Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mini-Review: Off the Beaten Path

So, this arrived a few days ago....

I supported +Thom Wilson's Kickstarter for the project, opting for the system-neutral version of the book.  The book also has a variant printing published with adventures statted out for Swords and Wizardry Light.

The setup for this book of encounters and mini-adventures is to fill space and opportunities in case the pesky PCs wander off the map, need a small side-challenge, or a light on-off is necessary.  Thom prepared 23 one- to two-page adventures, typically with a single challenge or objective.  The encounters are classed as 'Easy,' 'Moderate,' and 'Hard' for a range of levels up to around 6.

Of course, with the un-statted nature of the system neutral version, modding critters or challenges would be achieved fairly readily.  Likewise, although some treasure or magic items are fairly clearly delineated, plenty are left blank, such as the 'Magical Short Sword' shown below:

Which allows the GM to craft an item appropriate to the level (or perhaps needs) of the party members.  I appreciate this format, and mentioned it before in my review of The Staff of the Last Hill Chief.  Coincidentally, Monkeyblood Design crafted several of the maps in OTBP, so may have had a hand in influencing this open concept.

Speaking of maps, due to the single encounter-area or mini-dungeon typical of the scenes, most are fairly simple and brief.  Thom and Monkeyblood shared mapping duties.

The adventures provide a variety of baddies to combat,as well as a few traps and puzzles to worry out.  Per its title, all of the OTBP scenes take place in the wilderness, to be encountered along the road, or in the boonies if the PCs wander off the road to check out something curious, camp out, or otherwise stray from the path...  Thom reports that he is working on a follow-up desert-themed collection via his Patreon.

While most of the encounters are standalone, four of the adventures can be linked through items found in individual scenes (maps, clues, etc.), which could either drive a few sessions of play, or pop up in later adventures.  One quibble - the linked scenes are referenced by Excursion #, but neither the page headers or table of contents number the scene titles.  Edit:  Thom pointed out that the Excursion numbers are printed along the footer of the pages - I hadn't noticed them in my read-through.  Doh! Thanks for the correction.  That said - adding the #s to the TOC will be a help.

From my read-through of the collection, the scenes are well-written, with sufficient but not too elaborate descriptions.  Because of Thom's one to two-page limit per scene, even the 'largest' areas have no more than 10 encounter areas.  

Thom did also fall victim to box text (shaded in this case) but we'll forgive him this.  

The product was delivered promptly after the end of the project.  Thom planned ahead well, with the majority of writing (and booklet cover) pre-prepared, leaving him only stretch goal additions (adventures, mapping) to create at the end.  

Overall, this looks to be a useful resource and inspiration for keeping the party from wandering aimlessly in the woods!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Village of Devsay-Hough

Haven't done a village for a while....

The Village of Devsay-Hough stands at an almost-literal end of the road, overlooking the River Igleri gorge. The bridge crossing the gorge collapsed nearly five years ago, and the powers that be can't be bothered to engineer a replacement. Prior to the collapse, Devsay-Hopugh was a moderately successful border village overlooking a river crossing to West Lien. With the bridge loss, traffic moved to a ford to the north, and an intact bridge to the south.

The village was originally home to nearly 500 citizens, but is slowly dwindling, as travel through the area has dried up.  Approximately 200 people remain in the core area of the settlement, with houses and farms in the surrounding area abandoned and left to be reclaimed by the woods.  With the loss of the bridge and its associated administration, more questionable souls, who are fine with being off the beaten path, have arrived.

The village has struggled to remain self-sufficient in its impoverished state.  However, it still maintains a several trades-folk and professions to serve both citizens and those few travelers who pass by on the Marginal Road.

Friday, March 10, 2017

RPG Blog Carnival: Things in the Dark

Moebius Adventures opened up their figurative doors to host this month's RPG Blog Carnival, with the topic of 'Things in the Dark'...

...whether they are critters, environments, or just making one's way around in the dark places that PCs have a bad habit of exploring.

So, I will, as I often do, grab a bit of real history and bend it a bit for a little gaming goodness...

Mining.  Deep underground, dirty work in the darkness.  Personal illumination to safely and effectively work was important (well, effectively, safely came later...)

