"Go to the sign of Harvel's Axe, a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieves Quarter, in the City of Greyhawk, and look to your own wrist. If you perceive a bracelet and dangling dice, watch for the next throw in the war between Law and Chaos and be prepared to follow the compelling geas." -Signal

Monday, April 23, 2012

B10 - Night's Dark Terror


B10 is a module that I am not sure why it is in the B line and not the X line. I guess the intent is to give players something that they can cross over with. I am just of the opinion that if it is a B module it should really be a module designed for the levels the set was written for.

The module is rare enough that I did not get it when it originally came out and I when I did get around to buying it I paid more for it than I should have had to. The module is not bad from what I can tell it is just something that is priced based on rarity rather than value. I am sure the Australian copy of G1 that sold for a hundred plus dollars a few months ago is just as good as an American monochrome copy of but the prices are a little different.

I would say buy the module if you can get it for a fair price but don't over pay like I did. In the end it is a module that was well worth the cover price but not what one would have to pay for it today.


Published: 1986
Pages: 64

From the publisher:

"Barely one day's march from Kelven, the uncharted tracts of the Dymrak forest conceal horrors enough to freeze the blood of civilized folk. Those who have ventured there tell how death comes quick to the unwary - for the woods at niht are far worse than any dungeon.

But you are adventurers, veterans of many battles, and the call of the wild is strong. Will you answer the call, or are you afraid of the dark terrors of the night?

This campaign adventure is for characters just beginning Expert play (levels 2-4) and hurls them into the exciting outdoor world which awaits in the Expert rulebook.

With a 64-page booklet, 2 double-panel covers, a double-sided fold-out mapsheet and 120 die-cut counters, this super module provides all you need for epic wilderness and dungeon adventuring. Journey across the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a desperate race against time and the forces of evil."

Friday, April 13, 2012

B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond


I am a big fan of the B line of modules. I have been fairly vocal about that in a recent post and I think my comments on the previous entries have put that forward. There is almost always one that does not live up to the others though. I am here to say that B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond is the culprit in the B series.

The module is not patently bad and it does serve a purpose though not what it was meant for perhaps. It is merely not up to the level of the previous eight modules. Even B8 (Journey to the Rock) which I have expressed some concerns about runs laps about this baby. There are a number of reasons why this is the weakest offering in the line and then some that can make more useful than others. These reasons are often one and the same.

The module is actually more than a single scenario. It is actually five individual scenarios that are in some cases linked together better than others. The first two of these are tied together fairly well and I would suggest playing them apart from the others. The remaining three can be tied to the first two but the hold is tenuous at best.

One of the most glaring issues for me is the cartography in the module. There are many modules where the maps alone are worth the price of the module. That is a phrase that will never be sued about Castle Caldwell. The maps are so bad that there is a blog out there where the castle map was redrawn so that the author thought it was usable. I can't recall the blog but the map redo was actually really well done. The other issue I have is the actual material. There are DM blocks here and the same phrase is often repeated. Ever wonder how many times you could tell players "There is a sword hanging on a rack on the wall" before they revolted....this module will allow you that opportunity.

The module as a said though does have a role in life other than to be the whipping post of the B series. Judges Guild released a number of products early on that were mini-adventures. This was later perhaps brought to perfection by TSR in the Lairs products. This module if taken as a fledgling attempt at this by TSR is in that situation use and that is how I would suggest it be used.

I would be negligent if I did not make a final note or two on the module, which I do suggest owning, before I close up this post. The first is the cover art. I know there have been negative comments made on this but I like Caldwell art and this is one of the pieces I remember most from all of them. This means i most likely did not date enough in high school but that aside I like the art and it invokes a definite "Creature from the Black Lagoon" feel. The other is the name of the author. I never for the longest time saw Harry Nuckols as "Harry Knuckles" and so never saw that as a detractor. In the end it is funny but not high on the professionalism ladder. For the record the actual author is a Mr. Ron Charulsky according to a post by Frank Metzner.

 

Published: 1985
Pages: 32

From the publisher:

"Five exciting short adventures to make your Basic campaign come alive!

The Clearing of Castle Caldwell - A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle...but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited!

