Saturday, 17 January 2015

[Review] The Grinding Gear from LotFP

I am writing another review at the moment, but when I browsed google plus I found out that The Grinding Gear (TGG for now on) is currently pay-what-you-want at RPGNow. So I got it (even beat the average amount of gold pieces). I decided to review it immediately as I read it. So if the review is a bit weird and disorganized it's supposed to be like that.


The zip file comes with two folders. These folders are for A4 and letter size files. Good for US and EU guys who want to print this.

The cover is very cool. Layout is simple, well you cannot call that layout because there is no tricks. One column is not my favorite to read. This is older product (2009) so it is understandable. But if you know today's LotFP publishing standards TGG looks very rough.

Few pieces of interior art are nice if you like the cover.

Maps are functional and quite nice. They don't look professional but I like these maps more than those computer generated maps.

The book starts with author's notes about the adventure and introduction for referee which both explain this adventure. There is a suggestion not to change anything, because that's the point of adventures you buy to give different styles to run besides your own style. I quite agree with this. This claim might sound a little dickish but hey, you change stuff if you want to, at least this gives you something to think about and consider not modifying it. For me this simple sentence was a good advice.

Also it is stated here that this adventure will be tough. If you know LotFP you should know that already.

I just realized that it is not too long ago when I thought that I'd like James Raggi to write adventures again. He does publish awesome stuff but it's been a while since he wrote anything. This is not new but now I got something Raggi wrote I haven't read before. And baaaaaack to the topic...

The adventure is very easy to drop in your campaign (setting). Inns are generic, ammirite? Also this adventure is for adventurers! Not in meta, but in-game-setting-lore. Nice. It does not tell how to get players involved though. But it should be easy enough. You can just use the oldest motive in dungeon delving ever: treasure!

There are random encounters what might give nice roleplaying opportunities. Good, because random encounters what are 100% just monsters that bite you are a little dull in my opinion.

In this adventure there are still bits more fantastic than current LotFP line of 17th century Europe. Not too much, though, to make this a Lord of the Rings gone wrong.

The adventure might be deadly and dangerous, but if you are careful, clever and a little lucky this is not impossible. There are lots of interesting and fun bits and you need to investigate to advance. Really. Because puzzles.

There are some nasty tricks you can't do nothing about it. Especially one part where you must save, save, save, and save or take damage. That's your decision though so it is not forced against you. But still. If your character has lots of HP that can be exciting, but first level dudes don't want any kind of damage die to be rolled against them. Many of the traps are not invisible so careful advancing and some thinking might save your butt several times. If you run around like a jerk opening every door you just dig blood from your nose.

The dungeon is kinda random, with different content in every room. It's basically the point of this adventure, though. The content is not too random (zombies in this room, orcs playing chess in next, acid pit trap ooze beyond etc.) and it varies nicely trying to keep a theme going on. This dungeon is a trick place in the game world, so it is not just a meta-challenge.

This feels like a solid dungeon adventure where there is challenge and fun things. Not fun like amusement part but fun like great one evening's session. Traps, treasures, tricks... it's all there. Obviously I haven't ran this (seriously, bought, opened, started reading and writing this) but I bet this is easy to run in a table. I don't like complicated adventures what are unclear and what you need to memorize inside out and do a book worth of notes to make it run smooth. This is not an adventure like that.

Also the writing is very good. I enjoyed reading this a lot. I like James' writing style. It is... just easy and simple but not cheap.

And the last puzzle is evil! You need to know stuff. I can imagine players brainstorming around a table. I love it. I'd love to hear how many player groups have passed these.

Oh and there's a "cheatsheet" PDF what explains the dungeon so it isn't just a "this after that because challenges". This is mainly meta-information for Referees who might think that this is a "christmas calendar" with random stuff just because fuck you that's why. This file was very informative though, because I was wondering about those horses in good condition...

Get this if you want to know what LotFP dungeons were back then. This is a great dungeon what is more like old Dungeons & Dragons material than new LotFP products what "try too much". And by trying too much I don't mean that they are bad. I mean that production values are cranked to 11, everything is big and flashy and the "weird" is gore and guts and boobies.

The Grinding Gear is a dungeon. Where adventuring characters go because they want treasures, they want to adventure, and because players around the table want to have fun exploring it.

The concept is simple and the amount of fun is huge.

You want a dungeon to run, go get this.

Available at LotFP store and RPGNow.

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