For the longest time I go on and on (and on and on...) about my enjoyment of the many of the old school games.
But I am really doing my contemporaries a huge disservice. So today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite old-school adventures published within the last few years; aka the OSR adventures.
The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
I have talked about this one a lot. It's a meat grinder and just a crazy, gonzo adventure with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It is great fun and you can read more of my experiences here, http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2014/10/into-lair-of-vampire-queen.html
The Shrine of St. Aleena
Another great intro module and a great intro to what Old School Gaming can be.
I also covered this one here, http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2013/10/review-shrine-of-st-aleena.html
Oak Grove Whispers
Another great intro module set outside of the City of Domvay (and included in the special edition print versions of the book). If The Shrine of St. Aleena works for you then give this one as a try. This is more straightforward.
A lot can be said (and has been said) about this mega-dungeon/campaign, but one thing is for sure. Autarch really saved this project. I am not a huge fan of mega-dungeons, but this really is a must have. I think in the end what sells me on this project is it's vision. Sure it could be described (and has been) as a monumental act of hubris OR you could look at it as a commentary on how the OSR solidified 70s and 80s nostalgia into a post-millennial marketing tool. It might not be the best at saying what we do, but it is an honest look.
Castle of the Mad Archmage
This might be the closest we will ever get to exploring Castle Greyhawk. Yeah it is not perfect, but the effort and work here is beyond reproach and it is a damn fun adventure. This is also on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Dwimmermount. Like the other mega dungeon this is the vision of one man, in this case Joseph Bloch. Though were Dwimmeromount received much hype CotMA just quietly got published with no drama. When Bloch has done Kickstarters they have been on point, fast and he usually gets people their materials WAY before he promised he would. This is also a good example of the OSR ethic. There is still nostalgia here but it took a different path.
No Salvation for Witches
I will be honest. I find most of James Raggi's adventures to be unplayable.
Not due to content or anything like that. I just believe that the GMs job is to help characters to greatness, not stick them into an adventure where they have no chance of winning. I don't mind a meat grinder now and then (see Vampire Queen above) but not a design philosophy centered around fucking with the players. Tomb of Horrors was a one time deal, not a template for every adventure.
That being said I like No Salvation for Witches. It still has the same art quality one expects from LotFP and the adventure still has buckets of gore, but author Rafael Chandler brings some of the same splatter-punk horror the he demonstrated in his own Teratic Tome (which would make a good add-in for this). I like the setting and the plot is something taken out of the most salacious accounts of the witch trails. Well if those accounts were embellished a little by Clive Barker.
NSFW (cute) is set in LotFP's pseudo historical Europe, but frankly I would rather take it and set it in the world of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea to give it that "older and colder" feel that AS&SH does so well.
Liberation of the Demon Slayer
Venger As’Nas Satanis has a reputation comparable to James Raggi. Liberation of the Demon Slayer does nothing to change this. Also this adventure is something I might like to run under Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. There is a mix of demons, devils and Lovecraftian beasts/gods that somehow feels right for that world. There is a lot of the author's advice for running and some of his house rules. Normally I might ignore these, but they seem central to his design philosophy that maybe, just for this adventure, they should be used.
If you, like me, love eldritch abominations and dark magic then this the adventure for you. The adventure itself "sounds" simple enough. Retrieve a demon killing sword from the caves to stop the demons attack your village. Easy peasy. Trouble is that the author grew up when dungeons-as-meat-grinders were a thing. This adventure though is closer in tone and danger to the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen than it is to most Lamentations of the Flame Princess products. With the right DM this could be a great and dangerous adventure where the party could live. Sure they could all easily die too. One can read this and imagine that all of the author's games are a bit like it.
Actually I have known the author for a number of years and yeah this is exactly the kind of things I expect in his games. I think the difference here with this adventure and some of his earlier material is there is a maturity here to accept the absurd. This adventure can be played straight or with a dash of dark humor. Think of it as a horror movie, even the scariest have a touch of humor to them; it sets you up for the bigger punch later down the road.
Curiously enough in my own games I do have an epic weapon for killing demons. In my current world state this sword is lost and a quest is needed to recover it. Maybe this is what I need. If so then the value of this adventure just increased ten-fold for me. I am going to have to spend some quality time with it and a pencil to see if it can be recrafted into something that fits my world a little better.
The Snake's Heart - A Lost Age Adventure
This is my newest one. The overall feel of this one is like an action movie. Maybe more like a horror-action movie, but you get the idea. The adventure is hard core old school. It is compatible with S&W: White Box but like most of the OSR adventures it can be used with just about any rules. The file is a pretty simple affair; 19 pages, line art. So nothing too fancy, but the aesthetic is very, very old school. It looks like something your older brother's friend who was the first kid in the neighborhood to play D&D might have made; only a lot better.
The adventure itself starts with a simple set up and encounter (I like adventures that make the players DO something right away) and then that simple encounter leads to a confrontation with an evil cult. Shenanigans ensue. The adventure takes a few cues from more modern adventures and separates encounters. The effect this has is to keep the action flowing. If this were a movie it would be Raiders of the Lost Ark or, more aptly, The Temple of Doom. At just under $2.00 it is also perfect for an afternoon when you want to play something but don't have an adventure ready to go.
For myself I might make some minor changes here and there. Snake Goddesses are fun and all but what if I need a Wolf Goddess or a Centipede one? It make a great introduction for some characters that have already been through one adventure and are their way to the larger plot brewing. I say grab this one and use it this weekend.
Hmm...maybe there is a campaign here.
What are your favorites? What have I missed that I should be playing.