Dungeons of Terror - A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Caldwell leads to a terrifying challenge!

The Abduction of Princess Sylvia - On the eve of her wedding, the beautiful princess has been kidnapped! Can you save her in time?

The Great Escape - Imprisoned in an enemy fortress, without armor or weapons, your situation seems hopeless. yet there may be a way to freedom...

The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent - A mystical chime of great power has been stolen - but by whom? In the wrong hands, the chime can cause untold harm! But can you find and defeat this mysterious and powerful creature?"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

B5 Horror on the Hill


The Horror on the Hill is a module I have used a few times for starting groups at  first level. I prefer some other modules more but this is one that allows for a lot of  adventure in one small package. I have often though of locating the Keep from B2 here  and mashing the two up losing or changing the Caves of Chaos.

The adventure has some outdoor aspects which can be role played more than some of the  encounters provided in the fist three of the B modules. These can be played seriously  or with a little bit of whimsy depending on the group you are playing with. Once the  players get to the meet of the module there is a sizable dungeon for them to make  their way through.

The ecology of any dungeon is a hard thing to allow for. The one here is a little  better than some of the others in early modules but it still has some concerns. This  module does have a ending that the players will appreciate though. Nothing like living  up to ones name sake in my mind.

Overall I think this is a module that it would not hurt one to spend money on. There  are much worse ways to spend ones money. I think if I were to ever sue it again I  would make it more of a mash up with B2 as I mentioned earlier. I can actually see a  situation where I might take B1, B2 and B4 and make them all part of the same starting  area though it would take some beefing up of some of the material as the party would  be too high by the time the third adventure was used.


Published: 1983
Pages: 32

Description:

The end of the road. A lonely fort stands on the banks of a mighty river. It is here  the hardy bands of adventurers gather to plan their conquests of The Hill, the hulking  mass that looms over this tiny settlement.

The Hill is filled with monsters, they say, and an evil witch makes her home there.  Still, no visitor to The Hill has ever returned to prove the rumors true or false. The  thrill of discovery is too great to pass up, and only the river stands in the way. The  adventurers' boat is waiting!

This module is designed for use with the D&D Basic Rules. A trip through the  wilderness begins a unique challenge for the novice player and Dungeon Master.

Included in the module are:
11 maps
3 new monsters
a complete set of prerolled characters.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

B4 - The Lost City


Yesterday I wrote about B2 the #7 module in Dungeons all time list. Today I will write  a little bit about #28 which is B4 The Lost City. I will also try to not go off on  tangents and slander anyone's reviews or their life's work. I said try so lets see how  that works out for me.

The Lost City is written by Tom Moldvay and I think most everyone will recognize the  name and as a result what they have contributed to the game. I remember reading a Blog  some time ago where the author of the blog was going to sue this as the basis for a  sandbox campaign. This module more than any of the other B series would be suited for  this purpose though B7 could be used as the foundation for a campaign as well with  very little work.

This is a module where actually only a portion of the entire area is written out in  any detail. The reminder has suggestions and broad strokes laid out but the specifics  are left to the discretion of the DM. The module also featured information on how the  DM might get the characters to interact with the NPC and suggestions on how that might  work out. All of these make it very well suited as the foundation for a campaign where  the DM can place their take on it.

There will be those that will suggest that I am partial to the older material. To  argue with that assumption would be sill as I will go on record that in this case  older is better. I think technology improves with time but as far as gaming material  is concerned once you get into the later 80's and early 90's I think things had gone  down hill. If you don't own this module pick it up I will think that those who are  disappointed in the investment will be few and far between.

Published: 1982
Pages: 32

From the cover:

Lost in the desert! The only hope for survival lies in a ruined city rising out of the  sands. Food, water, and wealth await heroic adventurers inside an ancient pyramid  ruled by a strange race of masked beings.

The module includes a cover folder with maps, and a descriptive booklet with a ready- made adventure for the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Basic game. It also includes enough  information to continue the adventure beyond level 3, using the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS  Expert game rules.

