Wednesday, 28 October 2015

[Review] Return Of The Mad Hermit

What Is It?

This adventure is for Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and designed for a bunch of low lever characters with total level amount of 12 by +Pete Spahn from Small Niche Games.

The pdf is 26 pages with three pages of OGL and seven pages worth of maps. Two first pages are the title and cover pages.

Layout is one column, nothing special, but easy to read on computer or mobile phone screen. Dimensions are 6x9" what makes it a nice booklet print, too.

Only illustration in this pdf is +James V West's really nice cover picture.

This adventure is part of a WhiteBox One-Shots line of short wilderness side treks, dungeon delves, and other brief encounters. Sounds perfect line of products for those days when you are out of your Gamemaster juice or not all players could arrive to game.

The Adventure

The premise is good, dimension hopping romp with dungeon crawl elements with different monsters and challenges. Setting agnostic too, so you can use this in any campaign you are currently running!

The backround story is nice, but in my opinion adventures need more what is happening now and why are they going to get involved in it than what happened in the past no one can be involved in anymore. Basically the few last sentences in the background are what matter to begin the adventure, and rest is just for Gamemasters to enjoy. I don't call this a flaw, it is just something I am not into that much. Backgrounds are important to get Gamemaster into the mood, but also might contain nice details you can use to flesh out your own campaigns. I am a guy who likes short descriptions and bullet point type ideas to harvest. Sure the adventure history is something player characters might hear, but it's still a bit longish to explain to the players as it is. A shorter version would serve my gaming style way much better. But hey, this is not super long, only two pages.

The adventure is really easy to throw in any part of your campaign involving camping. You don't need to build the beginning, it just happens. Also it is quite easy to get the player characters to the next part(s) of the adventure, unless the players try to ignore anything going on around. If the players continue to ignore the adventure altogether, there are some suggestions how to make it work anyways.

The fun part begins in the wizard's tower (yes, this is one of those adventures where everything happens because of wizard(s)), where multiple items are actually portals to other dimensions. There are several places to end to, all different from each other. These are not tricks or puzzles to solve, just ordinary items to interact with. The party cannot be separated, as all the characters are transported to the dimension based on which item was interacted with.

It might be that after exploring and getting out of one of these pocket dimensions characters don't want to explore the others. I think that's okay, but the adventure has ways to force characters to check out the rest of the dimensions too - they might even be assassinated if they don't! Well, I am okay with this, because it is up to Gamemaster and the group should they explore every bit of it or not, so this is just a hook to keep player characters involved in the adventure. It's everyone's personal decision how much they force players to the right direction, or to complete (any) adventure.

The pocket dimensions are short, only with few encounter areas. But that is good for a short adventure. Each of the dimension is different from sewers to a forest.  My favorite of these pocket dimensions is either lost world type place (because dinosaurs) or the volcanic environment, because lava is just so damn cool - and dangerous! Also the special item in the volcanic cave is lots of fun.

These pocket dimensions are not something with a story, they small palaces you visit and explore. Perfect for one-shot but lots of variety in locations. The pocket dimensions can be really atmospheric if the Gamemaster has any effort to describe the places.

I really like them all!

The ending of the adventure is a little lame. Well, this is not world-saving adventure, but a side quest, so it is understandable. The exploration of this adventure is the reward, not the conclusion in my opinion.

There are new monsters in this adventure. They are not weird or special, quite ordinary, but very, very nice. I think all monsters of this adventure could make a great lost world random encounter table entries on their own!

Implementation

This is a short-ish adventure, but there are quite a few pages so a table of contents could have been cool addition. The adventure is pretty straightforward, but still. There are trap like enviromental tricks, monsters, and treasure. Everything needed!

Things in adventure text that refer to other pages of the pdf are in bold, what makes it easier to navigate and understand the structure and what might happen next.

I like some explanations why something is like it is: because old school. Because dinosaurs.

The maps are many and simple. I do like how there are some illustration on the first map to easily visualize the location. Other maps look computer made, really simple and traditional in layout. The maps are not special nor crappy. They serve their purpose very well and are easy and clear to read.

Conclusion

For little less than two bucks you'll get one night's worth of adventuring. Because the adventure is interesting in content and has lots of neat little places to visit, I do recommend this. Re-play value for the same group is not that high, but I think this can be an adventure you keep in your OSR folder to pick up when the game for some reason is not advancing in the campaign. Great adventure to keep around - just in case!
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Buy the pdf at RPGNow, current price $1.99