of her quest for Immortality, seeking a way to ensure that Mystara would never again be as destabilized as it was during the Great Rain of Fire). It would have to be separate from the Nucleus of the Spheres, which a group of humanoids aren't going to randomly dig up from under an old church. Perhaps it was once the "command module" RAI, which appeared in area E-14 in the ZGG version of City of the Gods.

The rising Chaos might be a result of Draesten being brought closer to Mystara, or forces from Draesten being summoned into the world. The Celestial Planisphere from Gaz 2 might be able to do this sort of thing; if you blame the Planisphere for the rising chaos, then perhaps Barimoor is the wizard responsible (though he might have delegated the operations to a lamara apprentice). The chaos doesn't really feel like the Sphere of Entropy's work; it's not uniformly destructive or connected to death or the undead. It's the force of randomness and change, dangerous but not inherently evil. Note that I connected the chaos of Labyrinth of Madness to the Carnifex in my Mystara conversion notes for that module, but I'm not sure that would work for A Hero's Tale.

In Mystara the equivalent of Kali is Kala, an aspect of Hel worshiped in Sind. The ettercaps in Web of Death could be replaced with araneas. The kenku might be swapped with gyerians. The grell could be beings from the Dimension of Nightmares. The spriggans could be wicked pookas, maybe. The slaadi could be natives of Draesten.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by Big Mac » Tue Feb 03, 2015 12:56 pm

AuldDragon wrote:To answer your other questions, it's not tied to any setting, and doesn't make any references to any specific settings that I ever found. There is a Kali-worshiping medusa in one adventure, and a local LG goddess called the Lady of Blue. The finally takes place on a demiplane in the Ethereal. There are no new monsters in the adventure.

It shouldn't be too difficult to fit it into any particular setting, but with the strong Law vs Chaos aspect, Mystara would probably be a better place than many.
How well would A Hero's Tale work as a "new setting" (perhaps a new planet that could be visited from Planescape or Spelljammer)? Does anything in this adventure appear in any other adventures?
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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:42 pm

There's no reason you couldn't create a new setting for A Hero's Tale to be in, but the module is intentionally very generic so there's very little about it that suggests one. It would be a world populated by humans and standard AD&D monsters, and perhaps a distant past when supernatural chaos was more potent than it has been in many centuries (that doesn't mean the present age was boring or mundane). There are a few towns detailed but no hint of larger political divisions. None of it is mentioned in other sources.

If I were going to build a world for this setting, I'd probably pull in more Monte Cook ideas like the Galchutt from Chaositech, an ancient race of fiends whose influence might be behind the rising chaos. There's also the Lifebane from Labyrinth of Madness, which might also tie in with the Galchutt, and the Dyris from that module might be a more prevalent ancient race whose civilization left ruins across the continent. The Malhavoc Press supplement When a Star Falls might provide ideas about a supernatural meteor impact that provided the star from which the artifact was forged. Maybe many gods were left dead by the ancient wars with Chaos, so Requiem For a God could get a lot of use. The fallen star might actually be the heart of a fallen god.

The presence of Kali implies an Indian-like civilization somewhere. Apart from that, you'd be on your own inventing nations and peoples to fill the world. I'd probably name two nations Vashar and Dyr and maybe, I don't know, the Blue Empire. The god from A Paladin in Hell, Neheod, could be worshiped on this world, and maybe Orcus used to be revered, tying things to the Planescape adventure Dead Gods.

Or maybe this was a misleading post. The correct answer is probably no, there's no world implied in this adventure apart from the generic world of 2nd edition AD&D. But of course you could invent one from scratch if you wanted.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by Big Mac » Tue Feb 03, 2015 6:43 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:There's no reason you couldn't create a new setting for A Hero's Tale to be in, but the module is intentionally very generic so there's very little about it that suggests one. It would be a world populated by humans and standard AD&D monsters, and perhaps a distant past when supernatural chaos was more potent than it has been in many centuries (that doesn't mean the present age was boring or mundane). There are a few towns detailed but no hint of larger political divisions. None of it is mentioned in other sources.
Thanks. I was wondering if it might connect to other adventures published the same time. Or if it might be something that was recycled later, for something like Elsir Vale. (I hear people suggesting that Elsir Vale and Nentir Vale are connected, although I don't think it is specifically stated anywhere.)
ripvanwormer wrote:If I were going to build a world for this setting, I'd probably pull in more Monte Cook ideas like the Galchutt from Chaositech, an ancient race of fiends whose influence might be behind the rising chaos. There's also the Lifebane from Labyrinth of Madness, which might also tie in with the Galchutt, and the Dyris from that module might be a more prevalent ancient race whose civilization left ruins across the continent. The Malhavoc Press supplement When a Star Falls might provide ideas about a supernatural meteor impact that provided the star from which the artifact was forged. Maybe many gods were left dead by the ancient wars with Chaos, so Requiem For a God could get a lot of use. The fallen star might actually be the heart of a fallen god.
Good call. I've thought of doing that sort of thing myself, for other products.

I wonder if Monte Cook had anything in mind, when he was writing A Hero's Tale. :)
ripvanwormer wrote:The presence of Kali implies an Indian-like civilization somewhere. Apart from that, you'd be on your own inventing nations and peoples to fill the world. I'd probably name two nations Vashar and Dyr and maybe, I don't know, the Blue Empire. The god from A Paladin in Hell, Neheod, could be worshiped on this world, and maybe Orcus used to be revered, tying things to the Planescape adventure Dead Gods.
Brilliant. This is the sort of thing I'm thinking of. In my opinion "generic" is never truly generic, as there is always small bits of stuff like this in the plot.