Monday, April 9, 2012

B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands


There is not much more that I could add to what has already been said about the #7  ranked module of all time. I am actually more of a fan of B1 In Search of the Unknown  more than I am of B2. Please don't get me wrong but I like the good old fashioned  dungeon crawl factor of it. That and it has some things that became "standards" in  dungeon design. But I digress.

There have been incredibly more pages written about "The Keep" than there are to "The Keep". If you  factor out the useful DM material and resources this is further exaggerated. There are innumerable detractors of the module and it does have some issues. The ecology of the area is  about as impracticable as it could be without being a zoo. Still that is the way it was  some 32 years ago. Anyone who hates on the module really needs to learn to respect what has come before and appreciate the classics that laid the groundwork in a fledgling industry.

It was pointed out the review I mention below may have been meant as comedy. If so I misunderstood. I apologize if that is the case but I still hold true to the other comments about the newer stuff not holding up and the sue of the phrase Pirates of the Coast. Teach me to not look at Tags won't it!

I want to point on in the review here Mike Mearls told us in no uncertain terms how bad it was. I quote him as saying "It really is too late to warn you about this one, isn't it?" and "If you paid for it, you got ripped off". Not railing against 3e or 4e or whatever the next edition whose sole purpose is to bleed money off of people is but pointing out that this module will have more staying power than anything produced by Pirates of the Coast.


The other review on that site is a little more kind but wants to make fun of something Gary Gygax wrote. I have copied that below here but want to point out that James Landy gave much better reviews to a number of Pirates of the Coast and 3e modules that are really pretty bad. But below is what Gary Gygax with all his pretensions (his words) wrote...thank you for inspiring Gary rather than directing:

"You are not entering this world in the usual manner, for you are setting forth to be a Dungeon Master. Certainly there are stout fighters, mighty magic-users, wily thieves, and courageous clerics who will make their mark in the magical lands of D&D adventure. You however, are above even the greatest of these, for as DM you are to become the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to the all the universe. You will breathe life into the stillness, giving meaning and purpose to all the actions which are to follow."

I have no qualms saying that this is a module that everyone should own. Not only  because it is a worth owning and being run through or running by all at least once in  a gamers life but because it is a piece of history. I feel certain that in 2033 there  will not be one 3.x module that is considered in such regard as this one. If there is  please let me know so I can but it now.

Published: 1980
Pages: 28

Excerpt from the adventure:

Background

The Realms of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon  its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its  treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to  the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave  members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies - dwarves, elves,  and halflings - who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the  darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. Bold adventurers from the Realm set  off to the Borderlands to seek their fortune. (...)

You are indeed members of that exceptional class, a
dventurers who have journeyed to  the Keep on the Borderlands in search of fame and fortune.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Distant Echo - Viking Games


I know I have mentioned many times that I have material that I am not too familiar with and even that I am not sure how I came to posses it. To date this may be the biggest mystery yet. Most often it is something I bought and never had a chance to use. I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to RPG materials perhaps.

Most often times I recall buying the item though because I don't buy just to buy 99% percent of the time or better I would say.This book though is a complete mystery to me. I even recall when I scanned it thinking to myself "Where did this come from?" Most often strange buys will be the $1 or $2 Half Price Books variety and I bought it just to see what it had idea wise. This is lacking the price tag I see all too often.

When I buy from eBay most often it is a more directed buy though. I am usually on a kick to try and finish off material in a particular system or on a topic such as magic items. This does not fall into that category that I can recall. My best guess is that a number of years ago I bought a fairly substantial bulk lot of Guido-the-Gypsy on eBay. It showed some older Traveller material and a few other items so I bought it. It had a mixed bag of goods but was a good purchase. I suspect this came in that lot.

As far as "A Distant Echo" by Viking Games. I have nothing to say except what I was able to find on RPG Geek. From what I was able to find out this was the only module offering from Viking Games and the only material specific to their world Axander. They only had one other product from what I could tell and it was a monster manual type offering. If anyone has any insight into this I would love to hear about it.

Published: 2001
Pages: 32

From the back of the book:

One Sword, One Word, One Way

Twin cities, two nations, vying for regional power have encountered a rise of goblin tribes and raids to their national coffers. After a brutal encounter, player characters are drawn into national intrigue, which must be handled quickly or else the region will fall to the hands of the goblins.