Trouble is, mines and other similar confined spaces can have a problem of atmosphere - Not enough oxygen, too much oxygen, explosive dusts or gasses, or poisonous atmospheres.  These so-called 'damps' (from the German dampf, or vapor) were a constant hazard.

And open flames can exacerbate those problems - especially in the cases of explosive environments or oxygen-enriched environments (where combustion can accelerate or spread rapidly).  Since miners often relied on open flames, such as helmet-mounted oil lamps (below), there was an incentive to find a less dangerous alternative, or at least methods to assess an atmosphere before working in an area (the fabled canary could only do so much, after all...).


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lost Tomes 5

....wherein we find more books to seek, stumble upon, or suppress....


Funerary of Ildar:  A hide-bound book of resurrection of the dead.  The book contains powerful texts for the retrieval of the soul from beyond, and re-securing it to the mortal body.  However, the subject of the resurrection must now permanently keep the book in their possession to maintain their revivified status.  Physical separation from the book will sever the person's hold on life, rendering them permanently dead.  The book will be found with a decayed corpse a few feet away, in the attitude of crawling toward the volume.

The Mortuaria of Radow: A clandestine directory of maps to a dynasty's King-barrows.  It was compiled by generations of tomb-builders (and grave-robbers) in deepest secrecy.  If the map-book's unique cipher can be broken, the directory shows the locations, contents, and hazards of dozens of tombs.  Map fragments secreted in the book's cover consist of partial information, requiring a complicated sequence of overlays and foldings to depict the barrow locations. There is a likelihood that a number of these tombs may remain undefiled. If found on a person by the Dynasty's forces, the copy will be immediately destroyed, and the person and their companions buried alive in punishment.  Two copies are rumored to exist.

Worm-caller's Scrolls:  Stinking, fetid skins wrap parchment written in the runes of a mysterious subterranean cult.  The cult claims to speak the languages of and communes with various monstrous burrowing annelids.  The bearers of the scrolls may pass through giant worm-burrows without harm.  The odor of the scrolls identifies the bearers as 'worm-talkers,' causing generally negative reactions from other subterranean dwellers.  Mastering any of the associated worm-cants will allow communication with a number of species of giant hell-worms known or rumored in the land.


Onieromancers' Somnambularium: A spellbook of an Onieromancer - an arcane practitioner and manipulator of sleep and the night.  The book contains numerous spells associated with the discipline,  including various 'dreamwalking' spells for the viewing and manipulation of dreams (and dreamers...).  The book's deep black cover imitates a moonless night sky. Any non-onieromancer handling the book must save vs spells or fall into a deep trance, simply staring at the book's cover until the book is removed or covered.

Gnoll-codex:  A discredited sage's study of the matrilineal lines and mating habits of the gnoll clans of the Outer Plains.  The illustrations are exceptionally detailed and hint at quite personalized research in the matter.

The Cog-Rhack: Developed by secret castes of dwarven majicker-smiths, this iron-bound manual secured with complicated clockwork specifies the creation and operation of mobile automatons for the transport of ore and other heavy hauling.

Songbooks of Ghamoskel: A collection of chants and psalters of marginalized non-human gods.  The texts include:

  1. Fungus Lord Hymnal  - Songs of hallucination and decay in dedication to the spore-gods. 
  2. Insect Anthiem - Trilling songs of the hive and communal goals.  Certain phrases within the verses allow a disorienting gateway to the compound visions of the hive minds.
  3. Labyrinthinos - Paeans to the minotaur-gods of the mazes and lost twisted places. The supplicant, while keeping up the songs, will not be misdirected in a maze.
  4. The Yiap - Calls to an alien, one-legged saltating god of the plains.  With great leaping bounds it attempts to stomp out the unworthy...
  5. Oestern Ent-songs - Sonorous, ponderous chants of the tree folk - takes days to complete a single verse.  Full choral symphonies in the language can outlast a human lifetime.
  6. The Torhoninahin -  Subsonic moans and meditations of the near-immortal god-mammoth that tracks among the frozen northern wastes and is worshiped by the Hatgarrak Wanderers as the Tundra-lord.