A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

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Review: An Adventure

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on January 20, 2014

Tagged: osr module

I picked up ██████ a few months ago from Noble Knight Games. The ███ asks that the module not be discussed online, but I bought it and that’s what I like to do: ███ isn’t the boss of me.

The idea behind ██████ is quite interesting. Each page in the book is titled with an event, and what happens when that event occurs during a game. Events are situations like, “a player lights a torch”, or “a players visit an inn.” To add some variability here, events are only activated in a particular sequence. If “a player lights a torch” is not the current trigger players can light as many as they want with no fear of reprisal. This module is all about the reprisal. Like most ███ modules ██████ is very much a ██ ██. I suspect this module was released in such a limited edition fashion to avoid █████ and █████ from the ███ ███. This book is filled with harsh unforgiving challenges. This module isn’t fair, in the least.

To call ██████ a module is a real stretch: it isn’t an adventure in any traditional sense of that word. There is no goal beyond surviving the encounters presented. There are no rewards for the characters to be found in this book. (I suppose survival is the reward.) The adventure would require some very creative play in order to come out the other end in one piece.

Looking past the specific events discussed in ██████, the general idea behind the book seems like a good way to (impartially) inject extra action into your game. Has anyone seen any other adventures or supplements similar in style?

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Review: F3: Many Gates of Gann and F1: Fane of the Poisoned a Prophecy from Chaotic Henchmen

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on December 21, 2012

Tagged: osr module ad&d

I recently purchased both of the modules put out by Chaotic Henchmen: F3: Many Gates of Gann and the F1: Fane of the Poisoned Prophecy. The modules are a throwback to AD&D adventures of yore, but with much better typesetting and layout. In fact my main impetus for picking up the adventures was to support someone who took the time to put together a good looking well laid out product. This is something sorely lacking in a lot of RPG books I buy.

And now for some spoilers.

The F3: Many Gates of Gann describes a fairly large dungeon built by a wizard to house a terrible weapon. The wizard has since moved on, but left a small army of servitor apes to run the place. Oh hells yes. The layout of the dungeon makes it perfect for round about exploration. There are all sorts of ways of interacting with the apes that manage the compound. In addition to the apes there are a faction of snake monsters that have snuck into the compound through a lower level and a few of their minions. There are plenty of groups in the dungeon to befriend or fight. There is lots to love in this module. It’s a little bit quirky and different than your typical fantasy dungeon.

F1: Fane of the Poisoned a Prophecy is another interesting setting. An oracle who has set up shop in an ancient crypto-moon temple has been kidnapped by werewolves who have descended into the temple from the moon via a lunar staircase. Read that again and tell me you don’t want to play that game! This dungeon is smaller than The Many Gates of Gann, but it is surrounded by a few smaller environs for players to explore. The main dungeon itself is also well laid out, and like F3 encourages some round about exploration.

Both modules have some interesting traps and mechanics that take them a step above your typical dungeon crawl module. Chaotic Henchmen have done a great job with two modules. I think I like F3 more than F1, but they are both worth checking out.

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Review: Beneath the Ruins by Alex Fotinakes

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on November 10, 2012

Tagged: zine osr module d&d

The first module for Geoffrey McKinney’s new imprint Psychedelic Fantasies is Beneath the Ruins by Alex Fotinakes. The module describes the first level of the vast ruins of Kihago. One might describe the dungeon as “gonzo”: there are laser pistols and weird science, mutant men, and yeast monsters.

The dungeon is divided into three main zones. Two of the zones are controlled by warring factions: the Luminites, who worship ancient alien technology and believe nothing exists outside of the dungeon, and the Tribe of Yrtuk, mutant men who have lived in Kihago for centuries. The third zone of the dungeon is a no man’s land, both tribes considering it too dangerous to explore. There are two optional sub-levels that can be used if you want to run the module as a self-contained unit. The author also recommends using the dungeons as the first level of a large complex. The booklet concludes with a handful of new monsters and stats for lasers guns.

The module is 16 pages long, printed as a long skinny booklet. This is a really great format for an adventure. (Though, I think it would have worked well as a two-column digest sized booklet as well.) The cover contains the map and is detachable. Each page holds a fair amount of information. Room descriptions are short enough I could imagine running the adventure with almost no prep. The type is a bit small, but I don’t think its hard to read. Some thought has clearly gone into the layout of the booklet. Room descriptions rarely cross pages–I found one exception, and here the break is clear as it happens mid-sentence. When a monster appears in a room its stat blocks is separated from the room description making it easy to pick out which rooms have monsters. All in all its clear this module is meant for your gaming table.

Beneath the Ruins is probably one of the better modules I’ve purchased recently. It’s also incredibly cheap. You should check it out.

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Review: X1: Isle of Dread

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 22, 2012

Tagged: d&d expert module

I bought a copy of Isle of Dread from Dueling Grounds several weeks ago. (They have a good selection of overpriced beat up old modules and books.) My main reason for buying the book was to support the store, since they host the Encounters game I participate in. That said, I had been thinking about picking up this module for some time. Isle of Dread was the first Expert Edition D&D module put out by TSR–the infamous X1.

Isle of Dread is less an adventure in the traditional sense and more of a mini-campaign setting. There isn’t anything in particular the adventurers are tasked to do on the island. There is no real beginning or end to the module. The book simply describes a small island (full of dread). X1 opens with an overview of a small campaign world, featuring said island. This is then followed by a hex map of the Isle of Dread with keyed areas to aid a DM in running adventures on the island–what people refer to has a hex crawl.

The book is a good introduction to structuring and creating wilderness adventures. It was originally packaged with the expert edition box sets, which introduced these rules, so this makes sense.

The module describes a few hexes on the island, but much of them are left for the DM to populate–either through their own prep work or via random encounters. A small village exists for the PCs to set up shop within. The center of the island is detailed with another hex map. This area also features a more traditional dungeon, Taboo Island, which the PCs can explore in the hopes of treasure and glory. Even this set piece has been designed so it can be easily extended by a DM.

X1 is well worth getting if you are looking for a mini-campaign setting. There is enough stuff in the module that you could play games on the island for a good while. Modules can be instructive: they help teach by example, and provide insight into what sorts of adventures and experiences the game designers expect their customers to have. As a template for designing your own hex crawls X1 succeeds quite well. X1 shows that you don’t need an overwhelming amount of information to create a rich world for your players to destroy: all you need are some random tables and a little imagination.

When I started playing role-playing games 2nd Edition was the current iteration of D&D. Modules from this time could best be described as little novels your players could walk through. In many ways modules were an extension of the actual novels TSR was published to go along with their D&D campaign settings. At the time I wasn’t particularly interested in reading adventure modules, but my feelings have since changed. I’ve been reading lots of modules recently, sometimes with an eye to running a game, but more often than not simply to enjoy reading something about RPGs.

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