The first question that needs answering is: who is supplying the enemy with its quality weaponry?

On the Wrong Side of Loyalty

Designed as the first in a series of adventures detailing the Axandar world a the brink of chaos and war, this d20 system adventure is for characters of beginning levels. Referees will be able to start new campaigns, or add exciting new dimensions to their current campaigns.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Arcana Evolved - Ruins of Intrigue


I have written about Dragon Magazine #54 before. This may very well be one of if  not my absolute favorite issue. I wrote previously that I have referred to it  innumerable times in the past. One of the reasons is the article on city ruins.  I am not sure why the idea of city ruins fascinate me so much. It might be from  the first look at the Statue of Liberty covered in sand that sparked it and then  it was fueled to its height by the cover of the original Gamma World box and the  remains of DC in Logan's Run. I have designed a few ruined cities but have never  been fully satisfied with what I designed.

I am afraid that this book though promising did not live up to what I had hoped  it would be. Please don't take that as me saying the product is not a good  product but it is still not what I want in a ruined fantasy city. I may have to  some day take a great fantasy city and destroy it into ruins. If anyone knows of  any good products with ruined cities I would love to hear about it.

Ruins of Intrigue is more of a framework that a pen to paper layout of a ruined  city. It is a campaign or adventure setting more than an adventure proper. For  what it is it is an excellent product and the premise answers one of my dilemmas concerning city ruins. It is hard to have a large city in ruins anywhere near  civilization and if it is not near civilization how to get the players close  enough without seeming contrived. What better than a city that was hidden in  plan sight for centuries.

The book is well done and is missing the watermarked pages that in some cases make newer products hard to read test wise. As I have aged I would like to see  a larger font used in some books and this could use a slightly larger one. The  book is also a little text heavy and it might benefit from some more images  breaking the text up though a larger font could reduce the need for that. The  material more than makes up for the concerns over the formatting though. This  book may not be for everyone and it is very much campaign specific so using it  outside Arcana Evolved might pose a serious level of work but for ideas it is  well worth it.

Published: 2005
Pages: 94

From the back:

"The ruins of Serathis loom high in the mountains. Only recently discovered,  this ancient city draws many to its shattered streets in search of treasure and  adventure. Giants and dragons square off on opposite sides of the ruins, each  seeking to hold the city and its wealth. The winds of war howl in the distance.  Vast wealth and terrible monsters await!

Ruins of Intrigue is an innovative approach to adventure creation. It provides a  detailed, modular overview of Serathis. Major NPCs and locations have sets of  optional secrets and variants, making every campaign different. A rich array of  ideas, plots, and vying factions gives you varied ideas for creating adventures.  Just pick a hook, choose a goal, select an obstacle, and you're ready to go.  Suitable for Arcana Evolved characters of all levels."


Publisher Blurb:


Adventure and Intrigue in the World of the Diamond Throne!

The ruins of Serathis loom high in the mountains. Only recently uncovered, this  ancient city draws hundreds to its shattered streets in search of treasure and  adventure. Giants and dragons square off from opposite sides of the ruins. The  winds of war howl in the distance. Vast wealth and terrible monsters await!

Ruins of Intrigue provides the foundation for an entire campaign using the Monte  Cook's Arcana Evolved variant player's handbook. It presents Serathis, a ruined  city located between territories claimed by the giants and dragons. Both  factions seek to hold the city and its treasure, setting the stage for conflict.  The book's adventure source material will take your characters to 10th level and  beyond.

Ruins of Intrigue also contains new monsters, secret societies, organizations,  and other material that reflects the city's ancient secrets. And its modular  design allows all player levels and character affiliations to use this  campaign-in-one-book.

This comprehensive look at an exciting new realm of adventure gives DMs the  chance to start and run a campaign with ease and offers an characters the  opportunity to play an important role in the Lands of the Diamond Throne.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Arcana Unearthed - Plague of Dreams


This is the first adventure in the Diamond Throne setting which is the default setting for Arcana Unearthed. Since I am not much of a D20 or 3.x player this is something that I have not had a chance to play in or run anyone through. It is most likely that I never will use it as is but I will be more than happy to mine it for ideas and from what I have seen the material is good.