I see things like this and say "that could not be Dark Sun" or "that could not be "Dragonlance" or whatever.
ripvanwormer wrote:Or maybe this was a misleading post. The correct answer is probably no, there's no world implied in this adventure apart from the generic world of 2nd edition AD&D. But of course you could invent one from scratch if you wanted.
I'm not sure I know what the generic world of 2nd edition was supposed to be like. With 3e, I'm pretty sure it is supposed to be Greyhaw, but with 2e, it does not seem so clear. But I would say it would be similar to both Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms in most respects.
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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:43 pm

Big Mac wrote:I'm not sure I know what the generic world of 2nd edition was supposed to be like. With 3e, I'm pretty sure it is supposed to be Greyhawk, but with 2e, it does not seem so clear. But I would say it would be similar to both Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms in most respects.
A world that took the text in the 2nd edition core books literally would be more like Greyhawk than the Forgotten Realms, since things like the elven and dwarven subraces and the names of artifacts and spells were designed with Greyhawk in mind. However, I don't think David "Zeb" Cook, when he was the lead designer of the 2nd edition game, was really trying to design books that used Greyhawk as the default world; it's just that AD&D inherited a lot of Greyhawk stuff from 1st edition, and the Forgotten Realms were designed somewhat differently.

That said, the Forgotten Realms had a lot more products in 2nd edition than Greyhawk did, and a lot of it absorbed 2nd edition features and tropes that Greyhawk didn't. There are, for example, relatively obscure monsters from the Monstrous Manual and other sources that have canonical places in the ecology of the Realms that never got mentioned in any Greyhawk sources (I think the Realms even have some packs of Dark Sun-style giths running around, solely because they were in the Monstrous Manual). Sources like 2nd edition's Tome of Magic were used in Realms books but not Greyhawk ones. In many respects the Realms encompasses all of 2nd edition while Greyhawk, being cancelled for much of it and marketed primarily on nostalgia for the last few years of it, was in many ways stuck only in 1st edition and the first few years of 2e.

A Hero's Tale would work with either world without much trouble, as long as you're okay with the forces of Chaos altering the laws of nature because a single artifact was lost. Far greater disasters happened to the Realms because of a missing tablet, so it doesn't seem so strange for an ancient agreement with Ao to be nullified because something went missing. Greyhawk doesn't really have any similar overseer keeping things from going off the rails, so I can imagine the tenuous balance on that world being upset with the loss of an artifact dedicated to a power of Law like Pholtus, Rao, or Lendor. The effects of A Hero's Tale aren't that cataclysmic, anyway; mostly just surprise earthquakes, unseasonable blizzards, weird things going on with luck, a medusa getting new powers, and spiders getting smarter. The anthology only goes up to 10th level, so it's not like continents are dissolving into soup.
Brilliant. This is the sort of thing I'm thinking of. In my opinion "generic" is never truly generic, as there is always small bits of stuff like this in the plot.
In this case, there isn't anything like what I mentioned in the plot. "Vashar" comes from the Vasharan in the Book of Vile Darkness, "Blue Empire" is inspired by the Lady in Blue but there is no empire in A Hero's Tale, blue or otherwise. "Dyr" comes from the Dyris of Labyrinth of Madness. None of those things are in A Hero's Tale. Well, the Lady in Blue is, but she's just a local deity in the book.

Like I said, I was afraid I was being misleading with my suggestions. I made the suggestions; the book didn't. The actual book is very, very generic and has fewer bits of stuff than you might have imagined.

It's true that it probably couldn't be Dark Sun, not without a very heavy revision. It probably could be Dragonlance if you altered a few of the creatures. Krynn has its own problems with Chaos.

While I'm fairly confident in my ability to turn a generic adventure into a world if I really wanted to, especially by gathering other ideas from sourcebooks by the same author, I want to make sure you don't run out and buy A Hero's Tale under the mistaken impression that there's anything like a unique campaign setting in there. There isn't. Turning A Hero's Tale into a world would be like turning a pot of water with a stone in it into soup; you'd have to add everything that makes it soup on your own.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by AuldDragon » Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:46 pm

Big Mac wrote:I'm not sure I know what the generic world of 2nd edition was supposed to be like. With 3e, I'm pretty sure it is supposed to be Greyhaw, but with 2e, it does not seem so clear. But I would say it would be similar to both Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms in most respects.
There really is *no* generic setting in the rule books, at least the PHB and DMG. The books were designed to be setting-less, to be used with whatever a DM created. They inherited some names in spells and items, but there's very little background, and the examples used to illustrate the rules are all done to show a game table, not a world.

Tome of Magic is actually the only one I know of that is generic yet infers a specific setting, in this case, FR. Most of the generic adventures are very generic as well; only Council of Wyrms implies a campaign setting (because it has to), and some of the very late products (Bastion of Faith) imply Greyhawk.

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Re: Tell me about A Hero's Tale (1996) by Monte Cook

Post by Kythkyn » Wed May 22, 2019 5:36 am

I'm looking at this book currently as I start plotting a new AD&D campaign
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