Friday, November 16, 2012

Albino Apes, Beast Men, and the Great Race of Yith

Review: Taken from Dunwich by Jeffery Talanian.
For use with: Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea and other traditional fantasy role-playing games.

I purchased Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperboria from RPGNow (PDF) a few months ago, and read through the campaign setting. I really like that the author went back to source material and built a setting that, while heavily derivative of Howard, Lovecraft and others, is very well conceived. The ruleset is semi-standard old school derived, but the tone of the setting is very savage -- very evocative of its source material.

With that under my belt, I picked up Taken from Dunwich (PDF), the second adventure for ASSH.

Overall

The tone of the writing and art are consistent with ASSH's overall milieu. The adventure is very straightforward, though the setting is, while ostensibly a dungeon, is sufficiently different and weird to keep the players (and their characters) guessing. I really like that the author included well-conceived NPC's that drive and/or support the action. The start of the adventure is fairly trite, but is easily modified to fit into any campaign or situation. The adventure is highly portable to any d20-based, old school system.

Adventure

The adventure starts as all adventures seem to -- with someone wanting the adventurers to track down some threat, recover the maguffin (slaves, cart full of corundum) and solve a mystery (why are the vhuurmis, a heretofore savage but generally sedate tribe of beast men, attacking? And why were they wearing weird glowing circlets on their heads?)

The action quickly moves to the dungeon, an ancient science facility created by invaders from the Great Race of Yith. The "dungeon" is actually packed with unfamiliar tech (sliding doors with strange access panels, various sci-fi equipment, etc) and occupied by the previously mentioned savage beast men controlled by a central computer via the previously mentioned circlets.

Other than that, the big reveal is shocking and deadly.

Technical Details

Other than a couple of typos, the writing was clean, clear and straightforward. The rules discussions, stat blocks and "magical" gear was well described and appears to support the running of the game just fine. Overall, the module is well laid out with a nice clear font.

Judges may be thrown off a bit by the "segmented" maps -- each room has its own mini-map. However, the main map at the back of the book makes everything clear. I do not like that the main map (and the mini-maps) were done white on black -- especially since this is a PDF -- that means lots of ink! 

The art for ASSH in general, and this module in particular, is fantastic. Though there isn't a lot of art, it's damn fine. Kudos to Ian Baggley and Johnathon Bingham (and to Jeffery Talanian for using them for this project). I particularly like the piece on the Yithian on page 13 and the roaring vhuurmis on page 15 (a simple one, but very evocative).

Playtest

I have not played this module yet, but I am definitely putting it into the rotation. My group plays Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG -- so there will be a little bit of conversion, but not much.