By now many people who happen upon this may have played it but in the off chance that there are some who see this who might yet play in it I will refrain from talking too much about the specifics of the module. The adventure is a standard enough fair and should run first level characters to third level or so depending on how things go for them. The adventure uses the town of Gahanis as the backdrop for the adventure and this would be a fine base of operations for a few more adventures after this one.

The module itself is broken down into an introductions, six chapters that make up the meat of the module and then two appendixes. The first is one that has stat blocks and consolidated information for the DM and the other is the legal information connected with the OGL. The module does include a number of new (at that time) monsters and magic items.

The layout of the module is done well enough though I found the text a little too small and tight for my aging eyes. There are also some places where the page backgrounds caused problems reading the text. The art in the module is used in a quantity that is not too overpowering. The quality ranges from better than average to quite good in my opinion but your mileage may vary. To me perhaps the best part of the module is the cartography. The maps in the module are all well done and should be easy for the DM to read and use.


Published: 2003
Pages: 64

From the back cover:

"It seems simple enough.

Enter the abandoned fortress, track down the bandit spies, retrieve the treasure and collect the reward. But this simple task is only the first piece in a complicated puzzle, the first step in an adventure filled with intrigue and betrayal, where answers fade faster than ancient memories.

As the larger picture comes into focus, the heroes realize that a more complex mystery is at hand, focused on far more than some stolen treasure. When allies become enemies and simple assignments become epic struggles, the characters will have to tread carefully as they navigate between deadly bandits and dangerous outcasts. Will the heroes act as unwitting pawns in this contest of wills, or will they succeed despite the odds and prevent the plague of dreams?"

An adventure for four 1st level PCs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Atlantis - The Lost World


This is the other half of what was the Atlantean trilogy of which The Arcanum is the first half. This is only in two parts but it was originally three books when it was first released. I always found all three books amazing material too draw from but never used them as a system.

 

Published: 1988
Pages: 278

From the Back of the Book:

"Return to the Second Age of Atlantis; to a time when the race of men was young, and giants still walked the earth..."

ATLANTIS is a complete and comprehensive world setting for fantasy role players and Gamemasters alike. This book contains the original text of THE LEXICON (Atlas of the Lost World of Atlantis) and THE BESTIARY (the Atlantean creature compendium), plus new material never published before.

Includes:

• Atlas of Earth in the Second Age...
• Detailed regional maps...
• Ten cities (human & demi-human races) with annotated maps...
• A compendium of hundreds of mythical creatures, Deities, devils, demons, and wild animals native to the Atlantean world...

• and much more...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Asylum - Eastern Seaboard


This is the second and final supplement published for Asylum. Again since I have not played the game I can't speak in full honesty to the value of the supplement for the game. In my opinion though this may be as valuable as the game for many users.

The supplement describes the Wards that six cities on the east coast have become. This is in addition to Chicago which is described in the core rulebook. This greatly expands the area of play that characters can use though why they would travel between Wards might be had to explain unless the Staff Manual supplement is used.

I think the best use of this might be as reference materials for other games. It might be possible to tone down the crazy and sue this as material for almost any post apocalyptic game a DM might want to run. I can even see keeping a portion of the insanity as using them as a basis for some alternate Paranoia type settings.

In the end if you own the core game I think this is just as important to own as the Staff Manual. This allows not only movement but expands on ideas that the GM can use in whatever Ward they may choose to use as the players home base. I think this is a case where the game as a whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. I think if you can see yourself playing the game then this is something to buy.

Published: 2003
Pages: 156

Publishers blurb:

Ever wonder what your city would be like as a Ward? Now you can find out!

This second supplement to the Asylum RPG details the six East Coast Wards, which are built on the ruins of former cities: Mt. Ward (Montreal), Massward (Boston), NYWard (New York), Discward (Washington, D. C.), Atward (Atlanta), and MyWard (Miami). Each Ward section details that location, complete with histories, a map, a description the major buildings and forces, a list of local rumors, and an adventure geared specifically towards that setting. Each Ward section is written by a native of that area for more accuracy. The insanity is coming to your city!

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